Traditionally, science has been considered descriptive, not explanatory. Yet Hawking and Mlodinow declare, "To understand the universe at the deepest level, we need to know not only how the universe behaves, but why. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some others?"
Darwin is on the precipice, standing on an underwater peak ascending over an unfathomable sea. He is on the edge of an idea about the forces that built that peak, an idea that will prove to be the first great scientific insight of his career. And he has just begun exploring another hunch, still hazy and unformed, that will eventually lead to the intellectual summit of the nineteenth century.
Over the past few decades, a handful of scientists have been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only 4 percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, our books, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown.
Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of the quest to find this "dark" matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy. This is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science, and solving it will bring fame, funding, and certainly a Nobel Prize. Based on in-depth reporting and interviews with the major players-from Berkeley's feisty, excitable Saul Perlmutter and Harvard's witty but exacting Robert Kirshner to the doyenne of astronomy, Vera Rubin-the book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have fueled their search, redefined science, and reinvented the universe.
The stakes couldn't be higher. Our view of the cosmos is profoundly wrong, and Copernicus was only the beginning: not just Earth, but all common matter is a marginal part of existence. Panek's fast-paced narrative, filled with original reporting and behind-the-scenes details, brings this epic story to life for the very first time.