Prologue. Beauty and the Beast. Expansion. The Case of the Missing Matter. Flat Is Beautiful. When Inflation Is Good. Creation. The Meaning of Life. A Universe Custom Made for Us? A Cosmological Aesthetic Principle? Index.
MARIO LIVIO, Ph.D., is head of the science division at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope. He is recognized as a world expert on topics ranging from dramatic explosions like novae, supernovae, and gamma-ray bursts to compact astronomical objects like white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. He has published over 300 scientific papers and has lectured to the public about discoveries in astronomy and cosmology all across the globe.
Like Donald W. Goldsmith's The Runaway Universe (LJ 1/00), this is a survey of modern cosmology, with an emphasis on recent observations that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating speed. But while Goldsmith focuses on the techniques of astronomical research, Livio, a scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, concentrates on scientific aesthetics. He argues that a fundamental theory of the universe must be beautiful--symmetrical, reductionist, and compliant with the generalized Copernican principle (i.e., assuming no special circumstances)--even though an eternally expanding universe appears to violate the requisites for scientific beauty. Along the way, Livio often digresses, recounting sometimes irrelevant anecdotes about astronomers or works of art. Superbly accessible explanations of physical and astronomical concepts compensate, however. More appropriate for general readers than Goldsmith's book, this is recommended for public and academic libraries.--Nancy Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
One of the most important recent discoveries in cosmology--and science in general--is that the expansion rate of the universe is not staying steady or getting slower, as most scientists had assumed; on the contrary, it is accelerating. Something is counteracting gravity and making it so that in billions of years, the universe will be an even vaster, emptier realm, filled with stars and galaxies flickering out one by one until there is only darkness. In this book, Livio, a senior scientist at Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute, evaluates current theories about the universe in terms of whether or not they are "beautiful." Livio defines beauty for purely scientific purposes: a beautiful scientific theory, he explains, must be symmetric and simple (reductionist), and it must follow the Copernican principle that man is not the center of the universe--it need not be elegant. Livio's discussion, however, carefully constructed (like a well-laid-out mathematical proof), certainly is elegant. Readers who only hazily remember high school math and science classes will enjoy the author's clear, jargon-free explanation of such complicated astronomical concepts as inflationary theory, "pocket" or multiple universes and the anthropic principle. Although the opening chapters are weighed down with extraneous references to art and literature, once Livio gets into his subject, he employs such references more selectively. Any educated individual interested in current theories about the past and future of the universe will want to read this lucid book. 10 b&w photos and drawings. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.