The 4 Percent Universe

  • by Richard Panek
  • Narrated by Ray Porter
  • 10 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Over the past few decades, a handful of scientists have been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only four percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, our books, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown.
Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of the quest 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 reporting and interviews with the major players—from Berkeley’s feisty, excitable Saul Perlmutter and Harvard’s witty but exacting Robert Kirshner to the doyenne of astronomy, 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 original reporting and behind-the-scenes details, brings this epic story to life for the very first time.


What the Critics Say

“It’s the biggest mystery of all: why is the universe expanding at an accelerated rate? At its heart is a search for what forces and particles make up reality. It baffled Einstein, and it now obsesses a cadre of fascinating cosmologists. By brilliantly capturing their passions and pursuits, Richard Panek has made this cosmic quest exciting and understandable.” (Walter Isaacson, New York Times best-selling author of Einstein: His Life and Universe)
“A superior account of how astronomers discovered that they knew almost nothing about 96 percent of the universe…. Panek delivers vivid sketches of scientists, lucid explanations of their work, and revealing descriptions of the often stormy rivalry that led to this scientific revolution, usually a media cliché, but not in this case.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Science journalist Panek offers an insider’s view of the quest for what could be the ultimate revelation.... This lively story of big personalities, intellectual competitiveness, and ravenous curiosity is as entertaining as it is illuminating.” (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not What I Expected

I expected a good, well organized primer on theories surrounding dark matter. By "Race to Discover the Rest of Reality" I thought the author would describe bleeding edge research into higher theoretical physics. I was surprised to find that he mean't this quite literally. He focuses mainly on the competition between groups of scientists and universities to be the first to publish on various topics.

We are given smatterings of physics theory with loads of academic esoterica. There are lengthy sections describing how this or that scientist came to feel their toes had been stepped on or how someone had stabbed them in the back by publishing before agreed upon dates. Perhaps I simply misunderstood what the book was about to but these sort of things don't interest me at all. Perhaps an anecdote here or there might be interesting but this goes way beyond that.

If you are hoping to read about physics or the cosmos I recommend one of the books by Brian Greene. They explore cosmic theory in great detail and in a highly engaging manner, without overwhelming you with math or the kind of personal gripes that are described here.
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- John "kalevr1"

The recent history in Astronomy / Cosmology

What this book is not, 1) a text book or 2) detailed explanation of Astrophysics.
What this is a history of Astronomy for the last 40 years.
Richard Panek is a journalist and this book is a detailed account in the personalities in Astronomy for the last 40 years that lead to the ideas that we can see only 4% of the Universe and how we see inflation.
Given that i've been out of school for 30 years my math can't follow the detailed cosmology text book but this book provides a clear reasoning why we believe the universe is accelerating and the problems that provides for theatrical physicists. If you love Astrophysics/Cosmology books give this a read.
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- Mark Davey "Kariato"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-10-2011
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.