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Your Place in the Universe
Cover of Your Place in the Universe
Your Place in the Universe
Understanding Our Big, Messy Existence
An astrophysicist presents an in-depth yet accessible tour of the universe for lay readers, while conveying the excitement of astronomy.
How is a galaxy billions of lightyears away connected to us? Is our home nothing more than a tiny speck of blue in an ocean of night? In this exciting tour of a universe far larger than we can imagine, cosmologist Paul M. Sutter emphasizes how amazing it is that we are part of such a huge, complex, and mysterious place.
Through metaphors and uncomplicated language, Sutter breathes life into the science of astrophysics, unveiling how particles, forces, and fields interplay to create the greatest of cosmic dramas. Touched with the author's characteristic breezy, conversational style—which has made him a breakout hit on venues such as The Weather Channel, the Science Channel, and his own popular Ask a Spaceman! podcast—he conveys the fun and wonder of delving deeply into the physical processes of the natural universe. He weaves together the past and future histories of our universe with grounded descriptions of essential modern-day physics as well as speculations based on the latest research in cosmology.
Topics include our place in the Milky Way galaxy; the cosmic web—a vast web-like pattern in which galaxies are arranged; the origins of our universe in the big bang; the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy; how science has dramatically changed our relationship to the cosmos; conjectures about the future of reality as we know it; and more.
For anyone who has ever stared at the starry night sky and wondered how we humans on Earth fit into the big picture, this book is an essential roadmap.
An astrophysicist presents an in-depth yet accessible tour of the universe for lay readers, while conveying the excitement of astronomy.
How is a galaxy billions of lightyears away connected to us? Is our home nothing more than a tiny speck of blue in an ocean of night? In this exciting tour of a universe far larger than we can imagine, cosmologist Paul M. Sutter emphasizes how amazing it is that we are part of such a huge, complex, and mysterious place.
Through metaphors and uncomplicated language, Sutter breathes life into the science of astrophysics, unveiling how particles, forces, and fields interplay to create the greatest of cosmic dramas. Touched with the author's characteristic breezy, conversational style—which has made him a breakout hit on venues such as The Weather Channel, the Science Channel, and his own popular Ask a Spaceman! podcast—he conveys the fun and wonder of delving deeply into the physical processes of the natural universe. He weaves together the past and future histories of our universe with grounded descriptions of essential modern-day physics as well as speculations based on the latest research in cosmology.
Topics include our place in the Milky Way galaxy; the cosmic web—a vast web-like pattern in which galaxies are arranged; the origins of our universe in the big bang; the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy; how science has dramatically changed our relationship to the cosmos; conjectures about the future of reality as we know it; and more.
For anyone who has ever stared at the starry night sky and wondered how we humans on Earth fit into the big picture, this book is an essential roadmap.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book PROLOGUE

    PERHAPS THIS WAS ALL A BIG MISUNDERSTANDING

    How the heck do you write a book about the whole entire universe? And not just all the gory physics on scales small and great, but how our knowledge of the cosmos has changed in the past few hundred years, and how that's influenced our views of the heavens, the Earth, and ourselves? And how we got to know what we know now, through all the twists and turns and dead ends and blind alleys and just-kiddings of scientific research?

    I honestly have no idea, so I suppose we're about to find out together.

    If you're already familiar with at least some aspects of the cosmic tapestry that I'm about to unfurl (unfold? I'm unsure here of fabric storage techniques), then I sincerely hope you appreciate the slightly warped perspective I have on the history of cosmology and the history of the universe. When it comes to the past four hundred years, and the past 13.8 billion years, certain stories, certain people, and certain physics have always captured my attention more than others, and naturally I wrote about those and pretended the uninteresting stuff doesn't matter.

