The Elephant in the Universe: Our Hundred-Year Search for Dark Matter (Hardback)
  • The Elephant in the Universe: Our Hundred-Year Search for Dark Matter (Hardback)

The Elephant in the Universe: Our Hundred-Year Search for Dark Matter (Hardback)

(author), (foreword)
Hardback 376 Pages
Published: 31/05/2022
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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.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674248991
Number of pages: 376
Dimensions: 210 x 140 mm


An impressively comprehensive bird’s-eye view of a research topic that is both many decades established and yet still at the very cutting edge of astronomy and physics. Along the course of this whirlwind tour, we catch glimpses of the lives and motivations of many of the key thinkers and builders who have defined the dark matter problem, as well as those who hope, sooner or later, to solve it. - Katie Mack, Wall Street Journal

The book is both an advertisement for the thrill of scientific discovery and the visionaries who pursue the big questions simply because they are there. Schilling has craftily combined his lucid and accessible descriptions of science with the personal story of those unlocking the finer details of the missing mass mystery. The result is enthralling…A captivating scientific thriller. Future generations will no doubt be grateful for this fascinating contemporary account. - BBC Sky at Night

Schilling takes readers on a journey through the stories of a veritable army of physicists from around the globe as they have sought to understand the dark matter and dark energy that appear to make up 95% of our Universe. - Catherine Heymans, Science

Fascinating…A thorough and sometimes troubling account of the hunt for dark matter…Schilling is an expert guide not only to dark matter and the equally baffling dark energy, which gets a good outing here, but to particle physics and cosmology…You will come away with a very good understanding of how the universe works. Well, our universe, anyway. - Michael Brooks, New Scientist

Takes the reader on a vivid and entertaining journey through the history of the search for dark matter…Through interviews with personalities on both sides of historical controversies, the book is a colorful account of science in action, and is thoughtfully balanced to be engaging for a general audience as well as detailed enough to satisfy readers with a more technical background. - Morgan Hollis, Nature Astronomy

A non-technical, historical, personal, up-to-date, correct, balanced, well-written, and well-researched book. - Phillip Helbig, The Observatory

Expertly explains what we’ve learned about dark matter, and what we have yet to learn. - Jeff Foust, Space Review

Curious, indefatigable, and a fine writer, Schilling clearly relays the work of astrophysicists…An entertaining account of a scientific quest that has failed—so far. - Kirkus Reviews

Fascinating history…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. - Publishers Weekly

Govert Schilling has written a riveting narrative that brings you up to date on the research into astronomy's most long-standing and frustrating mystery: What is the universe's main ingredient? Thoroughly researched and highly enjoyable. - Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe

From a revered science writer, a clear, wide-ranging account of one of the deepest and most fascinating mysteries in astronomy. - Martin Rees, coauthor of The End of Astronauts

A genuine page-turner. Schilling masterfully tells the stories of some of the greatest—and quirkiest—minds ever to probe the cosmos. - Rick Fienberg, Senior Advisor to the Executive Officer, American Astronomical Society

With this book, Schilling offers us a clear and entertaining update on the quest to understand the nature of dark matter. The way he tells this story beautifully captures the sense of mystery that those of us working in this field experience every day. - Dan Hooper, author of At the Edge of Time

A lively book by a skilled science journalist on an important topic in cosmology: the dark matter. - Robert Kirshner, Clowes Research Professor of Science, Harvard University

Govert Schilling brings his longtime experience of writing about astronomy and its history to this exciting volume. Newcomers to the field will find much to learn in these pages, and experts much to discuss. - Virginia Trimble, former president, Division of Galaxies and the Universe, International Astronomical Union

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