The elephant in the universe Our hundred-year search for dark matter

Govert Schilling

Book - 2022

"If existing models of the structure of the universe are correct, then 85 percent of the cosmos comprises a substance called dark matter. Yet no direct evidence of dark matter exists. Award-winning science journalist Govert Schilling details the quest to detect dark matter and how the search has helped us to understand the universe we inhabit"--

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523.1126/Schilling
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2nd Floor New Shelf 523.1126/Schilling (NEW SHELF) Due Aug 16, 2022
Subjects
Published
Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2022.
Language
English
Physical Description
xi, 364 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 323-345) and index.
ISBN
9780674248991
0674248996
Main Author
Govert Schilling (author)
  • Part I: Ear. Matter, but not as we know it
  • Underground phantoms
  • The pioneers
  • The halo effect
  • Flattening the curve
  • Cosmic cartography
  • Big bang baryons
  • Radio recollections
  • Part II: Tusk. Into the cold
  • Miraculous wimps
  • Simulating the universe
  • The heretics
  • Behind the lens
  • Macho culture
  • The runaway universe
  • Pie in the sky
  • Telltale patterns
  • Part III: Trunk. The xenon wars
  • Catching the wind
  • Messengers from outer space
  • Delinquent dwarfs
  • Cosmological tension
  • Elusive ghosts
  • Dark crisis
  • Seeing the invisible.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Schilling (Ripples in Spacetime) chronicles the decades-long search for dark matter in this fascinating history. Sophisticated experiments are being conducted to document the existence of dark matter, which Schilling describes as "one of the biggest enigmas of modern science": though it is believed to hold "the universe together," he writes, its "true nature" remains a mystery. The author outlines the work of key players in the field: there's Jacobus Cornelius Kapteyn, who "was the first to come up with a description of the shape and size of the Milky Way, a description that included a role for dark matter" in the 1920s; Phillip James Edwin Peebles, "godfather of the theory of cold dark matter," who was prominent in the 1970s and '80s when "dark matter burst onto the scene"; and Vera Rubin, whose 1980 paper on "missing mass" revolutionized the field. Along the way, Schilling convincingly argues that even without proof of its existence, dark matter has increased people's understanding of the world—the search for it has led to greater knowledge of galaxies, gravity, and the big bang, among other phenomena. It makes for a solid introduction to an elusive topic. (May) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"If existing models of the structure of the universe are correct, then 85 percent of the cosmos comprises a substance called dark matter. Yet no direct evidence of dark matter exists. Award-winning science journalist Govert Schilling details the quest todetect dark matter and how the search has helped us to understand the universe we inhabit"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

If existing models of the structure of the universe are correct, then 85 percent of the cosmos comprises a substance called dark matter. Yet no direct evidence of dark matter exists. Award-winning science journalist Govert Schilling details the quest to detect dark matter and how the search has helped us to understand the universe we inhabit.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An award-winning science journalist details the quest to isolate and understand dark matter—and shows how that search has helped us to understand the universe we inhabit.When you train a telescope on outer space, you can see luminous galaxies, nebulae, stars, and planets. But if you add all that together, it constitutes only 15 percent of the matter in the universe. Despite decades of research, the nature of the remaining 85 percent is unknown. We call it dark matter.In The Elephant in the Universe, Govert Schilling explores the fascinating history of the search for dark matter. Evidence for its existence comes from a wealth of astronomical observations. Theories and computer simulations of the evolution of the universe are also suggestive: they can be reconciled with astronomical measurements only if dark matter is a dominant component of nature. Physicists have devised huge, sensitive instruments to search for dark matter, which may be unlike anything else in the cosmos—some unknown elementary particle. Yet so far dark matter has escaped every experiment. Indeed, dark matter is so elusive that some scientists are beginning to suspect there might be something wrong with our theories about gravity or with the current paradigms of cosmology. Schilling interviews both believers and heretics and paints a colorful picture of the history and current status of dark matter research, with astronomers and physicists alike trying to make sense of theory and observation.Taking a holistic view of dark matter as a problem, an opportunity, and an example of science in action, The Elephant in the Universe is a vivid tale of scientists puzzling their way toward the true nature of the universe.