    If you're completely new to matters cosmological, well, then you're in for a real treat. You're going to encounter some interesting (to put it mildly) characters, crazy physical processes, and, of course, seriously intensive and possibly therapeutic discussions on deeply enigmatic mysteries of the cosmos. I promise I'm doing my best to hit the right level between blow-your-mind and hold-your-hand. But I don't know your background, your interests, or when you dropped out of school, so don't worry if a section or two (or heck, the entire book) gets a little confusing. Go ahead and give it another shot—I won't mind.

    Of course I need to toss in an obligatory thanks to a good fraction of the human race. From the dedicated scientists (or protoscientists, in some cases), both named and unnamed, who actually figured out all this stuff, to all the people who have supported me, guided me, taught me, told me I was wrong (that happened a lot), and generally helped make me, me and this book, this book. You know who you are—and thank you for buying this book out of a sense of obligation—so you'll understand why I won't bother listing all your names. My publisher set a word limit, after all.

    I'm sure that in some way I owe you a deep and sincere apology after you read this book. If you're a fan of history, then my choices to ignore/simplify/disregard certain aspects of the complicated and intertwined nature of human lives and pursuits might irritate you. If you're a fan of physics, then my choices to ignore/simplify/disregard certain aspects of the complicated and intertwined nature of natural processes might irritate you. If you're a fan of formal writing and good grammar, then you probably haven't even made it this far.

    Depending on your own personal belief and/or philosophical system, there's a really solid chance at some point you will read something that will deeply, terribly offend you, causing you to hurl the book at the nearest wall. It's cool, we all do it. I just hope you know that it's not my intention to offend you—either with my style or my substance—but to play a game of show-and-tell with the universe. This is the story of the cosmos as revealed by the tools of scientific inquiry, which have so far proven to be pretty awesome in that regard. I personally find the heavens above us deeply profound, awe-inspiring, and worthy of further study, and I hope the humble paragraphs you're about to encounter (a) do the universe justice and (b) spark a similar passion in you.

    But...
About the Author-
  • Paul M. Sutter is the cosmological researcher and community outreach coordinator for the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University. He is also the chief scientist at the COSI Science Center (Center of Science and Industry). As a new, fresh voice in science communication and an astrophysicist, writer, speaker, producer, and on-air host of podcasts and TV programs, Sutter strives to bring science to new audiences. He is the creator of the Ask a Spaceman! podcast, a contributing editor to Space.com, and the founder of Active Galaxy Productions, a company that blends science with art in groundbreaking ways. Sutter has authored over sixty academic papers on topics ranging from the earliest moments of the Big Bang, to the emptiest places in the universe, to novel methods for detecting the first stars. He has given over 100 seminars, colloquia, and conference talks at institutions around the world. Watch him on YouTube, listen to him on Space Radio, and follow him on social media. Details can be found at http://www.pmsutter.com/outreach.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 10, 2018
    Cosmologist Sutter, creator of the podcast “Ask a Spaceman!” and contributing editor for Space.com, relates complex ideas with humor and clarity in his enthusiastic look at “all the gory physics on scales small and great” across the universe. Each topic receives a delightfully irreverent—but thoroughly accessible—treatment, from Ptolemy’s early “eye-rollingly wrong” Earth-centered model of the universe, through Tycho Brahe’s work in “his own private fortress of science,” in Danish Uraniborg, to the “frightfully messy” universe of papal “frenemy” Galileo, “the astronomer’s astronomer and the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon.” Sutter shows readers how improved observations and progressive advances in physics and astrophysics have afforded humankind a glimpse of the earliest moments after the Big Bang, some 13.8 billion years ago. From antimatter and black holes to dark matter, dark energy, and the Cosmic Web—the amazing weave of voids and strings of galaxies shaped by gravity and time that make up the universe—this excellent resource celebrates the wonders of space. Sutter’s brisk, often humorous writing and gift for clear explanations make this the perfect choice for readers looking to understand the universe on scales both human and cosmic. Agent: Lane Heymont, the Tobias Literary Agency.

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Your Place in the Universe
Understanding Our Big, Messy Existence
Paul M. Sutter
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