The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality

January 26, 2011
Author:
Richard Panek
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1/10/2011)

The 4% Universe book cover

Amazon | In the past few years, a handful of scientists have been racing 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 cosmos-shattering conclusion, and what they’re doing to find this “dark” matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy. This is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science, and solving it will bring fame, funding, and certainly a Nobel Prize. 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.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our view of the cosmos is profoundly wrong, and Copernicus was only the beginning: not just Earth, but all common matter is a marginal part of existence. Panek’s fast-paced narrative, filled with behind-the-scenes details, brings this epic story to life for the very first time.