The origin and evolution of the universe has been the subject of many a publication since Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time became a bestseller. For the most part, these books—written for the general educated reader—have remained informative on popular concepts discussed in Hawking’s book: elementary particles, black holes, expansion of the universe, and fate of the universe etc. But few have zoomed in on the invisible, or dark, components of the universe and the kind of research being conducted to discover its nature. Here is a book that takes its readers on an interesting trip around the hidden side of the universe—Iain Nicolson’s Dark Side of the Universe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).
The author of the book starts with basic concepts of cosmology—like stars, elementary particles, black holes, and the basic physical forces of nature—and then skillfully moves on, deeper and deeper into discussing the less known realms of the universe. Each chapter details important research studies and experiments, answering questions that arise naturally from the discussion while new questions surface for the following chapters. The most important and interesting of the topics is that of dark energy. We learn from the book that, just like dark matter, the new standard cosmological model of the universe also includes dark energy as a major component of the universe. In fact, it is now considered the largest component, followed by dark matter, and finally the visibly matter and luminous energy.
Since the ultimate fate of the universe depends on the relative abundance of its various components, Ian Nicholson’s discussion of dark energy is relevant to the big question of why our universe will end one way or the other. This aside, detail of the scientific method applied in research on cosmological concepts is a prominent and attractive quality of this book, which informs us on what significant research projects are currently underway and what kind of knowledge they are expected to bring in the coming years. Nicholson remembers to trace various developments to their discoverers or key researchers.
And of course, the glossy print and high-quality, colored illustrations make the book an eye charmer.
For any reader interested in science, particularly cosmology and physics, Dark Side of the Universe is highly recommended.