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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe » User review

A travelogue, with scientific interludes

  • May 18, 2010
This book has good, clear explanations of some complex stuff, including dark matter, dark energy, and various particles. It has interesting discussions of the notion of the multiverse, the Big Bang, and gravity.

But mostly it's a story about traveling around visiting physicists who've gone to the ends of earth in an effort to observe phenomena that are very hard to observe. The descriptions of the lives and work of people who hang out in places like abandoned lead mines, Siberian lakes, very tall mountains, and arctic wilderness are fascinating. The descriptions of the machines they use and the difficulties of building them are mind-boggling. And the physical descriptions of the places themselves are inspiring.

You won't necessarily want to go join the people who do these extreme things, but you have to admire their pluck and fortitude, and you'll feel a bit as though you've been there.

A very enjoyable read, even if you're not that involved with physics. If you are, this book will open your eyes to the complexities of getting the data.

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Rebecca Haden ()
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I'm a full time web content writer, working for companies and organizations from a goat farm in Oklahoma to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. My specialty is writing for both search engines and … more
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About this book


Despite 20th-century physics' revelations, from relativity and quantum mechanics to the physics of the atom's nucleus and the life cycles of stars, ninety-odd percent of the universe is a complete mystery, says a scientist quoted by Ananthaswamy, a consulting editor forNew Scientist. Dark matter, dark energy, quantum gravity: these are the topics that keep physicists awake at night, requiring bigger, more massive, more extreme experiments to test theories and uncover clues. The author takes readers behind the scenes of these experiments in some of the most inhospitable places in the world, leading the tour with wit and an eye for compelling detail. First is a pilgrimage to Mount Wilson Observatory, where astronomers first measured the expansion of the universe. Next we go 2,341 feet underground in a defunct Minnesota iron mine to search for particles that could reveal dark matter. Sensitive telescopes embedded in the thick ice of Siberia's Lake Baikal and Antarctica search for neutrinos. These experiments and others are heroic in every sense, and Ananthaswamy captures their excitement—and the personalities of the scientists behind them—with enthusiasm and insight. Illus.(Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Monks and astronomers --
The experiment that detects nothing --
Little neutral ones --
The Paranal light quartet --
Fire, rock, and ice --
Three thousand eyes in the ...
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ISBN-10: 0618884688
ISBN-13: 978-0618884681
Author: Anil Ananthaswamy
Genre: Science
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade
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