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Prisons of Light - Black Holes


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Table of Contents

Prologue; 1. A cosmic case of burnout; 2. Matters of gravity: Newton and Einstein; 3. The capture of light; 4. Tripping the theoretical fantastic; 5. Crossing the bar; 6. Contemplating an enormous nothing; 7. Evidence in the case; 8. Hearts of darkness; 9. The search goes on; 10. Passages into the labyrinth; 11. Black hole legends and far out ideas; Epilogue.


One can't mention black holes without mentioning Stephen Hawking and the rather baffling phenomenon of A Brief History of Time. Baffling because it's hard to believe that there were really that many trade book buyers who really understood it. If justice has not been eternally trapped within an event horizon, then those book buyers who were still bemused at the end of (or even the beginning of) A Brief History will buy this explanation by Ferguson, the British author of Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of Everything. Even if you've forgotten gravity, relativity, thermodynamics, let alone quantum mechanics and Heisenberg's slippery uncertainty principle, you will understand several of the more difficult notions in astrophysics. Through astute use of definitions, stories, illustrations and verbal imagery, Ferguson describes how gravity might overwhelm the exclusion principal of certain larger stars to create a black hole; what a visit to a black hole might turn up (with all due respect to the improbability of ever returning from such a trip); how black holes hide and what traces give them away; as well as major candidates and how they have been smoked out. The reader willing to apply a modicum of concentration and curiosity will be amply rewarded not only with knowledge, but also with the humor, fantasy, poetry and awe Ferguson brings to the subject. (Sept.)

'Ferguson succeeds in explaining ... black holes at a level that will be inviting to those with little or no prior knowledge. Her writing is lucid, her analogies good. Just when you thought it was all over, black holes are back.' John Barrow, New Scientist 'Kitty Ferguson marshals her arguments well, taking a bite at a time and giving the reader the opportunity to digest before cramming in the next ... Her text is carefully thought out, vivid and accurate ... A sensible index and suggestions for further reading round the whole thing off nicely. I am glad I read it.' Roger O'Brien, Journal of the British Astronomical Society 'An astute blend of entertainment and enlightenment, the sort of book that might have come from George Gammow as part of his series Mr Tompkins in Wonderland. Ferguson's grip on her material is firm, her style crisp, lucid and lively.' Werner Israel, Physics World 'The reader ... will be amply rewarded not only with knowledge, but also with the humor, fantasy, poetry and awe Ferguson brings to the subject.' Publishers Weekly '... a crystal clear guide for a first trip around the black hole block.' Gilbert Taylor, Booklist '... delightfully clear account, well illustrated and bare of jargon and equations ... I recommend it.' Robert Boyd, Science and Christian Belief

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