This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark…

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover… (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Richard Panek

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3842544,524 (3.49)9
In exhilarating and behind-the-scenes detail, Panek takes his readers on a tour of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have fuelled the search, redefined science, and reinvented the universe.Science journalist Panek (The Invisible Century) offers an insider's view of the quest for what could be the ultimate revelation: the true substance of the unseen dark matter and energy that makes up some 96% of our universe.… (more)
Title:The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality
Authors:Richard Panek
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011), Edition: None, Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science, physics, cosmology, non-fiction

Work details

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek (2011)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 9 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Informative but a little on the confusing side. The definition of an acronym or term is given once and then you are expected to know it forever. I spent half of the book wondering what red shift was. Many incidents like this abound. I guess I shouldn't have tried to listen to this while driving....

Still, I know a lot now that I didn't before and have a greater appreciation for the hardships astronomers and other scientists have to endure. ( )
  otaginenbutsuji | Nov 12, 2019 |
It was interesting. It sort of combines science and psychology to show the team of people that found this phenomenon rather than focusing on the phenomenon itself. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
This a highly readable history of the transformation of cosmology from metaphysics to physics, from philosophy and speculation to hard science, and in the process, the discovery of most of the universe.

Historically, astronomy and physics didn't have a great deal to do with each other. Astronomers studied the stars by observation, very patient and detailed observation and record-keeping. Theoretical physicists theorized and calculated, and experimental physicists experimented, and they fed each other's work, very occasionally coming up with something, most notably gravity, that made a real difference to astronomy. Then Einstein gave us general relativity, and began a century of ever-deeper entanglement of physics and astronomy, and the transformation of cosmology--the study of the nature and origins of the entire universe--from something utterly beyond the scope of physics into its core. The questions of how big the universe is, whether it is eternal in space and time or had a beginning and might have an end, became real questions.

Edwin Hubble, early in the century, discovered that the universe is expanding, but also that there are other galaxies beyond our own, and that they're all moving away from us. This was a major, exciting, and initially controversial change in our conception of the universe. In the 1960s, Vera Rubin, looking for a research project she could do within the constraints of raising two young children, studied other astronomers' observations and discovered that the galaxies were rotating as well as moving away from us. Also in the mid-1960s, Robert Dicke, Jim Peebles, and a small group of theoretical physicists had a prediction for which they had no supporting data: If the Big Bang theory of the history of the universe were correct, there should be low-level cosmic microwave radiation, at a temperature of about 3 degrees Kelvin. Then two astronomers at Bell Labs, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, had data for which they had no explanation: While trying to calibrate the Bell Labs' Crawford Hill antenna to study radio waves from the fringes of the Milky Way, they found they had a tiny background hiss which no amount of calibration would eliminate. They'd found the background cosmic radiation, echo of the Big Bang.

That's one small step along the way, from Einstein to the discovery that most of our universe is invisible. As the back and forth played out between the theoretical physicists and the experimental and observational scientists, increasingly astronomers, each theoretical question drew forth an observation, a find, a discovery that answered that question, and raised another. The most startling of these was the discovery that visible, directly detectable matter is just over 4% of the total make-up of a universe far larger and more complex than ever suspected at the start of the 20th century. If what we see were all there were, the galaxies would not be, could not be, relatively compact, stable spirals (or their other shapes), but should be torn apart by the speed of their rotation. Outside, among, around, the visible matter of the galaxies was dark matter.

Dark matter was soon joined by the even more mysterious dark energy.

The largest part of Panek's book is devoted to the research to detect and identify dark matter and dark energy, He takes us through not only the science, fascinating enough in itself, but also the human drama as two teams, one primarily physicists and the other primarily astronomers, raced against each other to gather enough observations of sufficiently distant (and therefore ancient) supernovae to answer essential questions about the conditions of the early universe. In the answers to those questions, and questions about changes since that early time, would lie the answers to the reality of dark energy, dark matter, and maybe the ultimate fate of the universe.

Highly recommended.

This book is not yet published but can be pre-ordered from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Very readable account of the latest theories of cosmology. Both the concepts themselves and the personalities and politics involved in the discoveries and theories are well presented. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
Not helpful really. It's just the history of what lead up to the discoveries. You could read Ch. 1 and skip to Ch. 7. ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
The success of "The 4 Percent Universe" also stems from Panek's wisdom about how science works. It's easy to think that the discovery of dark matter and dark energy - the realization that we have no idea what most of the universe is made of - is a story of failure. Actually, scientists are delighted to have learned that they have blasted beyond any ready explanation that physics can offer for how the universe works. Now they have the opportunity to build a new physics that can make sense of how the universe, both light and dark, really works. "What greater legacy could a scientist leave a universe?" Panek asks.
All in all, this is a terrific book, and I'm happy to recommend it to anybody who is interested in either modern cosmology or the nitty-gritty details of Big Science. It's a really good read, and the sort of inside look at how science gets done that you don't often get to see.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the Estonian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.49)
1.5 1
2 12
2.5 3
3 13
3.5 7
4 28
5 10

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 141,575,673 books! | Top bar: Always visible