the hunt for vulcan and how albert einstein destroyed a planet discovered relativity and deciphered the universe

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The Hunt For Vulcan

Author : Thomas Levenson
ISBN : 9780812988291
Genre : Science
File Size : 68. 99 MB
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The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed For more than fifty years, the world’s top scientists searched for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era’s most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it. There was just one problem: It was never there. In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton’s theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan. It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton’s theory of gravity itself. Einstein’s general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the “discovery” of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein’s monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century. A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we’re taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist’s sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science. Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan “Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history.”—The Wall Street Journal “Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson’s writing makes it almost novelistic.”—The Washington Post “Captures the drama of the tireless search for this celestial object.”—Science “A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “A short, beautifully produced book that tells a cautionary tale . . . Levenson is a breezy writer who renders complex ideas in down-to-earth language.”—The Boston Globe “An inspiring tale about the quest for discovery.”—Walter Isaacson “Equal to the best science writing I’ve read anywhere, by any author. Beautifully composed, rich in historical context, deeply researched, it is, above all, great storytelling.”—Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe “Levenson tells us where Vulcan came from, how it vanished, and why its spirit lurks today. Along the way, we learn more than a bit of just how science works—when it succeeds as well as when it fails.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson “Science writing at its best. This book is not just learned, passionate, and witty—it is profoundly wise.”—Junot Díaz From the Hardcover edition.

The Hunt For Vulcan

Author : Thomas Levenson
ISBN : 1784973971
Genre : Astronomy
File Size : 27. 62 MB
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In 1859, the brilliant scientist Urbain LeVerrier discovered that the planet Mercury has a wobble, that its orbit shifts over time. His explanation was that there had to be an unseen planet circling even closer to the sun. He called the planet Vulcan. Supported by the theories of Sir Isaac Newton, the finest astronomers of their generation began to seek out Vulcan and at least a dozen reports of discovery were filed. There was only one problem. Vulcan does not exist - and was never there. The real explanation was only revealed when a young Albert Einstein came up with a theory of gravity that also happened to prove that Mercury's orbit could indeed be explained - not by Newton's theories but by Einstein's own theory of general relativity. THE HUNT FOR VULCAN is a scientific detective tale at the intersection of theory, measurement, and belief; and a reflection on a bizarre period in which the power of conformity led very smart people to literally see a planet that wasn't there.

Black Hole

Author : Marcia Bartusiak
ISBN : 9780300213638
Genre : Science
File Size : 49. 55 MB
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"For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes—not even light—seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein and Hawking and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the universe. Renowned science writer Marcia Bartusiak shows how the black hole helped revive Einstein's greatest achievement, the general theory of relativity, after decades during which it had been pushed into the shadows. Not until astronomers discovered such surprising new phenomena as neutron stars and black holes did the once-sedate universe transform into an Einsteinian cosmos, filled with sources of titanic energy that can be understood only in the light of relativity. This book celebrates the hundredth anniversary of general relativity, uncovers how the black hole really got its name, and recounts the scientists' frustrating, exhilarating, and at times humorous battles over the acceptance of one of history's most dazzling ideas. "

Newton And The Counterfeiter

Author : Thomas Levenson
ISBN : 9780547416618
Genre : Biography & Autobiography
File Size : 79. 92 MB
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A fascinating slice of true-crime history that unfolds in 1695, when law enforcement was unheard of and modern money was little more than a concept When renowned scientist Isaac Newton took up the post of Warden of His Majesty’s Mint in London, another kind of genius—a preternaturally gifted counterfeiter named William Chaloner—had already taken up residence in the city, rising quickly in an unruly, competitive underworld. In the courts and streets of London, and amid the tremors of a world being transformed by ideas Newton himself had set in motion, Chaloner crosses paths with the formidable new warden. An epic game of cat and mouse ensues in Newton and the Counterfeiter, revealing for the first time that Newton was not only one of the greatest minds of his age, but also a remarkably intrepid investigator.

