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Gravity's century : from Einstein's eclipse to images of black holes

Cowen, Ron, 1957- author

Publication Details Click to collapse Cite/Export

  • Creator Ron Cowen
  • Format Books
  • Publication Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2019. ©2019
  • Physical Details
    • viii, 181 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
  • ISBNs 067423927X, 9780674239272, 0674974964, 9780674239289, 9780674974968, 0674239288
  • OCLC on1091029123, on1082292166


  • An account of the century of experimentation that confirmed Einstein's theory of relativity, bringing to life the science and scientists at the origins of relativity, the development of radio telescopes, the discovery of black holes and quasars, and the still unresolved place of gravity in quantum theory. Albert Einstein did nothing of note on May 29, 1919, yet that is when he became immortal. On that day, astronomer Arthur Eddington and his team observed a solar eclipse and found something extraordinary: gravity bends light, just as Einstein predicted. The findings confirmed the theory of general relativity, fundamentally changing our understanding of space and time. A century later, another group of astronomers is performing a similar experiment on a much larger scale. The Event Horizon Telescope, a globe-spanning array of radio dishes, is examining space surrounding Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. As Ron Cowen recounts, one foremost goal of the experiment is to determine whether Einstein was right on the details. Gravity lies at the heart of what we don't know about quantum mechanics, but tantalizing possibilities for deeper insight are offered by black holes. By observing starlight wrapping around Sagittarius A*, the telescope will not only provide the first direct view of an event horizon--a black hole's point of no return--but will also enable scientists to test Einstein's theory under the most extreme conditions. Gravity's Century shows how we got from the pivotal observations of the 1919 eclipse to the Event Horizon Telescope, and what is at stake today. Breaking down the physics in clear and approachable language, Cowen makes vivid how the quest to understand gravity is really the quest to comprehend the universe.--


  • Includes bibliographical references and index.


  • Genesis. Space and time, a perfect union ; Testing the equivalence principle before Einstein -- From turmoil to triumph. Riemann's work and the metric tensor ; The meaning of Einstein's equation -- Eddington on a mission. A history of light bending ; A modern-day solar eclipse -- Expanding the universe -- Black holes and testing general relativity. New tests of Einstein's theory -- Quantum gravity ; Black holes and the information paradox -- Hearing black holes. LIGO and beyond ; Gravitational waves lost and found -- Imaging black holes. A history of illustrating black holes
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