The 4 Percent Universe: Book summary and reviews of The 4 Percent Universe by Richard Panek

The 4 Percent Universe

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality

by Richard Panek

The 4 Percent Universe by Richard Panek X
The 4 Percent Universe by Richard Panek

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A superior account of how astronomers discovered that they knew almost nothing about 96 percent of the universe." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. This lively story of big personalities, intellectual competitiveness, and ravenous curiosity is as entertaining as it is illuminating." - Publishers Weekly

"A contemporary adventure story of modern-day explorers who venture forth into the universe not by ships, but by telescopes and satellites.... Riveting." - Lee Smolin, author of The Trouble with Physics

"It's the biggest mystery of all: why is the universe expanding at an accelerated rate? At its heart is a search for what forces and particles make up reality. It baffled Einstein, and it now obsesses a cadre of fascinating cosmologists. By brilliantly capturing their passions and pursuits, Richard Panek has made this cosmic quest exciting and understandable." - Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe

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Author Information

Richard Panek

Richard Panek is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the author of The Invisible Century and Seeing and Believing. He has frequently written for the New York Times - where The 4-Percent Universe began as an article - as well as Discover, Smithsonian, Esquire, and Outside, among other publications. He lives with his wife, Meg Wolitzer, and their two sons.

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