EDUCATION: Universal Truths

Science  10 Jan 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5604, pp. 179a
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5604.179a

Will the universe expand indefinitely or recompress in a big crunch? Did the early universe undergo a burst of rapid expansion that stamped its mark on the background radiation left over from the big bang? These are the kinds of questions that keep astronomers up nights—questions you can explore in this cosmology tutorial from Ned Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles.

To navigate the four dense chapters on topics such as the homogeneity and expansion of the universe and the inflation model, you should be conversant in geometry and algebra and have a good spatial sense. Wright adds useful sidebars on methods for determining distances to faraway objects and ways to estimate the age of the universe, along with a tutorial on relativity. An FAQ section answers basic questions about the big bang, dark matter, and other topics; the news section calls attention to recent discoveries, such as last October's observations of the most distant quasar known.

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