On November 9, Neil DeGrasse Tyson joined Stephen Colbert on The Late Show to talk about Welcome to the Universe and to blow his own mind. Watch the clip here:
On November 9, Neil DeGrasse Tyson joined Stephen Colbert on The Late Show to talk about Welcome to the Universe and to blow his own mind. Watch the clip here:
From page 46 of Bird Brain:
There are a number of tools that birds use when migrating long distances. For example, one way that nocturnal birds find their way is by using the stars to navigate. Experiments with migratory birds in planetariums have found that birds learn celestial maps based on the position of certain major constellations, and their position relative to the poles. When exposed to a simulation of the northern hemisphere sky in the spring, birds will orient north, and vice versa.
Birds have not been known for their high IQs, which is why a person of questionable intelligence is sometimes called a “birdbrain.” Yet in the past two decades, the study of avian intelligence has witnessed dramatic advances. From a time when birds were seen as simple instinct machines responding only to stimuli in their external worlds, we now know that some birds have complex internal worlds as well. This beautifully illustrated book provides an engaging exploration of the avian mind, revealing how science is exploding one of the most widespread myths about our feathered friends—and changing the way we think about intelligence in other animals as well.
Bird Brain looks at the structures and functions of the avian brain, and describes the extraordinary behaviors that different types of avian intelligence give rise to. It offers insights into crows, jays, magpies, and other corvids—the “masterminds” of the avian world—as well as parrots and some less-studied species from around the world. This lively and accessible book shows how birds have sophisticated brains with abilities previously thought to be uniquely human, such as mental time travel, self-recognition, empathy, problem solving, imagination, and insight.
Written by a leading expert and featuring a foreword by Frans de Waal, renowned for his work on animal intelligence, Bird Brain shines critical new light on the mental lives of birds.
We’re thrilled to launch this beautiful companion website to the highly anticipated new book, Welcome to the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael Strauss, and Richard Gott.
If you’ve ever wondered about the universe and our place in it, then this elegant mini-tour of the cosmos is for you. Divided into three parts called ‘Stars, Planets and Life,’ ‘Galaxies,’ and ‘Einstein and the Universe,’ the site is designed to take you on a journey through the major ideas in Welcome to the Universe. We hope you learn something new and exciting about outer space. If you find something interesting and would like to share, please do! The site is set up to make sharing interesting tidbits on social media easy. Want to learn more? The site also includes information on where to learn more about each topic. Keep an eye out for the book in October 2016.
Women have made great strides in STEM fields, but there are still far too few women in science—a situation that remains both complex and troubling. Here at Princeton University Press, we are proud to publish numerous important books in the sciences by women, on topics ranging from de-extinction, to primitive stars, to fireflies. If you’re interested in learning more about the lives and ideas of #WomenInScience, DiscovHer—a site dedicated to showcasing these remarkable people—has put together a great list of blogs for you to follow. And check out some of the most fascinating PUP authors and their books here:
|Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist
and pioneer in “ancient DNA” research, shows how
de-extinction might change the future of
How to Clone a Mammoth.
|What is the universe made of?
Acclaimed theoretical physicist Katherine Freese
shares the most cutting edge research aimed at
answering that question in
The Cosmic Cocktail.
|Anna Frebel, who discovered several of the oldest
and most primitive stars, tells the story of the
research behind stellar archeology in
Searching for the Oldest Stars.
|Have you ever been curious about the fireflies
that light up our summer nights? Noted
biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis
answers all your questions and
more in Silent Sparks.
|Daphne J. Fairbairn, a professor of biology,
shows that the differences between men and
women are negligible when compared with
differences between males and
females in the animal kingdom in
Delve into the fascinating world of
Today marks a new era in cosmology, astronomy, and astrophysics. The main page of the Einstein Papers Project website reports, “Gravitational waves do exist, as has been announced today with great joy by the scientists of the LIGO collaboration, after more than two decades of intensive experimental work.”
The cosmic breakthrough, which proves Einstein’s 100 year old prediction, has resulted in a tremendous response across the scientific community and social media. Scientific websites everywhere are already debating the meaning of the discovery, the #EinsteinWasRight hashtag has been bantered about on Twitter; You Tube featured a live announcement with over 80,000 people tuning in to watch (check it out at 27 minutes).
