In the sixteenth century, Nicolaus Copernicus dared to go against the establishment by proposing that Earth rotates around the Sun. Having demoted Earth from its unique position in the cosmos to one of mediocrity, Copernicus set in motion a revolution in scientific thought. This perspective has influenced our thinking for centuries. However, recent evidence challenges the Copernican Principle, hinting that we do in fact live in a special place, at a special time, as the product of a chain of unlikely events. But can we be significant if the Sun is still just one of a billion trillion stars in the observable universe? And what if our universe is just one of a multitude of others-a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities?
In The Copernicus Complex, the renowned astrophysicist Caleb Scharf takes us on a scientific adventure, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets, probability theory, and beyond, arguing that there is a solution to this contradiction, a third way of viewing our place in the cosmos, if we weigh the evidence properly. As Scharf explains, we do occupy an unusual time in a 14-billion-year-old universe, in a somewhat unusual type of solar system surrounded by an ocean of unimaginable planetary diversity: hot Jupiters with orbits of less than a day, planet-size rocks spinning around dead stars, and a wealth of alien super-Earths. Yet life here is built from the most common chemistry in the universe, and we are a snapshot taken from billions of years of biological evolution. Bringing us to the cutting edge of scientific discovery, Scharf shows how the answers to fundamental questions of existence will come from embracing the peculiarity of our circumstance without denying the Copernican vision.
With characteristic verve, Scharf uses the latest scientific findings to reconsider where we stand in the balance between cosmic significance and mediocrity, order and chaos. Presenting a compelling and bold view of our true status, The Copernicus Complex proposes a way forward in the ultimate quest: determining life's abundance, not just across this universe but across all realities.
Recent research, however, has led to a cascade of new discoveries that have revealed an entirely different side to black holes. As the astrophysicist Caleb Scharf reveals in Gravity's Engines, these chasms in space-time don't just vacuum up everything that comes near them; they also spit out huge beams and clouds of matter. Black holes blow bubbles.
With clarity and keen intellect, Scharf masterfully explains how these bubbles profoundly rearrange the cosmos around them. Engaging with our deepest questions about the universe, he takes us on an intimate journey through the endlessly colorful place we call our galaxy and reminds us that the Milky Way sits in a special place in the cosmic zoo—a "sweet spot" of properties. Is it coincidental that we find ourselves here at this place and time? Could there be a deeper connection between the nature of black holes and their role in the universe and the phenomenon of life? We are, after all, made of the stuff of stars.
In a fascinating account of this unfolding revolution, Lee Billings draws on interviews with the world’s top experts in the search for life beyond earth. He reveals how the search for exoplanets is not only a scientific challenge, but also a reflection of our culture’s timeless hopes, dreams, and fears.
In The Zoomable Universe, the award-winning astrobiologist Caleb Scharf and the acclaimed artist Ron Miller take us on an epic tour through all known scales of reality, from the largest possible magnitude to the smallest. Drawing on cutting-edge science, they begin at the limits of the observable universe, a scale spanning 10^27 meters—about 93 billion light-years. And they end in the subatomic realm, at 10^-35 meters, where the fabric of space-time itself confounds all known rules of physics. In between are galaxies, stars and planets, oceans and continents, plants and animals, microorganisms, atoms, and much, much more. Stops along the way—all enlivened by Scharf’s sparkling prose and his original insights into the nature of our universe—include the brilliant core of the Milky Way, the surface of a rogue planet, the back of an elephant, and a sea of jostling quarks.
The Zoomable Universe is packed with more than 100 original illustrations and infographics that will captivate readers of every age. It is a whimsical celebration of discovery, a testament to our astounding ability to see beyond our own vantage point and chart a course from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to its subatomic depths—in short, a must-have for the shelves of all explorers.