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The Very First Light : The True Inside Story of the Scientific Journey Back to the Dawn of the Universe
In the early 1990s, a NASA-led team of scientists changed the way we view the universe. With the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) project, they showed that the microwave radiation that fills the universe must have come from the Big Bang-effectively proving the Big Bang theory beyond any doubt. It was one of the greatest scientific findings of our generation, perhaps of all time. In The Very First Light, John Mather, one of COBE's leaders, and science writer John Boslough tell the story of how it was achieved. A gripping tale of big money, bigger egos, tense politics, and cutting-edge engineering, The Very First Light offers a rare insider's account of the world of big science.
In a top-notch scientific adventure, astrophysicist Mather, with an assist from freelance writer Boslough, tells how, as chief project scientist, he organized the team that designed, built and oversaw NASA's 1989 launch of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). That satellite's instruments provided data widely believed to have verified the Big Bang theory of the universe's creation in a primordial explosion. In 1992 NASA scientists announced that COBE had detected minuscule fluctuations in the temperature and density of cosmic background radiation, a microwave energy suffusing the entire universe that is generally considered a remnant, or "afterbirth," of the Big Bang. These fluctuations were interpreted as an indication of "primordial seeds" in the early universe, giving rise to its present-day clumpiness (uneven distribution) of galaxies and galaxy clusters. This lucid, gracefully written narrative combines a suspenseful account of how the COBE team overcame technical and bureaucratic obstacles with a concise survey of modern cosmology from Edwin Hubble to Stephen Hawking. COBE team member George Smoot, a Berkeley physicist, violated team policy by leaking news of COBE's discoveries to the press before NASA's formal announcement, a leak that, to Mather, smacks of self-promotion and betrayal. This excellent insider's report complements and broadens the COBE story as presented in Smoot's Wrinkles in Times. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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September 28, 2008
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