The cut-throat quest to find dark matter, dark energy & a Nobel Prize

Jan 13, 2011

What is the 4 percent universe? It’s the one that encompasses everything we see: you, your dog, your dirty laundry, Earth, Sun, planets, stars, galaxies. What makes up the remaining 96%? Well, that’s where things get tricky. It’s all the other stuff we can’t see in any form. Astronomers call it “dark matter” and “dark energy,” which has nothing to do with Darth Vader or the Dark Side – as far as we know. But the quest to shed light on the “dark” is something that gets astrophysicists really hot. It is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science. Solving it will bring fame, riches and a Nobel Prize. In his new book, The 4 Percent Universe, author Richard Panek brings this epic story to life. Based on interviews with the major players – from Berkeley’s Saul Perlmutter and Harvard’s Robert Kirshner to the doyenne of astronomy Vera Rubin – Panek paints a colorful portrait of the rivalries, collaborations, blind alleys and eureka moments. What is the universe made of? How do we know?

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