In Search of the True Universe: The Tools, Shaping, and Cost of Cosmological Thought

In Search of the True Universe: The Tools, Shaping, and Cost of Cosmological Thought

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Martin Harwit
Cambridge University Press, 11/18/2013
EAN 9781107044067, ISBN10: 1107044065

Hardcover, 408 pages, 25.3 x 17.7 x 2.2 cm
Language: English

Astrophysicist and scholar Martin Harwit examines how our understanding of the cosmos advanced rapidly during the twentieth century and identifies the factors contributing to this progress. Astronomy, whose tools were largely imported from physics and engineering, benefited mid-century from the US policy of coupling basic research with practical national priorities. This strategy, initially developed for military and industrial purposes, provided astronomy with powerful tools yielding access - at virtually no cost - to radio, infrared, X-ray, and gamma-ray observations. Today, astronomers are investigating the new frontiers of dark matter and dark energy, critical to understanding the cosmos but of indeterminate socio-economic promise. Harwit addresses these current challenges in view of competing national priorities and proposes alternative new approaches in search of the true Universe. This is an engaging read for astrophysicists, policy makers, historians, and sociologists of science looking to learn and apply lessons from the past in gaining deeper cosmological insight.

1. The nineteenth century's last five years
Part I. The Import of Theoretical Tools
2. An overview
3. Conclusions based on principles
4. Conclusions based on a premise
5. Conclusions based on calculations
6. Asking the right questions, accepting limited answers
Part II. A National Plan Shaping the Universe We Perceive
7. A new order and the new universe it produced
8. Where did the chemical elements arise?
9. Landscapes
10. The evolution of astrophysical theory after 1960
11. Turmoils of leadership
12. Cascades and shocks that shape astrophysics
13. Astrophysical discourse and persuasion
Part III. The Cost of Discerning the True Universe
14. Organization and functioning of the astronomical community
15. Language and astrophysical stability
16. An economically viable astronomical program