Princeton University Press authors Jeremiah Ostriker and Kip Thorne had a bet about gravitational wave detection in the 80s. Today when we contacted him, Ostriker, author of Heart of Darkness, was ebullient:
“The LIGO announcement today and the accompanying papers are totally persuasive. We all believed that Einstein had to be right in predicting gravitational waves, but to see them, so clean and so clear is marvelous. Two independent instruments saw the same signal from the same event, and it was just what had been predicted for the in-spiral and merger of two massive black holes.
A quarter of a century ago I had a bet with Kip Thorne that we would not see gravitational waves before the year 2000 – and I won that bet and a case of wine. But I did not doubt that, when the sensitivity of the instruments improved enough, gravitational waves would be found. Now the skill and perseverance of the experimentalists and the support of NSF has paid off.
Hats off to all!!!”
But was Einstein always a believer in gravitational waves? Daniel Kennefick, co-author of The Einstein Encyclopedia says no:
“One hundred years ago in February 1916, Einstein mentioned gravitational waves for the first time in writing. Ironically it was to say that they did not exist. He said this in a letter to his colleague Karl Schwarzschild, who had just discovered the solution to Einstein’s equations which we now know describe black holes. Today brings a major confirmation of the existence both of gravitational waves and black holes. Yet Einstein was repeatedly skeptical about whether either of these ideas were really predictions of his theory. In the case of gravitational waves he soon changed his mind in 1916 and by 1918 had presented the first theory of these waves which still underpins our understanding of how the LIGO detectors work. But in 1936 he changed his mind again, submitting a paper to the Physical Review called “Do Gravitational Waves Exist?” in which he answered his own question in the negative. The editor of the journal responded by sending Einstein a critical referee’s report and Einstein angrily withdrew the paper and resubmitted it elsewhere. But by early the next year he had changed his mind again, completely revising the paper to present one of the first exact solutions for gravitational waves in his theory. So his relationship with gravitational waves was very far from the image of the cocksure, self-confident theorist which dominates so many stories about Einstein. Because of this, he would have been thrilled today, if he were still alive, to have this major confirmation of some of the most esoteric predictions of his theory.”
Here at Princeton University Press where we recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, the mood has been celebratory to say the least. If you’d like to read the Einstein Papers volumes that refer to his theory of gravitational waves, check out Document 32 in Volume 6, and Volume 7, which focuses on the theory. Or, kick off your own #EinsteinWasRight celebration by checking out some of our other relevant titles.
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, 100th Anniversary Edition
by Albert Einstein
Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell
by A. Zee
An Einstein Encyclopedia
by Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennfick, & Robert Sculmann
Gravitation and Inertia
by Ignazio Ciufolini & John Archibald Wheeler
Einstein’s Jury: The Race to Test Relativity
by Jeffrey Crelinsten
What Does a Black Hole Look Like?
by Charles D. Bailyn
Dynamics and Evolution of Galactic Nuclei
by David Merritt
The Global Nonlinear Stability of the Minkowski Space (PMS-41)
by Demetrios Christodoulou & Sergiu Klainerman
Modern Classical Physics: Optics, Fluids, Plasmas, Elasticity, Relativity, and Statistical Physics
by Kip S. Thorne & Roger D. Blandford
Astronomers study the oldest observable stars in the universe in much the same way that archaeologists study ancient artifacts on Earth. Stellar archaeologist Anna Frebel is credited with discovering several of the oldest and most primitive stars, and her book, Searching for the Oldest Stars is a gripping firsthand account of her work. Recently she took the time to answer some questions:
What is your main research topic and what is stellar archaeology?
AF: My work is broadly centered on finding the oldest stars in the universe and using them to explore how the first stars and the first galaxies formed soon after the Big Bang. This works because these ancient stars are about 13 billion years old and they are still shining. The universe itself, by comparison, is 13.8 billion years old. I find these ancient stars in the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy, using a large telescope. I’m also researching how the chemical elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were first created in those early stars, which ultimately allowed Earth to form and to bring about life in the universe.
What is your biggest discovery?
