Einstein's Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

W. W. Norton & Company
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“[A] skillfully told history of the quest to find black holes.” —Manjit Kumar, Financial Times

Black holes are the best-known and least-understood objects in the universe. In Einstein’s Monsters, distinguished astronomer Chris Impey takes readers on a vivid tour of these enigmatic giants. He weaves a fascinating tale out of the fiendishly complex math of black holes and the colorful history of their discovery. Impey blends this history with a poignant account of the phenomena scientists have witnessed while observing black holes: stars swarming like bees around the center of our galaxy; black holes performing gravitational waltzes with visible stars; the cymbal clash of two black holes colliding, releasing ripples in space time. Clear, compelling, and profound, Einstein’s Monsters reveals how our comprehension of black holes is intrinsically linked to how we make sense of the universe and our place within it.

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About the author

Chris Impey is a distinguished professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona and the critically-acclaimed author of Beyond, How It Began, and How It Ends, and four other books, as well as two astronomy textbooks. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
Nov 13, 2018
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781324000945
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Astronomy
Science / Cosmology
Science / Physics / Relativity
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This content is DRM protected.
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Quasars, and the menagerie of other galaxies with "unusual nuclei", now collectively known as Active Galactic Nuclei or AGN, have, in one form or another, sparked the interest of astronomers for over 60 years. The only known mechanism that can explain the staggering amounts of energy emitted by the innermost regions of these systems is gravitational energy release by matter falling towards a supermassive black hole --- a black hole whose mass is millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun. AGN emit radiation at all wavelengths. X-rays originating at a distance of a few times the event horizon of the black hole are the emissions closest to the black hole that we can detect; thus, X-rays directly reveal the presence of active supermassive black holes. Oftentimes, however, the supermassive black holes that lie at the centers of AGN are cocooned in gas and dust that absorb the emitted low energy X-rays and the optical and ultraviolet light, hiding the black hole from view at these wavelengths. Until recently, this low-energy absorption presented a major obstacle in observational efforts to map the accretion history of the universe. In 1999 and 2000, the launches of the Chandra and XMM-Newton X-ray Observatories finally broke the impasse. The impact of these observatories on X-ray astronomy is similar to the impact that the Hubble Space Telescope had on optical astronomy. The astounding new data from these observatories have enabled astronomers to make enormous advances in their understanding of when accretion occurs.
This volume contains papers presented at an international conference to celebrate Fred Hoyle's monumental contributions to astronomy, astrophysics and astrobiology and more generally to humanity and culture. The contributed articles highlight the important aspects of his scientific life and show how much of an example and inspiration he has been for over three generations in the 20th century.
There are a few people of whom it could be said they changed the way we perceive the world. Galileo Galilei, Nicholas Copernicus and Isaac Newton were amongst these. The inclusion of Fred Hoyle in this elite group may be contentious at the moment for the reason that in challenging the most cherished of Holy Grails in science he unwittingly offended many. But once the dust has settled over the many disputes that were raised and in the fullness of time there can be little doubt that Fred Hoyle will be ranked alongside these figures of history.
Hoyle perceived science with an indomitable passion and an obsessive desire to find the truth wherever it lay. His singleness of purpose in this great mission and his deep suspicion of orthodoxy, his powerful intellect and imagination set him apart from most of his contemporaries in the last century.
This volume includes papers presented at a commemorative conference held in Cardiff in June 2002. The material divides naturally into several sections: Personal Reminiscences, Stellar Structure and Evolution, Cosmology, Interstellar Matter, Comets and finally Panspermia. Each article pays its own tribute to Fred Hoyle for his inspiration and guidance that led to major breakthroughs in astrophysics and space science throughout the 20th century.
This textbook provides an introduction to gravitational lensing, which has become an invaluable tool in modern astrophysics, with applications that range from finding planets orbiting distant stars to understanding how dark matter and dark energy conspired to form the cosmic structures we see today. Principles of Gravitational Lensing begins with Einstein’s prediction that gravity bends light, and shows how that fundamental idea has spawned a rich field of study over the past century.

