The Nine Numbers of the Cosmos

The Nine Numbers of the Cosmos

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Description

How old is the universe? How far away are the galaxies and how fast are they travelling away from us? What is dark matter and why do astronomers think it pervades the universe? How heavy is the vacuum? How do galaxies form? Michael Rowan-Robinson answers these and many more questions in a highly original and intriguing way. He encapsulates our current knowledge (both what we do and don't know) of the origin and the nature of the universe into nine numbers. These cosmic numbers appear to be independent characteristics of our universe and include its age, the Hubble constant (a measure of its rate of expression), and the density of matter in the universe. Only one of the nine numbers is known with real precision, and four of them only poorly known. The complex ideas that underpin modern cosmology such as the origin of the elements and quantum theory are explained clearly and accessibly, and more speculative ideas like inflation and superstrings are also covered, but with a refreshing scepticism. While most of what we know has been learnt during the 20th century, Rowan-Robinson provides a historical perspective, paying homage to the achievements of the Greeks, Renaissance astronomers, and the age of Newton. He ends the book with a look to the future, predicting that with the further space missions we will accurately know the nine numbers described in this book by the year 2015, but concludes that the origin of the Big Bang itself will still be a mystery by the end of the twenty-first century, and perhaps even in the year 3000.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 188 pages
  • 129.5 x 195.6 x 12.7mm | 181.44g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous halftones and line figures
  • 0192862162
  • 9780192862167

Review quote

"Drawing upon Descartes's saying, 'What do I know?' Rowan-Robinson asks what we know about the universe. In answer, he has come up with nine numbers that summarize our current understanding of the cosmos. . . . [T]he numbers Rowan-Robinson presents are grounded in scientific research, although more than a little speculation was used in deriving a couple of them. . . . His nine numbers relate to the density of baryonic matter, the anisotropy of the universe, the Hubble constant, the age of the universe, the temperature of the microwave background, the densities of cold dark matter and hot dark matter, the cosmological constant and the star formation history of the universe. . . . [R]eaders should gain an excellent understanding of what we currently know about the universe and the techniques through which we have acquired that knowledge. . . . [T]he book is a good summary and will make a useful addition to general science collections."--Publishers Weeklyshow more

Table of contents

PROLOGUEshow more

About Michael Rowan-Robinson

Michael Rowan-Robinson is Professor of Astrophysics, and Head of the Astrophysics Group, at Imperial College, London. He is an internationally recognized expert on observational cosmology and his book, The Cosmological Distance Scale is generally regarded as a classic. He leads several major international collaborations in infrared and submillimetre astronomy, including a European Commission Training and Mobility Network. He has served on numerous advisory bodies for ground-based and space astronomy both in the UK and abroad. He received a NASA Public Service award for his work on the IRAS mission.show more

Rating details

21 ratings
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3 43% (9)
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