AF: I have been fortunate enough to discover several “record holding stars”. In 2007, I found a 13.2 billion year-old star, which is incredibly old. This followed the 2005 discovery of the chemically most primitive star – a star of the second generation of stars to have formed in the universe. Since then, I have analyzed some incredible ancient stars in dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way galaxy, and together with my team, we have recently beaten said 2005 record, which was enormously exciting.
Why do people say we are made from stardust?
AF: We humans are made from all sorts of different chemical elements, mostly carbon. We breathe oxygen and nitrogen, we wear silver and gold jewelry. All these elements were once, atom by atom, created inside different kinds of stars and their supernova explosions over the course of billions of years. Studying this evolution of the chemical elements in the universe with the help of ancient stars means that I’m literally studying the cosmic origins of the building blocks of life. So we really are closely connected with the universe, far more than we realize.
How did you decide to become a scientist?
AF: From a young age I knew I wanted to study stars. They were just so fascinating to me, these big spheres of gas, fusing new elements to gain energy to shine for eons in the sky. Fortunately, I received good advice during high school on how to become an astronomer. After studying physics until 2002, I turned to astronomy and the rest is history. Today, I take pride in sharing my story with young people and the general public by telling them what astronomers do on a daily basis, and how scientific results are achieved. I am passionate about conveying the importance of science literacy to the young and the young at heart while inspiring them with the beauty and mystery of the cosmos.
What kind of telescope is used for your astronomical observations?
AF: Astronomers use all kinds of different telescopes on Earth as well as from space to peer deep into the cosmos. It depends on the type of project and the brightness of the objects which telescope is best suited. Space observations are being carried out remotely, whereas ground-based observations are still done by the astronomer who has to travel to the telescope. More and more telescopes are becoming automated to enable remote controlled “office observing”.
Are you traveling to any telescopes?
AF: Yes, I regularly fly to Chile to the Magellan Telescopes to carry out my observations. These are some of the largest telescopes in the world and the dark night sky in the Southern Hemisphere is terrific for studying the cosmos. It’s the favorite part of my job and I love discovering new facts about the universe through these observations!
What does it mean when you say you’re going observing?
AF: To use the telescopes, you have to fly to Chile. First to Santiago, then to La Serena and from there is a 2-3h drive up the mountains of the Atacama Desert where the telescopes are. There are guest rooms there for the observers to sleep during the day and the observatory chefs are cooking delicious meals for everyone. Dinner is eaten together by all observers, including the technical staff. It’s a little community with the sole purposes of caring for the telescopes and obtaining exquisite astronomical observations all night long of a breathtaking sky.
What does a typical night at the telescope look like?
AF: All preparations for the night happen during the afternoon while it’s still light outside. After sunset, I usually choose the first targets from my list, which I begin to observe soon after dark. Each star is observed for 10-30 minutes. We immediately inspect each observation and then decide on the fly whether we need more data or not. If we have found an interesting old star we may choose to immediately observe it for a few more hours.
Did anything ever go wrong at the telescopes?
AF: Of course! Mostly when it’s cloudy because then we can’t observe any starlight. This can be very frustrating because it can mean that we have to come back to the telescope a year later to try again. Clouds spell bad luck. Other times, the air layers above the telescope are often not as smooth as is required. This makes the stars twinkle and appear less sharp, which means less good data and longer exposure times. And sometimes there are technical problems with the telescope too.
How do you get your telescope time? Can I go to your telescope and observe, too?
AF: To obtain telescope time, astronomers have to submit a proposal to a committee that selects the best projects and awards them the time. The proposal contains a detailed description of the project and the technical details on what information is being sought. Telescope use is restricted to professional astronomers because of the considerable expense. The cost is about USD 50,000 to 100,000 per night, depending on the telescope, and often paid by various institutions and universities who jointly operate observatories. While this is a lot of money, it’s actually not that much in comparison to many other research facilities.
Are there any special moments at the telescope that you remember in particular?
AF: Yes, going observing is always magical and memorable. Of course I particularly remember big discoveries and the excited nervousness of checking and checking whether we didn’t make a mistake and that the discovery was really what it appeared to be. Then, there have been the frustrating moments of sitting at the telescopes for nights on end listening to the rain and flying home empty-handed. I have been there when severe technical problems and even a bush fire prevented observing during clear nights. But I always associate observing with the most colorful sunsets, the calm and peaceful atmosphere up in the mountains, and of course the sleepless but exciting nights.
