About three times a day our sky flashes with a powerful pulse of gamma ray bursts (GRB), invisible to human eyes but not to astronomers' instruments. The sources of this intense radiation are likely to be emitting, within the span of seconds or minutes, more energy than the sun will in its entire 10 billion years of life. Where these bursts originate, and how they come to have such incredible energies, is a mystery scientists have been trying to solve for three decades. The phenomenon has resisted study -- the flashes come from random directions in space and vanish without trace -- until very recently. In what could be called a cinematic conflation of Flash Gordon and The Hunt for Red October, Govert Schilling's Flash!: The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe describes the exciting and ever-changing field of GRB research. Based on interviews with leading scientists, Flash! provides an insider's account of the scientific challenges involved in unravelling the enigmatic nature of GRBs. A science writer who has followed the drama from the very start, Schilling describes the ambition and jealousy, collegiality and competition, triumph and tragedy, that exists among those who have embarked on this recherche. Govert Schilling is a Dutch science writer and astronomy publicist. He is a contributing editor of Sky and Telescope magazine, and regularly writes for the news sections of Science and New Scientist. Schilling is the astronomy writer for de Volkskrant, one of the largest national daily newspapers in The Netherlands, and frequently talks about the Universe on Dutch radio broadcasts. He is the author of more than twenty popular astronomy books, and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on astronomy.
Foreword; Prologue: the breath of Armageddon; 1. The sky watchers of Los Alamos; 2. The bat mystery; 3. A duel over distance; 4. Liras, tears and satellites; 5. Beaming in on afterglows; 6. First among equals; 7. Saucers and shimmers; 8. Thinking with the speed of light; 9. Competition for the Big Bang; 10. Amazing relations; 11. Alchemists of the cosmos; 12. The magnetar attraction; 13. Argus eyes and Livermore; 14. Fireworks and Black Holes; 15. A flashing future; 16. War and peace.
2002 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award Winner
"This English translation of Schilling's book is a very engaging account of one of the most active areas of modern astronomical research, gamma ray busters...It is rare to see such clear writing on a technical subject. Everyday examples are frequently used to illustrate the more difficult concepts. Those who want more detail will appreciate the glossary and references to the scientific literature. Almost without realizing it, readers will also get a good introduction to elemetary astronomy as a bonus. A must-read for anyone interested in GRBs!" Choice Choice
"'Flash!' describes the genesis of this new field of research in full color and introduces us to the many researchers who were involved in its early history." George Beekman, NRC Handelsblad Oct. 2001
"'Flash!' is without doubt Govert Schilling's most 'literary' book on astronomy." Zenit, July/August 2001
"This has drama, intrigue, suspense, and more often than not also a plot. 'Flash!' deals more with the sociological side of astronomy than with the actual gamma ray bursts, although readers who want to learn everything there is to know about them will certainly not be disappointed." Folia, Feb. 2001
"Schilling...skillfully leads the reader through the work of the scientists in the field, giving a behind-the-scenes view based on interviews with most of the protagonists, and a clear description of the basic concepts behind the theory, observations and instruments...an excellent account of research in the field...highly readable account of the story of GRBs...an enlightening and stimulating read for the layman." Nature
"'Flash!' gives us some beautiful insights into a scientific revolution that has practically gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. Everyone who reads Govert Schilling's impressive book on gamma-ray bursts will be won over by the universe." de Volkskrant, Oct 2001
"One of the book's greatest achievements is that science is not being described as a cold and clinical process, but as a human activity in which enthusiasm and a passion for solid thinking, intuition and wonderment are all part of a day's work," Intermediair, Dec. 2001
"A gem of science writing." Nederlands Dagblad, Dec. 2001
"A beautiful account that reads like a gripping detective story." Prof. Dr. Edward P.J. van den Heuvel, director, Astronomical Institute of the University of Amsterdam
"Govert Schilling has closely followed all the exciting developments in the study of gamma ray bursts, which are among the most extraordinary and mysterious phenomena in the universe. The story of their investigation -- the confusions, false trails, and controversies -- is an excellent 'case study' in how science actually proceeds." Sir Martin Rees, Royal Society Professor, Cambridge University
"...might be one of the most entertaining [popular books on gamma ray bursts]...the style is colorful...It is hard to get anything else done while Flash! lies around the house..." --AAVSO Bookstore