The Synthesis of the Elements: The Astrophysical Quest for Nucleosynthesis and What It Can Tell Us About the Universe

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Springer Science & Business Media, Apr 13, 2012 - Science - 684 pages

This book describes the origins and evolution of the chemical elements we and the cosmos are made of. The story starts with the discovery of the common elements on Earth and their subsequent discovery in space. How do we learn the composition of the distant stars? How did progress in quantum theory, nuclear physics, spectroscopy, stellar structure and evolution, together with observations of stars, converge to provide an incredibly detailed picture of the universe? How does research in the micro-world explain the macro-world? How does progress in one affect the other, or lack of knowledge in one inhibit progress in the other? In short, Shaviv describes how we discovered the various pieces of the jigsaw that form our present picture of the universe; and how we sometimes put these in the wrong place before finding in the right one.

En route we meet some fascinating personalities and learn about heated controversies. Shaviv shows how science lurched from one dogma to the next, time and again shattering much of what had been considered solid knowledge, until eventually a stable understanding arose.

Beginning with generally accepted science, the book ends in today’s terra incognita of nuclear physics, astrophysics and cosmology. A monumental work that will fascinate scientists, philosophers, historians and lay readers alike.


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1 Order in the Chemical Elements
2 Preparing the Ground for Delving into the Stars
3 Probing the Stars from Afar
4 Is Physics the Same Everywhere?
5 Towards the Bottom of the Nuclear Binding Energy
6 The CompositionAgeVelocity Connection
7 Big and Little Bangs
8 How Nature Overcomes Its Own Barriers
9 Beyond Carbon
10 Which Star Becomes Which Supernova?
11 Between Two Extreme Nuclear Models
12 Synthesis of the HeavierthanIron Elements
The rProcess
14 The Elusive First Stars

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About the author (2012)

After spending several years in the USA, at Caltech and Cornell, Giora Shaviv was instrumental in bringing astrophysical teaching and research to Israel ( with posts at Tel Aviv University and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology). He also conceived, designed and organized the launch of the Technion student and faculty research satellite. A leading theoretical astrophysicist, Shaviv has published numerous articles on stellar physics, galaxies and astrophysical fluids in professional journals. Among his many contributions to stellar physics is a paper that Physical Review Letters selected as one of their best 20 of the past 50 years. He is also author of the highly acclaimed book "Life of Stars" (Springer, 2010). He founded the Asher Space Research Institute at the Technion with president Singer and also served as President of the Israeli Physical Society.

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