The Dancing Universe
From Creation Myths to the Big Bang
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Dartmouth College Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I would like to express my deep gratitude to the friends and colleagues who took their time to read the manuscript, helping me make it into a better text. Freeman Dyson’s initial encouragement was really crucial to set me in the right direction. Rocky Kolb’s influence as a friend, mentor...
Preface to the 2005 Edition
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To write a book and see it printed is a privilege. To see it go through a new edition is an honor. I owe the final impetus to write The Dancing Universe to Freeman Dyson. When he was visiting Dartmouth in the fall of 1995, I asked...
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This book surveys the quest for understanding our origins and our place in this vast, mysterious Universe. For as long as history has been recorded humankind has asked the most fundamental question that can be asked, that of the origin...
Part I | Beginnings
1 | Creation Myths
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At first sight, it may seem puzzling that a book written by a scientist about the evolution of cosmological thought should start with a chapter on the creation myths of ancient religions, but I have my reasons. First, in their variety these myths encompass all the...
2 | The Greeks
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In his dedication of Advancement of Learning (1605) to James I, Sir Francis Bacon declared that “of all the persons living that I have known, your Majesty were the best instance to make a man of Plato’s opinion, that all knowledge is but remembrance.” Although...
Part II | The Awakening
3 | The Sun, the Church, and the New Astronomy
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The awakening was slow, a lazy spring fighting the cold embrace of winter. For centuries the medieval mind was immersed in dogmatic theology. The wisdom of the past was forgotten, the splendor of...
4 | The Pious Heretic
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Of the many conflicts between religion and science throughout history, none has received more attention than the clash between Galileo and the Catholic Church during the first half of the seventeenth century. The events that led to the famous trial of...
5 | The Triumph of Reason
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How far can we go in exalting Newton’s scientific achievements? Not far enough. Few minds in the intellectual history of humankind have left such an imprint as Newton’s. His work represents the culmination of the Scientific Revolution, a grandiose solution...
Part III | The Classical Era
6 | The World Is an Intricate Machine
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The ground-breaking scientific achievements of Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and many others during the seventeenth century triggered a deep revision of the Western conception of the cosmos. Gone was the walled-in Universe of the Dark Ages...
Part IV | Modern Times
7 | Of Things Fast
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Learning modern physics can be an emotional experience. As students are first introduced to the ideas of relativity and quantum mechanics, initial perplexity is almost invariably followed by peevish disbelief. There is something outrageous...
8 | Of Things Small
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Light, or more generally, electromagnetic waves, posed other challenges for classical physics. We have seen that light emitted and absorbed by chemical elements and analyzed by a spectroscope allowed physicists to study...
Part V | Modeling the Universe
9 | Inventing Universes
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Side by side with the revolution in our understanding of the physics of the very small and of the very fast, the first three decades of the twentieth century witnessed yet another revolution: a new physics of gravity and of the Universe...
10 | Beginnings
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Leave it to children to remind us of the many ways to perceive reality! There is little doubt that when we attempt to order the world around us, thinking in terms of opposites is very useful. Daynight, female-male...
Epilogue: Dancing with the Universe
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From the ancient chants of creation rituals to complex mathematical equations describing primordial energy fluctuations, humankind has always looked for ways of expressing its fascination...
Glossary of Selected Terms
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Bibliography and Further Reading
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 44 illus.
Publication Year: 2005
Series Title: Understanding Science and Technology