The 4 Percent Universe

The 4 Percent Universe

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

Book - 2011
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The epic, behind-the-scenes story of an astounding gap in our scientific knowledge of the cosmos.


In the past few years, a handful of scientists have been in a race 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 planet, star, and galaxy. The rest--96 percent of the universe--is completely unknown.


Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of how scientists reached this conclusion, and what they're doing to find this "dark" matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy. Based on in-depth, on-site reporting and hundreds of interviews--with everyone from Berkeley's feisty Saul Perlmutter and Johns Hopkins's meticulous Adam Riess to the quietly revolutionary 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.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
ISBN: 9780618982448
Branch Call Number: 523.1 Pan
Characteristics: xvi, 297 p.
Alternative Title: 4% universe
Four percent universe


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Sep 20, 2016

It's an interesting read, but like one of the prior commentators states, this book seems to dwell mostly on the scientists themselves (along with their confrontations), rather than on the phenomenon of dark matter and dark energy. At times there are so many names and personalities and rivalries thrown about that it becomes very confusing to keep track of who's who and who's doing what - and really, unless you're into soap operas over than science, who cares?

If you're simply looking to find out about dark matter and dark energy, I recommend Einstein's Telescope by Evalyn Gates instead - she lays everything out in a highly readable and systematic way, and I learned more about dark matter/energy in the first 100 pages than I did with Panek's account.

ahmedadel Jun 21, 2015

Very rare I find something that good; informative in simple language.

Jan 06, 2015

I found the author's style tedious after awhile. Lengthy stories about ambitions, competition, confrontation, renowned scientists behaving badly - but it seemed inflated like a movie script. The author has no science background, and this seems to manifest itself in his trying to make the story into a novel. I wonder if he really had this much insider personal info? I suggest Marcia Bartusiak's book on the same subject.

KEVIN DOWD Sep 07, 2012

great rundown on the merging of particle physics and astronomy and the hunt for Omega with supernovae.

great insider details and funny background, and sad details of early deaths that robbed people of their dreams at the moment of success.

terrific read.

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