The Amazing Unity of the Universe: And Its Origin in the Big Bang

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Springer, Jul 20, 2016 - Science - 315 pages

In the first chapters the author describes how our knowledge of the position of Earth in space and time has developed, thanks to the work of many generations of astronomers and physicists. He discusses how our position in the Galaxy was discovered, and how in 1929, Hubble uncovered the fact that the Universe is expanding, leading to the picture of the Big Bang. He then explains how astronomers have found that the laws of physics that were discovered here on Earth and in the Solar System (the laws of mechanics, gravity, atomic physics, electromagnetism, etc.) are valid throughout the Universe. This is illustrated by the fact that all matter in the Universe consists of atoms of the same chemical elements that we know on Earth. This unity is all the more surprising when one realizes that in the original Big Bang theory, different parts of the Universe could never have communicated with each other. It then is a mystery how they could have shared the same physical laws. This problem was solved by the introduction of the idea of inflation, a phase of extremely rapid expansion of the Universe during the first fraction of a second following the Big Bang. The author explains how the unity of the Universe finds its origin in the Big Bang prior to inflation. The book addresses the many fundamental questions about the Universe and its contents from the perspective of the Big Bang: the formation of structure in the Universe, the questions of the mysterious dark matter and dark energy, the possibilities of other Universes (the Multiverse) and of the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe.

 

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Contents

Our Strange Universe
1
The Suns Backyard Our Solar System
5
How Distant Are the Stars?
31
The Discovery of the Structure of Our Milky Way Galaxy
46
The Chemical Composition of the Sun and Stars
67
Other Galaxies and the Discovery of the Expansion of the Universe
78
Gravity According to Galilei Newton Einstein and Mach
97
Einstein de Sitter Friedmann Lemaître and the Evolution of the Universe
117
Time in the Universe
227
From Universe to Multiverse
237
Intelligent Life Elsewhere in the Universe
253
Epilogue
270
Some Data About the Solar System
277
The Structure of Atoms and the Standard Model of Elementary Particles and Forces
279
About the Parameters of the Universe
285
The Radiation Laws of Planck Wien and StefanBoltzmann
291

The Big Bang as Origin of the Universe
137
The Origin of the Matter in the Universe
161
We Are Made of Stardust Timescales of the Universe and of Life
171
Is the Universe Open Closed or Flat? The Horizon Problem the Flatness Problem and Inflation
189
Dark Matter and Dark Energy Our Strange Universe
197
Ripples in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
215
The Equations for the Jeans Length and the Jeans Mass
292
Credits of the Figures
295
Author Index
303
Subject Index
307
Copyright

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About the author (2016)

Edward van den Heuvel received his Ph.D.in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Utrecht in 1968. He worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 1968 to 1969, at the University of Utrecht from 1969 to 1974, and at the University of Brussels from 1970 to 1980. Since 1974 he has been Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam and until 2005, Director of the Astronomical Institute there. He has been awarded the Physica Prize (the highest prize of the Netherlands Physical Society NNV), the Spinoza Prize (the highest science prize of the Netherlands) and the Descartes Prize (the highest science prize of the European Commission). Professor van den Heuvel was a Board Member and Chair of the Netherlands Space Research Organization, Chair of the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy, a Board Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, and the Founding Chair of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy. Professor van den Heuvel’s fields of expertise include stellar evolution, the physics of neutron stars and black holes, X-ray astronomy and radio pulsars.

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