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Arthur I Miller

Empire of the Stars

The first chapter of this book concerns the events of 11th January 1935, the day when Eddington severely attacked Chandrasekhar's ideas on white dwarfs and stellar collapse at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in London. The rest of the book revolves around this day, looking at what led up to it and what the effects were in the following decades. Its a fascinating story, and demonstrates Miller's skill in sorting out the interactions between the different players. He examines the importance of hard work against personal influence in the struggle to succeed, and indeed what is meant by success.

The story as presented in many books is that Chandra was so put off by Eddington's words that he turned to a different field of work, and so the study of black holes was delayed by several decades. Here we get a better view, Chandra continued work on white dwarfs, and within 10 years his view was accepted. Several other fields, such as general relativity and the theory of supernovae, needed to advance before black holes could become popular. In this book we are told what was happening in the intervening decades to allow this to happen.

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Hardcover 384 pages  
ISBN: 061834151X
Salesrank: 1299865
Weight:1.45 lbs
Published: 2005 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 416 pages  
ISBN: 0316725552
Salesrank: 654785
Weight:1.28 lbs
Published: 2005 Little, Brown
Marketplace:New from £6.68:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 384 pages  
ISBN: 061834151X
Salesrank: 758591
Weight:1.45 lbs
Published: 2005 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 9.03:Used from CDN$ 4.31
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Product Description
In August 1930, on a voyage from Madras to London, a young Indian looked up at the stars and contemplated their fate. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar--Chandra, as he was called--calculated that certain stars would suffer a strange and violent death, collapsing to virtually nothing. This extraordinary claim, the first mathematical description of black holes, brought Chandra into direct conflict with Sir Arthur Eddington, one of the greatest astrophysicists of the day. Eddington ridiculed the young man's idea at a meeting of the Royal Astronomy Society in 1935, sending Chandra into an intellectual and emotional tailspin--and hindering the progress of astrophysics for nearly forty years.
Empire of the Stars is the dramatic story of this intellectual debate and its implications for twentieth-century science. Arthur I. Miller traces the idea of black holes from early notions of "dark stars" to the modern concepts of wormholes, quantum foam, and baby universes. In the process, he follows the rise of two great theories--relativity and quantum mechanics--that meet head on in black holes. Empire of the Stars provides a unique window into the remarkable quest to understand how stars are born, how they live, and, most portentously (for their fate is ultimately our own), how they die.
It is also the moving tale of one man's struggle against the establishment--an episode that sheds light on what science is, how it works, and where it can go wrong. Miller exposes the deep-seated prejudices that plague even the most rational minds. Indeed, it took the nuclear arms race to persuade scientists to revisit Chandra's work from the 1930s, for the core of a hydrogen bomb resembles nothing so much as an exploding star. Only then did physicists realize the relevance, truth, and importance of Chandra's work, which was finally awarded a Nobel Prize in 1983.
Set against the waning days of the British Empire and taking us right up to the present, this sweeping history examines the quest to understand one of the most forbidding phenomena in the universe, as well as the passions that fueled that quest over the course of a century.