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The Cosmic Cocktail

The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Cosmic Cocktail
    Book Description:

    The ordinary atoms that make up the known universe-from our bodies and the air we breathe to the planets and stars-constitute only 5 percent of all matter and energy in the cosmos. The rest is known as dark matter and dark energy, because their precise identities are unknown.The Cosmic Cocktailis the inside story of the epic quest to solve one of the most compelling enigmas of modern science-what is the universe made of?-told by one of today's foremost pioneers in the study of dark matter.

    Blending cutting-edge science with her own behind-the-scenes insights as a leading researcher in the field, acclaimed theoretical physicist Katherine Freese recounts the hunt for dark matter, from the discoveries of visionary scientists like Fritz Zwicky-the Swiss astronomer who coined the term "dark matter" in 1933-to the deluge of data today from underground laboratories, satellites in space, and the Large Hadron Collider. Theorists contend that dark matter consists of fundamental particles known as WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles. Billions of them pass through our bodies every second without us even realizing it, yet their gravitational pull is capable of whirling stars and gas at breakneck speeds around the centers of galaxies, and bending light from distant bright objects. Freese describes the larger-than-life characters and clashing personalities behind the race to identify these elusive particles.

    Many cosmologists believe we are on the verge of solving the mystery.The Cosmic Cocktailprovides the foundation needed to fully fathom this epochal moment in humankind's quest to understand the universe.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5007-5
    Subjects: Physics, Astronomy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. ONE The Golden Era of Particle Cosmology, or How I Joined the Chicago Mafia
    (pp. 1-8)

    It was in a hospital bed in Tokyo that I realized I had to become a physicist. I was 22 years old. Although I had earned an undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University 2 years before, I still felt unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. I had rushed to college at age 16, spent the first 2 years dating boys and the next 2 studying way too hard. After applying to graduate school, I was surprised when 12 of the 14 doctoral programs I’d contacted accepted me. But I needed a break. So I decided...

  5. TWO How Do Cosmologists Know Dark Matter Exists? The Beginning of the Dark Matter Story
    (pp. 9-34)

    Fritz Zwicky was an irascible fellow—but a brilliant scientist. Raised in Switzerland, he moved to the United States in 1925. He spent most of his professional life at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. His creativity and contributions to astronomy were tremendous. In the 1930s, Zwicky studied the Coma Cluster, a rich cluster containing thousands of galaxies. He noticed that the individual galaxies were moving surprisingly fast—far more rapidly than could be explained by the gravitational pull of the stars observed in the cluster. In fact, with their colossal speeds, they should have escaped from the cluster...

  6. THREE The Big Picture of the Universe: Einstein and the Big Bang
    (pp. 35-66)

    The combination of Albert Einstein’s theoretical insights in 1915 together with the data from this century have led to remarkable developments in cosmology. Over the past 20 years, the cosmological data have been pouring in, and the amount we have learned about the big picture of the Universe has been breathtaking. This chapter discusses the theoretical ideas and observations behind modern cosmology and describes how dark matter fits into the big picture of the Universe.

    A scientific approach to the question of the shape and basic structure of our Universe dates back to brilliant insights of the early twentieth century....

  7. FOUR Big Bang Nucleosynthesis Proves That Atomic Matter Constitutes Only 5% of the Universe
    (pp. 67-82)

    The epoch of Big Bang nucleosynthesis is known as the crowning jewel of the Big Bang model.¹ When the Universe was just a few minutes old, protons and neutrons in the Universe congregated for the first time to form more complex elements that make up our world today. Beginning with early work in the 1940s, scientists predicted the abundances of helium, lithium, and other elements created at this very early time.² Remarkably, decades of observations found a nearly perfect match with these theoretical predictions. The success of primordial nucleosynthesis helped establish that the early Universe really did start out in...

  8. FIVE What Is Dark Matter?
    (pp. 83-107)

    The nature of 85% of the content of the Universe is a mystery. The name “dark matter” attests to the fact that it doesn’t give off light. Yet it provides the gravitational pull to hold together the galaxies and clusters we observe in the Universe today. We see its gravitational effects everywhere—it bends light; it makes gas whizz around the centers of galaxies. Without it galaxies could never have formed. But what is dark matter made of? It must be made of something other than bright stars, but what?

    Some of the earliest dark matter candidates scientists considered were...

  9. SIX The Discovery of the Higgs Boson
    (pp. 108-122)

    The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the highest-energy particle accelerator on Earth and is one of the most amazing structures ever built. To quote the British newspaperThe Guardian, it is “the biggest machine in the world.” The LHC accelerates protons to move at up to 99.9999993% of the speed of light. The primary science goals are to discover the Higgs particle that gives other particles their masses; to search for supersymmetry (SUSY); to solve the dark matter problem; and to seek out the unknown—new forces, new particles, or new surprises.

    The most exciting physics development at the LHC...

  10. SEVEN The Experimental Hunt for Dark Matter Particles
    (pp. 123-146)

    What has been the most important contribution to society from the high-energy physics done at particle accelerators? Ten billion dollars have been spent at CERN, and I think it is valid for nonscientists to inquire what this investment has done for them. When I ask people this question, some look puzzled, as they can’t imagine much direct value. Others reply that new technology always leads to new spinoffs, and studies show that each research dollar reaps billions in returns—although those who give this answer typically cannot name any particular spinoffs from high-energy experiments. The most common answer is the...

  11. EIGHT Claims of Detection: Are They Real?
    (pp. 147-182)

    We live in exciting times in the hunt for dark matter. A host of experimental groups, using a variety of techniques, are reporting unexplained signals that may herald the discovery of dark matter. Yet other experiments see nothing. This perplexing situation is driving the competition among groups and engenders a sense of urgency to the search. This chapter explores the contradictory results and the attempts to reconcile them. The leaders of these experiments have strong personalities, and they are all competing to be the first to solve the dark matter problem and win a Nobel Prize.

    The situation for dark...

  12. NINE Dark Energy and the Fate of the Universe
    (pp. 183-214)

    As strange as the concept of a new type of dark matter particle may be, the concept of dark energy is yet more bizarre. All matter, including atoms and dark matter, amounts to only roughly a third of the total content of the Universe. The remaining two-thirds of creation consists of the mysterious dark energy. We know of its existence from studies of supernovae, the bright explosions of dying stars. In 1998 two independent groups of astronomers observing distant supernovae found that they were significantly fainter than expected. The reason, the scientists postulated, was that the supernovae are accelerating away...

    (pp. 215-218)

    In the beginning the Universe was dark, with no stars or other source of light. Then 200 million years after the Big Bang, the first stars began to form and one by one lit up the Universe. Eventually these stars burned out and spewed into the Universe the elements that are required for the beginnings of life. Now there is a new twist on this story. In 2007 my collaborators Paolo Gondolo and Douglas Spolyar and I proposed the idea for a new type of star, powered by dark matter particles, the elusive subatomic constituents that have been the subject...

    (pp. 219-220)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 221-232)
    (pp. 233-234)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 235-250)