The Edge of Physics
Why is the universe expanding at an even faster rate? What is the nature of the ‘dark matter’ that makes up almost a quarter of the universe? Why does the universe appear fine tuned for life? And are there other universes besides our own? In this timely and original book, science writer Anil Ananthaswamy sets out in search of the world’s most audacious physics experiments: the telescopes and detectors that promise to shed new light on dark matter, dark energy and quantum gravity – and answer some of the most profound questions that confront humanity. He soon finds himself at the ends of the earth, reporting back from some of the world’s most inhospitable and dramatic research sites. Take the Atacama Desert in the Chilean Andes, one of the coldest places on the planet, where not even a blade of grass can survive. Its spectacularly clear skies and dry atmosphere allow astronomers to gather brilliant images of galaxies billions of light-years away, using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope on Mount Paranal, where four massive domes open up to the sky each night ‘like dragons waking up’. He also takes us deep inside an abandoned iron mine in Minnesota, where half-mile-thick rock shields physicists as they hunt for the most elusive dark matter particles. And to the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, where engineers are drilling 1.5 miles into the clearest ice on the planet to build the world’s largest neutrino detector, which could finally help reconcile quantum physics with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Weaving together stories about the people and places at the heart of this research, while beautifully explaining the problems that scientists are trying to solve, Ananthaswamy provides a unique portrait of the universe and our quest to understand it. An atmospheric, engaging and illuminating read, ‘The Edge of Physics’ depicts science as a human process and brings cosmology with all its rarefied concepts back down to earth.