Anna Frebel is the Silverman (1968) Family Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is author of Searching for the Oldest Stars, and has received numerous international honors and awards for her discoveries and analyses of the oldest stars. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Business Insider included Katherine Freese, author of The Cosmic Cocktail, in a list of the 50 scientists who are changing the world. Freese was recognized for her pioneering work in the study of dark matter. Other picks included Andrea Accomazo, the first person to land a probe on a comet, Alan Stern, the principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission, Cori Bargmann, autism and Alzheimer’s researcher, as well as an impressive lineup of other scientists whose “revolutionary research in human happiness, evolutionary biology, neutrino physics, biotechnology, archeology, and other fields is helping to advance our lives in more ways than we could ever imagine.”
From chapter 3 of The Sun’s Influence on Climate:
The Sun is about midway through its lifetime. At 5765 Kelvin, it is considered a cool star. 4,500,000,000 years ago, it formed from a dust cloud and is now burning its fuel, converting hydrogen into helium. Eventually, this burning will cease and it will end its life as a white dwarf.
The Earth’s climate system depends entirely on the Sun for its energy. Solar radiation warms the atmosphere and is fundamental to atmospheric composition, while the distribution of solar heating across the planet produces global wind patterns and contributes to the formation of clouds, storms, and rainfall. The Sun’s Influence on Climate provides an unparalleled introduction to this vitally important relationship.
This accessible primer covers the basic properties of the Earth’s climate system, the structure and behavior of the Sun, and the absorption of solar radiation in the atmosphere. It explains how solar activity varies and how these variations affect the Earth’s environment, from long-term paleoclimate effects to century timescales in the context of human-induced climate change, and from signals of the 11-year sunspot cycle to the impacts of solar emissions on space weather in our planet’s upper atmosphere.
Written by two of the leading authorities on the subject, The Sun’s Influence on Climate is an essential primer for students and nonspecialists alike.
Twenty-five years ago today, the shuttle mission STS-31 saw the space shuttle Discovery launch the Hubble Space telescope successfully into orbit. Since then, it has produced the most stunning images of the cosmos humanity has ever seen. (The beautiful image below is of the grand-design spiral galaxy Messier 74!) The Hubble has transformed our understanding of the universe around us, revealing new information about its age and evolution, the life cycle of stars, and the very existence of black holes, among other startling discoveries.
However, behind the beautiful images taken by the telescope, there is the complex story of how the plans for the telescope came to fruition. But it took an amazing amount of work and perseverance to get the first space telescope up and running.
PUP author Robert Zimmerman’s The Universe in a Mirror tells the story of this telescope and the visionaries responsible for its extraordinary accomplishments. He takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most ambitious scientific instruments ever sent into space. After World War II, astronomer Lyman Spitzer and a handful of scientists waged a fifty-year struggle to build the first space telescope capable of seeing beyond Earth’s atmospheric veil. Zimmerman shows how many of the telescope’s advocates sacrificed careers and family to get it launched, and how others devoted their lives to Hubble only to have their hopes and reputations shattered when its mirror was found to be flawed. This is the story of an idea that would not die–and of the dauntless human spirit. Illustrated with striking color images, The Universe in a Mirror describes the heated battles between scientists and bureaucrats, the perseverance of astronauts to repair and maintain the telescope, and much more. Hubble, and the men and women behind it, opened a rare window onto the universe, dazzling humanity with sights never before seen.
Only 5 percent of all matter and energy in the cosmos (think plants, animals, planets, the air we breathe) is made up of ordinary atoms. The rest is known as dark matter—it cannot be seen with telescopes, and its precise identity remains unknown. The Cosmic Cocktail is the inside story of the epic quest to identify dark matter and learn what the universe is made of, told by one of today’s foremost pioneers in the study of dark matter, acclaimed theoretical physicist Katherine Freese. Neil deGrasse Tyson calls the book “a gripping first person account of her life as a cosmologist…Part memoir, part tutorial, part social commentary.” It’s the perfect detective story for science geeks.
