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The Dark Matter Problem: A Historical Perspective [Paperback]

Robert H. Sanders

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Book Description

20 Feb 2014 1107677181 978-1107677180 Reprint
Most astronomers and physicists now believe that the matter content of the Universe is dominated by dark matter: hypothetical particles which interact with normal matter primarily through the force of gravity. Though invisible to current direct detection methods, dark matter can explain a variety of astronomical observations. This book describes how this theory has developed over the past 75 years, and why it is now a central feature of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. Current attempts to directly detect dark matter locally are discussed, together with the implications for particle physics. The author comments on the sociology of these developments, demonstrating how and why scientists work and interact. Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), the leading alternative to this theory, is also presented. This fascinating overview will interest cosmologists, astronomers and particle physicists. Mathematics is kept to a minimum, so the book can be understood by non-specialists.

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'This is a fascinating detective story, described in a personal and very readable way … The appendix presents a beautiful summary of relevant definitions of astronomy. Black and white photos, graphs and drawings accompany the text. There are 6 pages of references and a 4-page index.' Bill Howard, CHOICE

'This is a splendid and timely book and the reader is rewarded with an insight into the tantalising conflict between the majority proponent view of dark matter and the competing viewpoint embodied in the Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) hypothesis … Professor Sanders is an experienced theorist in the field of dark matter astrophysics and is eminently qualified to address this question and he does so with notable clarity. His book is written with the scientific community in mind and the language is uncompromisingly scientific but it is nonetheless fathomable by the non-specialist. The Dark Matter Problem will find an easily accessible place on this reviewer's bookshelf for some time.' Brian Parsons, FAS Newsletter

'In this readable and enjoyable book, Sanders takes us through the historical development of the theory of dark matter … The Dark Matter Problem will benefit advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and some researchers. … Students and professionals working in the field may receive this book as a training tool that highlights the current deficiencies of the dark matter paradigm.' Physics Today

Book Description

Describing the development of dark matter theory, this book shows why it is now a central feature of extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. This fascinating overview will interest cosmologists, astronomers and particle physicists. Mathematics is kept to a minimum, so the book can be understood by non-specialists.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 14 Nov 2010
By Dr. Alexander Unzicker - Published on Amazon.com
Robert Sanders explains how astronomers arrived at the conclusion that we cannot see 95 percent of the content of the universe. But he goes much deeper into the theoretical and observational problems. This is done in a nontechnical way and from a historical perspective.

The most compelling evidence for dark matter is the absence of a decay in rotational velocity in the outer parts of spiral galaxies, as predicted by Newton's law of gravitation. Consequently, the major part of the book is dedicated to those "flat" rotation curves, their systematics, riddles and still poorly understood features.

Since the author actively took part in that research field for decades, it is particularly interesting to follow the complete story of its development, a coevolution of observations and theoretical models. Though Sanders confesses a certain sympathy for alternative gravity theories, the observational material is not biased and the reader is left to draw his own conclusions. As a bonus however, he describes how humans tend to develop theories, the social component of science.

Most importantly, the author raises questions about scientific methodology: is the whole concept falsifiable, as long as we explain astrophysical non-detection with increasingly exotic properties of dark matter particles? Can the existence of such particles ever be disproved, if the theoretical predictions, after being unconfirmed by existing accelerators, squeeze out towards higher energies?

To summarize, the book is a pleasantly readable survey of the dark matter idea for the interested layman, a treasure for the galactic astronomer and a must-read for the cosmologist who is convinced that the dark matter problem consists of adding more decimals to a number calculated from the power spectrum of the cosmic microwave background.

Highly recommended!
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