The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . and How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

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Levenson, Thomas The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . and How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe
Levenson, Thomas - The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . and How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

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The captivating, all-but-forgotten story of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the search for a planet that never existed
For more than fifty years, the world's top scientists searched for the "missing" planet Vulcan, whose existence was mandated by Isaac Newton's theories of gravity. Countless hours were spent on the hunt for the elusive orb, and some of the era's most skilled astronomers even claimed to have found it.
There was just one problem: It was never there.
In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the story of the phantom planet, starting with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 provided an explanation for all matter in motion throughout the universe, leading to Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who almost two centuries later built on Newton's theories and discovered Neptune, becoming the most famous scientist in the world. Le Verrier attempted to surpass that triumph by predicting the existence of yet another planet in our solar system, Vulcan.
It took Albert Einstein to discern that the mystery of the missing planet was a problem not of measurements or math but of Newton's theory of gravity itself. Einstein's general theory of relativity proved that Vulcan did not and could not exist, and that the search for it had merely been a quirk of operating under the wrong set of assumptions about the universe. Levenson tells the previously untold tale of how the "discovery" of Vulcan in the nineteenth century set the stage for Einstein's monumental breakthrough, the greatest individual intellectual achievement of the twentieth century.
A dramatic human story of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan offers insight into how science really advances (as opposed to the way we're taught about it in school) and how the best work of the greatest scientists reveals an artist's sensibility. Opening a new window onto our world, Levenson illuminates some of our most iconic ideas as he recounts one of the strangest episodes in the history of science.
Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan
"Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history."-The Wall Street Journal
"Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of Levenson's writing makes it almost novelistic."-The Washington Post
"A well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing."-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


Levenson, Thomas

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Chapter 1
The Immovable Order of the World
August 1684, Cambridge.
Edmond Halley had suffered a sad and vexing spring. In March, his father disappeared under suspicious circumstances a not-altogether-unusual fate in the political turmoil that shot through the last years of the Stuart dynasty s rule. He was found dead five weeks later. He d left no will, which forced the younger Halley to spend the next few months dealing with the resulting mess: the twelve pounds owed to his father by a local rector; the three pounds a year promised as an annuity to a woman as part of a real estate transaction; rents to collect and trustees to satisfy. That miserable business consumed him into the summer, and ultimately required a trip to Cambridgeshire to handle face to face those details that couldn t be resolved from London.1
There was nothing happy about the first part of that journey, but once he d dealt with the legal issues, one unexpected pleasure came his way. In January, before his troubles began, Halley had produced a clever bit of celestial analysis, a calculation that suggested that whatever force held the planets on their paths around the sun grew weaker in proportion to the square of each object s distance from the sun. But that prompted an immediate question: could that particular mathematical relationship called an inverse square law explain why all celestial objects moved down the paths they d been observed to follow?
The best minds in Europe knew what was at stake in that seemingly technical issue. This was the decisive climax in what we ve come to call the Scientific Revolution, the long struggle through which mathematics supplanted Latin as the language of science. On the 14th of January, 1684, following a meeting of the Royal Society, Halley fell into conversation with two old friends: the polymath Robert Hooke and the former president of the Society, Sir Christopher Wren. As their talk moved on to astronomy, Hooke claimed he d already worked out the inverse square law that guided the motions of the universe. Wren didn t believe him, and so offered both Halley and Hooke a prize a book worth roughly $300 in today s money if either of them could present a rigorous account of such a universal law within two months.2 Halley swiftly acknowledged that he couldn t find his way to such a result, and Hooke, for all his bravado, failed to deliver a written proof by Wren s deadline.
There the matter stuck until, at last, Halley escaped from the wretchedness of postmortem wrangles with his surviving family. His business had taken him east from London anyway why not detour to the university at Cambridge, there to gain at least an afternoon s respite in talk of natural philosophy? Coming into town he made his way to the great gate of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. A left onto the college grounds, then right and almost immediately up the stairs would have brought him to the rooms occupied by the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Isaac Newton.
To most of his contemporaries, Newton in the summer of 1684 was something of an enigma. London s natural philosophers knew him as a man of formidable intelligence, but Halley was among very few who counted him as an acquaintance, much less a friend. The public record of Newton s work was slim. His reputation rested on a handful of exceptional results, mostly transmitted to the secretary of the Royal Society in the early 1670s, but he was irascible, proud, swift to anger, and agonizingly slow to forgive, and an early dispute with Hooke left him unwilling to risk grubby public wrangling. He kept much of his work secret for the next decade so much so that, as his biographer Richard Westfall put it, had he died in the spring of 1684, Newton would have been remembered as a very talented and rath
Penguin Random House|Random House Trade Paperbacks
Thomas Levenson is a professor of science writing at MIT. He is the author of several books, including The Hunt for Vulcan, Einstein in Berlin, and Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist. He has also made ten feature-length documentaries (including a two-hour Nova program on Einstein) for which he has won numerous awards.
Delightful . . . a charming tale about an all-but-forgotten episode in science history. The Wall Street Journal

Engaging . . . At heart, this is a story about how science advances, one insight at a time. But the immediacy, almost romance, of [Thomas] Levenson s writing makes it almost novelistic. The Washington Post

Captures the drama of the tireless search for this celestial object. Science

Levenson s narrative is a well-structured, fast-paced example of exemplary science writing. A scintillating popular account of the interplay between mathematical physics and astronomical observations. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Hunt for Vulcan is a short, beautifully produced book that tells a cautionary tale. . . . Levenson is a breezy writer who renders complex ideas in down-to-earth language . . . and colorfully illustrates the limits of scientific theory as it faces new data and even more persuasive theories. The Boston Globe

Thomas Levenson wonderfully tells the story of Vulcan. . . . Looping through science history from Isaac Newton onwards, Levenson elegantly reveals the evolutionary nature of scientific thought, and the marvel of the revolution that Einstein wrought. Nature

An essential read . . . a compelling story that successfully portrays how science deals with ambiguity . . . The Hunt for Vulcan succeeds spectacularly at displaying the intricate, confusing, and sometimes quirky way science progresses. Ars Technica

This delightful and enlightening drama tells the story of the hunt for a planet that did not exist and how Einstein resolved the mystery with the most beautiful theory in the history of science. The Hunt for Vulcan is an inspiring tale about the quest for discovery and the challenges and joys of understanding our universe. Walter Isaacson
The Hunt for Vulcan is equal to the best science writing I ve read anywhere, by any author. Beautifully composed, rich in historical context, deeply researched, it is, above all, great storytelling. Levenson gives a true picture of the scientific enterprise, with all its good and bad guesses, wishful thinking, passion, human ego, and desire to know and understand this strange and magnificent cosmos we find ourselves in. Alan Lightman, author of The Accidental Universe

Thomas Levenson s brilliance as a writer is in setting the evolution of scientific ideas into their appropriate historical contexts, allowing us to see their wider implications. In this engaging, informative book, laced with lovely anecdotes, Levenson elegantly teaches us about both the laws of physics and the less law-abiding ways in which physics advances occur. Lisa Randall, professor of physics, Harvard University, and author of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

Levenson deftly draws readers into a quest that shows how scientists think and argue, as well as how science advances: one discovery at a time. Publishers Weekly
ISBN The Hunt for Vulcan. Bucheinband-Typ: Taschenbuch, Geschrieben von: Thomas Levenson, Anzahl der Seiten: 256 Seiten. Breite: 131,8 mm, Höhe: 203,2 mm


2. August 2016
0.198 x 0.135 x 0.02 m; 0.159 kg
€ 23,76
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