cover image Ancient Light: Our Changing View of the Universe,

Ancient Light: Our Changing View of the Universe,

Alan Lightman. Harvard University Press, $18.95 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-674-03362-7

The Big Bang model of the cosmos assumes a uniform, homogeneous universe, yet we now know that galaxies cluster together. This ``lumpiness'' of matter, along with the peculiar velocities of some galaxies and the superabundance of invisible ``dark matter'' (detected--but not glimpsed--through gravitational studies) has led many scientists to question the Big Bang and even to pose alternate models. MIT astrophysicist Lightman looks at these developments in a concise, enjoyable introduction to the major problems and controversies at the frontiers of cosmology. He reviews the latest descriptions of the birth of the universe during the first trillionth of a second, scans the new collaboration between particle physics and cosmology, and unravels the search for a GUT (grand unified theory) that would link the fundamental forces of nature. Photos, diagrams, a glossary and biographical sketches of key figures help make this a highly accessible tour of the universe. (Oct.)