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How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form? (Princeton Frontiers in Physics) [Paperback]

Abraham Loeb

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Book Description

8 Aug 2010 Princeton Frontiers in Physics

Though astrophysicists have developed a theoretical framework for understanding how the first stars and galaxies formed, only now are we able to begin testing those theories with actual observations of the very distant, early universe. We are entering a new and exciting era of discovery that will advance the frontiers of knowledge, and this book couldn't be more timely. It covers all the basic concepts in cosmology, drawing on insights from an astronomer who has pioneered much of this research over the past two decades.

Abraham Loeb starts from first principles, tracing the theoretical foundations of cosmology and carefully explaining the physics behind them. Topics include the gravitational growth of perturbations in an expanding universe, the abundance and properties of dark matter halos and galaxies, reionization, the observational methods used to detect the earliest galaxies and probe the diffuse gas between them--and much more.

Cosmology seeks to solve the fundamental mystery of our cosmic origins. This book offers a succinct and accessible primer at a time when breathtaking technological advances promise a wealth of new observational data on the first stars and galaxies.

  • Provides a concise introduction to cosmology
  • Covers all the basic concepts
  • Gives an overview of the gravitational growth of perturbations in an expanding universe
  • Explains the process of reionization
  • Describes the observational methods used to detect the earliest galaxies

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Winner of the 2012 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award, American Astronomical Society

"[E]ngaging, fast-paced. . . . Loeb's infectious excitement stirs desire to join him in these endeavors. . . . [R]eaders will find How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form? a lucid introduction to an exciting research field that is set to flourish in the next decades."--Science

"Hands up everyone who can answer the question Loeb poses in the title of his small but sprightly book. No, not just the basics: big bang, cosmic inflation, lights, camera, action. Me neither. Harvard University astrophysicist and cosmologist Abraham Loeb can, and he does in this latest installment of the Princeton Frontiers in Physics series. While the book targets potential cosmologists and scientists, general readers will enjoy the non-technical chapters."--Australian

"Anyone interested in an introduction to this dramatic story, be they academic or educated nonprofessional, would do well to start with Loeb's book. It contains only the most important equations in the field, and its general level of mathematical sophistication is compatible with introductory courses in calculus or mathematical physics. This small book is a gem belonging to an almost extinct genre: intermediate-level monographs that are both accessible to educated non-specialists in the field and tightly focused on a problem."--Milan M. Cirkovic, American Journal of Physics

"Loeb, a leading theoretical cosmologist, has written a lucid account of the relevant physics, beginning with a brief review of cosmological models based on Einstein's general relativity equations."--Choice

From the Inside Flap

"Abraham Loeb, a leading figure in exploring the emergence of first galaxies and stars, introduces the astrophysics of the first billion years. With a strong emphasis on the underlying physics, this book will be an essential starting point for both observers and theorists who are interested in this rapidly evolving area of cosmology."--David Spergel, Princeton University

"A lucid, concise account of our current understanding of how light burst from darkness when the first stars and galaxies formed early in the expansion of the universe. Starting from basic physical principles, Loeb describes the physical processes that shaped the evolution of the universe, how they led to the formation of the first black holes, quasars, and gamma-ray bursts, and how upcoming observations will test these ideas."--Christopher F. McKee, University of California, Berkeley

"This is a lively, well-written book. Loeb is an excellent writer and talented instructor who is also internationally recognized in the research community. The topic at hand--the first stars and galaxies--is truly an exciting frontier for which Loeb and his collaborators have developed much of the theoretical framework, and for which the observational possibilities are rapidly developing. The timing of this book couldnt be better."--Richard S. Ellis, California Institute of Technology

"This is an extremely good book. Loeb guides readers through the early, formative history of the universe. He does not shy away from key calculations, but always tries to make things as simple as possible. His style is truly engaging, with a constant eye on the big picture. It makes for a thrilling read. Indeed, I found it difficult to put down."--Volker Bromm, University of Texas, Austin

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for anyone interested in the history of the universe 28 July 2010
By Astro - Published on
This is an excellent book written by a prominent figure in the field of astrophysics and a pioneer in the study of the history of the universe. The book is a wonderful introduction to one of the most important questions in astrophysics and would serve as an excellent textbook for an introductory course on cosmology. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming, and offers a fresh perspective on current questions in the field as well as its trajectory into the future. Highlighting up-to-date research, this book reflects the author's ability to be both scholarly and engaging. It was an absolute delight to read and I highly recommend this book to anyone considering a career in astrophysics and even to individuals outside the field for whom the mystery of our cosmic origins is of interest (indeed, the opening and concluding chapters of the book do not require much prior knowledge).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are we putting the JWST in orbit? Read this book for the answer! 11 May 2011
By Vishal Kasliwal - Published on
This book is the first in Princeton's series of monologues on exciting developments in Physics. The series is aimed at the junior/senior Physics undergraduate level with the exact level differing slightly from book to book. Loeb's book is more dense and probably not suited for anyone who has not yet taken an undergraduate level course in Cosmology while Bloom's book may be read by advanced amateur astronomers without too much trouble.
As a graduate student studying Large-Scale Structure and AGN, most of the theoretical material was already familiar to me. However, the book is extremely well written and it was nice to see the ideas that I had run into in papers and text books summarized here in a complete package. Loeb also discusses observational consequences - what we should look for and how we're planning on doing it. This alone makes the book great reading - it's inspirational to think that in a few years, we may be able to directly study newly-formed galaxies and maybe even watch them being born.
My only hope is that the book gets rewritten every five-ten years as we learn more - that will make the book a great introductory text for new researchers to turn to.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique monograph 6 Oct 2012
By Revanchist - Published on
As the other reviewers have already pointed out, this is a book that deals with the formation of the first stars and galaxies in a fast-paced and engaging manner. The greatest strength about the book is the way it bridges multiple disciplines - there are concepts from cosmology and large scale structure formation that lead up to stellar astrophysics via the formation of the first stars. In addition, the book also covers some very useful concepts such as the reionization of cosmic hydrogen, observing these first stars and galaxies, the Lyman alpha forest, etc. Yet another remarkable feature of the book is how it combines our current knowledge of the cosmos with cutting-edge research and possible avenues of future research.

The book is not very high on mathematics, i.e. it doesn't present a ton of equations; the focus is on developing an understanding of how these first stars and galaxies formed from basic physics principles. In addition to the unorthodox topics, what also stands out is the lucidity of Loeb's explanations and the vast range of topics that he covers, giving us a solid foundation, in the short span of the book. I have seen several books that could not hope to cover the same amount of material in twice the number of pages.

Having said that, I must outline the one weakness of the book. This book is very good for the casual reader to gain an understanding of the first stars and galaxies, and it is also excellent for the expert since it serves as a review of the subject. But, for someone who wants to see a step-by-step derivation of key equations, this is not the book. Do not look for detailed presentations of the FLRW equations, the Press-Schechter formalism, etc in this book - trying to fill in the gaps can be confusing. The book is best used in conjunction with a more standard text on cosmology or large scale structure formation.

In conclusion, this is an exemplary book but it is not exactly a substitute for the standard texts in the field, and nor is it meant to.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Book 12 Oct 2011
By Pascal Chardonnet - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I strongly recommend this book. It is very clear and nice written.
A. Loeb, an expert in this field, explains an important topic in astrophysics.
A book to have in his own library.
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