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Cosmic Catastrophes


  • 48 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 304 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.56 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 523.8/4465
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: QB843.S95 W48 2000
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Supernovae
    • Stars
    • Hyperspace

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521651950 | ISBN-10: 0521651956)

In this tour-de-force of the ultimate and extreme in astrophysics, renowned astrophysicist and author J. Craig Wheeler takes us on a breathtaking journey to supernovae, black holes, gamma-ray bursts and adventures in hyperspace. This is no far-fetched science fiction but an enthusiastic exploration of ideas at the cutting edge of current astrophysics. This book follows the tortuous life of a star, from birth, evolution, and death, and leads on to ideas of complete collapse to a black hole, worm-hole time machines, the possible birth of baby bubble universes, and the prospect of a revolutionary view of space and time in a ten-dimensional string theory. Along the way we look at evidence that suggests that the Universe is accelerating, and recent developments in understanding gamma-ray bursts - perhaps the most catastrophic cosmic events of all. With the use of lucid analogies, simple language and crystal-clear cartoons, this book makes accessible some of the most exciting and mind-bending objects and ideas in the Universe.

• Illustrated throughout with specially commissioned cartoons showing the explorations in hyperspace of an intrepid explorer • The first book to cover two dramatic recent discoveries in astronomy - the expansion of the Universe may be accelerating, and the origin of gamma-ray bursts, the most violent explosions in the Universe • An enthusiastic and accessible tour of some of the most exciting and extreme objects in the Universe


1. Setting the stage: star formation and hydrogen burning in single stars; 2. Stellar death; 3. Dancing with stars: binary stellar evolution; 4. Accretion disks: flat stars; 5. White dwarfs: quantum dots; 6. Supernovae: stellar catastrophes; 7. Supernova 1987a: lessons and enigmas; 8. Neutron stars - atoms with attitude; 9. Black holes in theory: into the abyss; 10. Black holes in fact; 11. Supernovae and the universe; 12. Black holes, worm holes and beyond.


'Wheeler's is one of those rare popular science books that leaves readers both thoroughly entertained and considerably more expert than when they began. Written in a lively, jargon-free style, laced with personal anecdotes, this is a hard-to-put-down, deeply satisfying book.' Kitty Ferguson, author of the best-seller Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of Everything

'Wheeler infects the reader with the excitement of this golden age of discovery of extreme environments in the universe. His innovative explanations deepen understanding of the connections between stars, the universe, and fundamental physics.' Professor Robert V. Wagoner, Stanford University

'Wheeler tells the story of the creation of the universe from the Big Bang onward … for the intelligent reader without a technical background … lucid and generously illustrated.' Kirkus Reviews

'… written in a lively, jargon-free style, this book enables a deep understanding of the connections between stars, the universe, and fundamental physics. thus, this highly recommendable book may infect amateur astronomers and professionals with the excitement discovery of extreme environments in the universe.' Orion (Société Astronomique de Suisse)

'A great deal of information is packed into this small book …all of it explained in Wheeler's extremely lucid fashion. …Five or six thumbs up for this one!' American Association of Variable Stars Observers Bookstore

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