Gravity's Arc: The Story of Gravity from Aristotle to Einstein and Beyond

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David Darling, «Gravity's Arc: The Story of Gravity from Aristotle to Einstein and Beyond»
Wiley | ISBN 0471719897 | 2006-05-23 | PDF | 2,06 Mb | 288 pages




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From Publishers Weekly:

Darling, the author of The Universal Book of Astronomy and a host of other books and articles on space flight, mathematics and physics, provides a strikingly readable explanation for the complex phenomena at the cutting edge of contemporary physics. Beginning with the ancient Greeks' ruminations on the nature of the physical world and concluding with a forecast for where physics is headed, Darling uses a conversational tone and narrative storytelling to coax readers through the finer points of dark energy and dark matter, string theory, inflationary universes, black holes and wormholes. Unfortunately, the book's lack of illustrations hobbles the discussion of some topics, though readers with a cursory knowledge of high school physics should be able to navigate the sections on, say, Keplerian planetary orbits or ballistic trajectories. Darling's done an admirable job of making physics palatable to a general audience, though it seems incomplete without at least a few line drawings.


Reviews:

"…closer than most to explaining the mysteries behind the force." (What's On in London, August 2006)


"From Aristotle to Einstein and beyond, Gravity's Arc is a lucid and beautifully written exposition of the still mysterious force that holds our universe together – and the even more mysterious dark twin that may blow it apart."
—Joshua Gilder, author of Heavenly Intrigue: Johannes Kepler, Tycho Brahe, and the Murder Behind One of History's Greatest Scientific Discoveries

"A lucid book on gravity, beautifully written. As up to date as the effect of gravity on the bones of astronauts."
—Denis Brian, author of The Unexpected Einstein: The Real Man Behind the Icon and The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in Science


Book Description:

Advance Praise for Gravity's Arc

"A beautifully written exposition of the still mysterious force that holds our universe together–and the even more mysterious dark twin that may blow it apart."
–Joshua Gilder, coauthor of Heavenly Intrigue

"A lucid book as up-to-date as the effect of gravity on the bones of astronauts."
–Denis Brian, author of The Unexpected Einstein

How did they do it?

How did one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived retard the study of gravity for 2,000 years? How did a gluttonous tyrant with a gold nose revolutionize our view of the solar system? How could an eccentric professor shake the foundations of an entire belief system by dropping two objects from a tower? How did a falling apple turn the thoughts of a reclusive genius toward the moon? And how could a simple patent clerk change our entire view of the universe by imagining himself riding on a beam of light?

In Gravity's Arc, you'll discover how some of the most colorful, eccentric, and brilliant people in history first locked, then unlocked the door to understanding one of nature's most essential forces. You'll find out why Aristotle's misguided conclusions about gravity became an unassailable part of Christian dogma, how Galileo slowed down time to determine how fast objects fall, and why Isaac Newton erased every mention of one man's name from his magnum opus Principia. You'll also figure out what Einstein meant when he insisted that space is curved, whether there is really such a thing as antigravity, and why some scientists think that the best way to get to outer space is by taking an elevator.


From the Inside Flap:

Gravity shapes our bones and bodies. It ensures that what goes up comes down. We've studied it for millennia. But is what we know about it wrong? The NASA probes Pioneer 10 and 11 are not where they should be, and pendulums have gone haywire during solar eclipses. Nothing in current gravitational theory explains these bizarre behaviors, which begs the larger questions: What exactly is gravity? How has our knowledge about it accumulated? And, what do these anomalies and other recent discoveries mean?

In Gravity's Arc, the celebrated science writer David Darling confronts these questions by tracing the fascinating history of speculation, investigation, and analysis into gravity's nature by some of the most renowned scientists in history. He starts with Aristotle, who thought all things fell toward their "natural place," leaps forward to the groundbreaking work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, then shows how Newton and his apple gave the world its first universal theory of gravitation before turning to Einstein and his notion of curved space-time.

Darling also introduces readers to the present-day physicists who are wrestling to fit gravity into an all-embracing scheme of nature. This involves some knottier issues: If gravity is a force, where does it come from? How can inert material, however massive, generate this strange attraction? Does gravity travel in waves? If so, can we detect them? What forms might life take on worlds with higher or lower gravity than Earth's? Is it possible to ride an elevator into space?

Darling explores gravity's mysterious cosmic adversary, a "dark energy" that threatens to stretch the cosmos into infinite oblivion. Could dark energy also hold the key to interstellar space travel, the development of warp drives? Could scientists someday create their own miniature black holes or even embryonic universes? Could we control the very fabric of space and time?

Today we stand on the brink of a revolution in gravitational science, one that may also help explain the enigmas of errant probes and pendulums.


About the Author:

David Darling has a Ph.D. in astronomy and has been a full-time freelance science writer for more than twenty years. He is the author of Teleportation: The Impossible Leap, as well as three science encyclopedias: The Universal Book of Mathematics, The Universal Book of Astronomy, and The Complete Book of Spaceflight, all available from Wiley. His other narrative science titles include Deep Time and Equations of Eternity, a New York Times Notable Book. Darling's articles and reviews have appeared in Astronomy, Omni, Penthouse, New Scientist, the New York Times, and the Guardian, among others. He also hosts a major informational Web site, www.daviddarling.info.