The gravitational deflection of light was first detected by Eddington during a solar eclipse in May 1919, launching Einstein and his theory of relativity into public view. Yet the possibility of using the phenomenon to unlock mysteries of the Universe seemed remote, given the technology of the day. Theoretical work was carried out sporadically over the next six decades, but only with the discovery of the system Q0957+561 in 1979 was gravitational lensing transformed from a curiosity of general relativity into a practical observational tool.

This book describes how the three subfields known as strong lensing, weak lensing, and microlensing have grown independently but become increasingly intertwined. Drawing on their research experience, Congdon and Keeton begin with the basic physics of light bending, then present the mathematical foundations of gravitational lensing, building up to current research topics in a clear and systematic way. Relevant background material from physics and mathematics is included, making the book self-contained.

The derivations and explanations are supplemented by exercises designed to help students master the theoretical concepts as well as the methods that drive current research. An extensive bibliography guides those wishing to delve more deeply into particular areas of interest. Principles of Gravitational Lensing is ideal for advanced students and seasoned researchers looking to penetrate this thriving subject and even contribute research of their own.

“Impey combines the vision of a practicing scientist with the voice of a gifted storyteller.”—Dava Sobel

In this vibrant, eye-opening tour of milestones in the history of our universe, Chris Impey guides us through space and time, leading us from the familiar sights of the night sky to the dazzlingly strange aftermath of the Big Bang.

What if we could look into space and see not only our place in the universe but also how we came to be here? As it happens, we can. Because it takes time for light to travel, we see more and more distant regions of the universe as they were in the successively greater past. Impey uses this concept—"look-back time"—to take us on an intergalactic tour that is simultaneously out in space and back in time. Performing a type of cosmic archaeology, Impey brilliantly describes the astronomical clues that scientists have used to solve fascinating mysteries about the origins and development of our universe.

The milestones on this journey range from the nearby to the remote: we travel from the Moon, Jupiter, and the black hole at the heart of our galaxy all the way to the first star, the first ray of light, and even the strange, roiling conditions of the infant universe, an intense and volatile environment in which matter was created from pure energy. Impey gives us breathtaking visual descriptions and also explains what each landmark can reveal about the universe and its history. His lucid, wonderfully engaging scientific discussions bring us to the brink of modern cosmology and physics, illuminating such mind-bending concepts as invisible dimensions, timelessness, and multiple universes.

A dynamic and unforgettable portrait of the cosmos, How It Began will reward its readers with a deeper understanding of the universe we inhabit as well as a renewed sense of wonder at its beauty and mystery.

“This book will provide readers with a greater awareness of the spirit of curiosity and inquiry that lies at the heart of the Buddhist tradition, as well as the fruitfulness of maintaining active communication between the Buddhist and scientific communities.” —from the Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In Humble before the Void, Impey, a noted astronomer, educator, and author gives us a thoroughly absorbing and engaging account of his journey to Northern India to teach in the first-ever “Science for Monks” leadership program. The program was initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to introduce science into the Tibetan Buddhist monastic tradition.

In a vivid and compelling narrative, Impey introduces us to a group of exiled Tibetan monks whose charm, tenacity and unbridled enthusiasm for learning is infectious. Impey marvels not only at their enthusiasm, but at their tireless diligence that allows the monks to painstakingly build intricate sand mandalas—that can be swept away in an instant. He observes them as they meticulously count galaxies and notes how their enthusiasm and diligence stands in contrast to many American students who are frequently turned off by science’s inability to deliver easy, immediate payoffs. Because the Buddhist monks have had a limited science education, Impey must devise creative pedagogy. His new students immediately take to his inspired teaching methods, whether it’s the use of balloons to demonstrate the Hubble expansion or donning an Einstein mask to explain the theory of relativity.

Humble before the Void also recounts Impey’s experiences outside the classroom, from the monks’ eagerness to engage in pick-up basketball games and stream episodes of hip American sitcoms to the effects on his relationship with the teenage son who makes the trip with him. Moments of profound serenity and beauty in the Himalayas are contrasted with the sorrow of learning that other monks have set themselves on fire to protest the Chinese oppression in Tibet.

At the end of the three week program, both the monks and Impey have gained a valuable education. While the monks have a greater understanding and appreciation of science, Impey has acquired greater self- knowledge and a deeper understanding of the nature of learning and teaching in the East and West. This understanding leads to a renewed enthusiasm for making his topic come alive for others.

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