A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

Dark Cosmos: In search of our universe’s missing mass and energy

12/01/06

Lovers and insomniacs have enjoyed the night sky for millennia. With the surprising observation that stars are less than five percent of the universe, it is natural that there would be a proliferation of books for the layman about the other 95 percent.

Reviewed: Dark Cosmos: In search of our universe’s missing mass and energy

by Dan Hooper

Published by Collins, 2006

Reviewed for symmetry by Don Lincoln

 

Lovers and insomniacs have enjoyed the night sky for millennia. With the surprising observation that stars are less than five percent of the universe, it is natural that there would be a proliferation of books for the layman about the other 95 percent. Dark matter and dark energy have become buzzwords among science enthusiasts, and this excitement has generated an interest for many who want to understand just what the hubbub is all about.

Dan Hooper’s first book, Dark Cosmos, is an excellent introduction for a layman who is completely unfamiliar with the subject. Hooper focuses on the physics, hitting only the high points, without bogging the reader down with details or much of the extensive experimental evidence supporting dark matter and energy.

The relatively shallow treatment of the subject matter makes the book unsuitable for a knowledgeable layman who is an avid student of the dark side of the universe. Nor will a reader who is interested predominantly in the history and personalities involved in these exciting discoveries learn much from this book, as these topics are given only the most cursory attention. However, for a reader who is interested in just the high points and the big ideas, this book is a valuable read.

In a scant 227 pages, with large type, Hooper discusses dark matter and energy, along with some leading ideas as to their identity. While no topics are discussed in depth, the book manages to introduce a dizzying array of terms: black holes, gravitational lensing, the relevant portions of quantum mechanics, the Standard Model of particle physics, supersymmetry, superstrings, the big bang, and inflation, to mention only a few. More importantly, the role of these mysterious terms in the mystery of the dark side of the universe is explained. For its intended audience, Dark Cosmos is a well-written and interesting book.

 

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