Bankrupting Physics

Author : Alexander Unzicker
ISBN : 9781137365422
Genre : Science
File Size : 53. 89 MB
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The recently celebrated discovery of the Higgs boson has captivated the public's imagination with the promise that it can explain the origins of everything in the universe. It's no wonder that the media refers to it grandly as the "God particle." Yet behind closed doors, physicists are admitting that there is much more to this story, and even years of gunning the Large Hadron Collider and herculean number crunching may still not lead to a deep understanding of the laws of nature. In this fascinating and eye-opening account, theoretical physicist Alexander Unzicker and science writer Sheilla Jones offer a polemic. They question whether the large-scale, multinational enterprises actually lead us to the promised land of understanding the universe. The two scientists take us on a tour of contemporary physics and show how a series of highly publicized theories met a dead end. Unzicker and Jones systematically unpack the recent hot theories such as "parallel universes," "string theory," and "inflationary cosmology," and provide an accessible explanation of each. They argue that physics has abandoned its evidence-based roots and shifted to untestable mathematical theories, and they issue a clarion call for the science to return to its experimental foundation.

Spooky Action At A Distance

Author : George Musser
ISBN : 9780374713553
Genre : Science
File Size : 44. 40 MB
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Long-listed for the 2016 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award “An important book that provides insight into key new developments in our understanding of the nature of space, time and the universe. It will repay careful study.” —John Gribbin, The Wall Street Journal “An endlessly surprising foray into the current mother of physics' many knotty mysteries, the solving of which may unveil the weirdness of quantum particles, black holes, and the essential unity of nature.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) What is space? It isn't a question that most of us normally ask. Space is the venue of physics; it's where things exist, where they move and take shape. Yet over the past few decades, physicists have discovered a phenomenon that operates outside the confines of space and time: nonlocality-the ability of two particles to act in harmony no matter how far apart they may be. It appears to be almost magical. Einstein grappled with this oddity and couldn't come to terms with it, describing it as "spooky action at a distance." More recently, the mystery has deepened as other forms of nonlocality have been uncovered. This strange occurrence, which has direct connections to black holes, particle collisions, and even the workings of gravity, holds the potential to undermine our most basic understandings of physical reality. If space isn't what we thought it was, then what is it? In Spooky Action at a Distance, George Musser sets out to answer that question, offering a provocative exploration of nonlocality and a celebration of the scientists who are trying to explain it. Musser guides us on an epic journey into the lives of experimental physicists observing particles acting in tandem, astronomers finding galaxies that look statistically identical, and cosmologists hoping to unravel the paradoxes surrounding the big bang. He traces the often contentious debates over nonlocality through major discoveries and disruptions of the twentieth century and shows how scientists faced with the same undisputed experimental evidence develop wildly different explanations for that evidence. Their conclusions challenge our understanding of not only space and time but also the origins of the universe-and they suggest a new grand unified theory of physics. Delightfully readable, Spooky Action at a Distance is a mind-bending voyage to the frontiers of modern physics that will change the way we think about reality.

Einstein In Berlin

Author : Thomas Levenson
ISBN : 9780525508953
Genre : Biography & Autobiography
File Size : 28. 47 MB
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In a book that is both biography and the most exciting form of history, here are eighteen years in the life of a man, Albert Einstein, and a city, Berlin, that were in many ways the defining years of the twentieth century. Einstein in Berlin In the spring of 1913 two of the giants of modern science traveled to Zurich. Their mission: to offer the most prestigious position in the very center of European scientific life to a man who had just six years before been a mere patent clerk. Albert Einstein accepted, arriving in Berlin in March 1914 to take up his new post. In December 1932 he left Berlin forever. “Take a good look,” he said to his wife as they walked away from their house. “You will never see it again.” In between, Einstein’s Berlin years capture in microcosm the odyssey of the twentieth century. It is a century that opens with extravagant hopes--and climaxes in unparalleled calamity. These are tumultuous times, seen through the life of one man who is at once witness to and architect of his day--and ours. He is present at the events that will shape the journey from the commencement of the Great War to the rumblings of the next one. We begin with the eminent scientist, already widely recognized for his special theory of relativity. His personal life is in turmoil, with his marriage collapsing, an affair under way. Within two years of his arrival in Berlin he makes one of the landmark discoveries of all time: a new theory of gravity--and before long is transformed into the first international pop star of science. He flourishes during a war he hates, and serves as an instrument of reconciliation in the early months of the peace; he becomes first a symbol of the hope of reason, then a focus for the rage and madness of the right. And throughout these years Berlin is an equal character, with its astonishing eruption of revolutionary pathways in art and architecture, in music, theater, and literature. Its wild street life and sexual excesses are notorious. But with the debacle of the depression and Hitler’s growing power, Berlin will be transformed, until by the end of 1932 it is no longer a safe home for Einstein. Once a hero, now vilified not only as the perpetrator of “Jewish physics” but as the preeminent symbol of all that the Nazis loathe, he knows it is time to leave.

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