This week, Katherine Freese is in the UK talking about her research and the book. On April 8, she gave a talk at the Royal Astronomical Society and then recorded The Forum on the BBC World Service, which was presented by science journalist Quentin Cooper and will be broadcast and available to listen to online later this month.
Don’t miss Freese’s upcoming speaking engagements: On April 15th, Freese and PUP author Jacqueline Mitton will be participating in Edinburgh International Science Festival and on April 16th Freese will be speaking at Blackwell’s in Oxford. Freese will be a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on April 17th. On May 26th, she will be speaking at Hay Festival, a philosophy and music festival in Hay-on-Wye, (one of the biggest literary festivals in the UK, which was described by Bill Clinton in 2001 as “The Woodstock of the mind”).
As we near February, and Oscars month (our calendars are marked for Feb. 22!), PUP takes a look at The Theory of Everything. The best-picture nominee, which stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, depicts the love story and life story of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde. The beginning of the film is set in Cambridge, where Hawking is a brilliant graduate student. For movie-goers looking for a deeper look at Hawking’s scholarly work, PUP brings you a “Brief History” of books by Stephen Hawking.
“A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?
Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and “arrows of time,” of the big bang and a bigger God—where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.”
“In On the Shoulders of Giants, Stephen Hawking brings together the greatest works by Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein, showing how their pioneering discoveries changed the way we see the world.
From Copernicus’ revolutionary claim that the earth orbits the sun and Kepler’s development of the laws of planetary motion to Einstein’s interweaving of time and space, each scientist built on the theories of their predecessors to answer the questions that had long mystified humanity.
Hawking also provides fascinating glimpses into their lives and times – Galileo’s trial in the Papal inquisition, Newton’s bitter feuds with rivals and Einstein absent-mindedly jotting notes that would lead to his Theory of Relativity while pushing his baby son’s pram. Depicting the great challenges these men faced and the lasting contributions they made, Hawking explains how their works transformed the course of science – and gave us a better understanding of the universe and our place in it.”
Princeton University Press
By Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose
“Einstein said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. But was he right? Can the quantum theory of fields and Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the two most accurate and successful theories in all of physics, be united in a single quantum theory of gravity? Can quantum and cosmos ever be combined? On this issue, two of the world’s most famous physicists–Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time) and Roger Penrose (The Emperor’s New Mind and Shadows of the Mind)–disagree. Here they explain their positions in a work based on six lectures with a final debate, all originally presented at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge.
How could quantum gravity, a theory that could explain the earlier moments of the big bang and the physics of the enigmatic objects known as black holes, be constructed? Why does our patch of the universe look just as Einstein predicted, with no hint of quantum effects in sight? What strange quantum processes can cause black holes to evaporate, and what happens to all the information that they swallow? Why does time go forward, not backward? In this book, the two opponents touch on all these questions.”
“In this new book Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen’s terms the principles that control our universe.
Like many in the community of theoretical physicists, Professor Hawking is seeking to uncover the grail of science — the elusive Theory of Everything that lies at the heart of the cosmos. In his accessible and often playful style, he guides us on his search to uncover the secrets of the universe — from supergravity to supersymmetry, from quantum theory to M-theory, from holography to duality.
He takes us to the wild frontiers of science, where superstring theory and p-branes may hold the final clue to the puzzle. And he lets us behind the scenes of one of his most exciting intellectual adventures as he seeks ‘to combine Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Richard Feynman’s idea of multiple histories into one complete unified theory that will describe everything that happens in the universe.'”
“When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? What is the nature of reality? Is the apparent ‘grand design’ of our universe evidence for a benevolent creator who set things in motion? Or does science offer another explanation? In The Grand Design, the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe is presented in language marked by both brilliance and simplicity.
The Grand Design explains the latest thoughts about model-dependent realism (the idea that there is no one version of reality), and about the multiverse concept of reality in which there are many universes. There are new ideas about the top-down theory of cosmology (the idea that there is no one history of the universe, but that every possible history exists). It concludes with a riveting assessment of m-theory, and discusses whether it is the unified theory Einstein spent a lifetime searching for.”
See more books by Stephen Hawking here. Which of these have you read, and which are on your “to-read” list?
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If you’re heading to the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, WA January 4th–8th, come visit us at booth 413. See you there!
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