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Flash!: The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe [Hardcover]

Govert Schilling , Naomi Greenberg-Slovin


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Book Description

18 April 2002
The origin and nature of gamma-ray bursts is currently one of the greatest mysteries in astrophysics. These tremendously powerful blasts produce more energy in a fraction of a second than our Sun does in ten billion years. Since their accidental discovery by American spy satellites over thirty years ago, astronomers have striven to understand these enigmatic explosions. It is only recently, thanks to an Italian-Dutch satellite, and powerful telescopes both on the ground and in space, that the mystery is beginning to be unravelled. Astronomers now realise that gamma-ray bursts are probably related to the birth of black holes in extremely distant galaxies. Flash! describes the fast moving field of gamma ray burst research, from the initial detection right up to the most recent discoveries. Based on interviews with leading scientists, this exciting book provides an inside view of the scientific challenges involved in unravelling the mystery of gamma-ray bursts.

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Review

'… one of the best generally accessible overviews of gamma ray astronomy … strongly recommended.' Richard Taylor, Spaceflight

'Schilling, a professional science writer, skillfully leads the reader through the work of scientists in the filed … the book is an excellent account … an enlightening and stimulating read.' Luigi Piro, Nature

'… a fascinating account of the day-to-day process of modern astronomy, giving a believable picture of how astronomers work. It focuses on the people involved and uses their own accounts of the process and how they experienced these events. This is a book that could usefully be given to any young person wondering why people go into science and what might await them there.' Sue Bowler, Astronomy and Geophysics

'If you want to know how the messy business of making an astronomical discovery actually works, read this book.' Andrew King, The Observatory

'I recommend Schilling's book for the interested non-scientist. … The reader is taken on a literary roller-coaster ride, in which discoverery and breakthrough alternate with struggle and setback, and in which one learns a lot about science and scientists along the way.' Physics World

'The strength of this book arises from the way Schilling conveys the cut and thrust of professional astronomy. Because he tells us about the personalities involved we can share their frustration, despair and elation. Alan Longstaff, Astronomy Now

'Visual and highly accessible, Schilling's book is a masterpiece of lay scientific reporting. He is the author of more than 2 previous books and hundreds of articles on astronomical subjects (it shows; the prologue alone is almost worth the price of the book.' Robert Eisenstein, CERN Courier

'… there are few popular books devoted to GRB science … I will be surprised if a better one appears for a while.' Nial Tanvir, JBAA

'… a very enjoyable book …' Southern Observer

'As in any good human drama, you will find ambition, triumph, disappointment and just a little treachery. If you like your science writing to remind you that astronomers are people too, read Flash!' Astronomy Now

'Flash!, might be one of the most entertaining…popular books on gamma ray bursts …the style is colourful …It is hard to get anything else done while Flash! lies around the house, only partially read.' American Association of Variable Star Observers Bookstore

'The book is written in lucid prose … the explanations are clear and revealing … perhaps because it is such a rapidly moving field, there are few popular books devoted to GRB science, but I will be surprised if a better one appears for a while.' Journal of the British Astronomical Association

Book Description

Gamma ray bursts are the biggest explosions since the Big Bang. Unknown until their accidental discovery by military satellites, astronomers all over the world are now searching for these mysterious explosions. Flash! describes this fast moving field of research, from the initial detection right up to the most recent discoveries.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern story of Scientific Discovery 17 Nov 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A few billion years after the Big Bang, a giant star ends its life in a spectacular explosion. In a fraction of a second, it releases more energy than an average star would in a 10 billion year lifetime, including tremendous gamma ray bursts traveling out at the speed of light. These gamma rays radiate out in all directions - some in the direction where the Milky Way galaxy will be born in a few hundred million years. By the time the first of these gamma ray photons have traveled half the distance to this new galaxy, our Sun is born with the Earth following some half a billion years later. Still these gamma rays are continuing on their journey. By the time they reach our Local Supercluster, dinosaurs are ruling the Earth. When they finally reach the outskirts of the Milky Way, the dinosaurs are long gone and the first human predecessors are walking on Earth. As these gamma ray photons approach the Pleiades, Galileo is looking through the first telescope. As they reach Alpha Centauri, a rocket is being launched from Cape Kennedy carrying a military satellite with a gamma ray detector on board. Four years later these gamma rays have completed their 10 billion year journey on July 2, 1967 and are detected by this satellite!
So begins the race to study these mysterious sources of intense gamma radiation and determine their origins. This is what "Flash" is all about. It documents the people who have devoted their lives since 1967 to understand the most powerful explosions in the universe, second only to the Big Bang itself, gamma ray burst. This is a very up-to-date and exciting book with a lot of the human side of scientific investigation described as well as a fair amount of good scientific information. I particularly liked chapter eleven, which has a beautifully written description of stellar evolution. This is a fascinating book on a relatively new phenomenon in this elegant universe in which we are such a small part. You are sure to want to learn more about these awesome sources of power after reading this book. You might want to get the video "Death Star" from PBS, which chronicles gamma ray burst in a way similar to this book.
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