A new generation of observatories, now being completed worldwide, will give astronomers not just a new window on the cosmos but a whole new sense with which to explore and experience the heavens above us. Instead of collecting light waves or radio waves, these novel instruments will allow astronomers to at last place their hands upon the fabric of space-time and feel the very rhythms of the universe.
These vibrations in space-time-or gravity waves-are the last prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity yet to be observed directly. They are his unfinished symphony, waiting nearly a century to be heard. When they finally reveal themselves to astronomers, we will for the first time be able to hear the cymbal crashes from exploding stars, tune in to the periodic drumbeats from swiftly rotating pulsars, listen to the extended chirps from the merger of two black holes, and eavesdrop on the remnant echoes from the mighty jolt of the Big Bang itself.
When Einstein introduced general relativity in 1915, it was hailed as a momentous conceptual achievement. Einstein attained celebrity status. But, once scientists verified what they could of the theory, given the scant experiments available at the time, general relativity became "largely a theoretical curiosity," writes Marcia Bartusiak.
Now, after decades of technological advancement, general relativity is being tested with unprecedented accuracy. It even affects our everyday lives. Satellites used by both travelers and soldiers to peg their positions require constant corrections of Einsteinian precision. Meanwhile, the first gravity-wave "telescopes"-including the LIGO facility-are about to come alive.
In Einstein's Unfinished Symphony, Bartusiak captures the excitement as two gravity-wave observatories in Louisiana and Washington State, as well as others in Italy, Germany, and Japan, approach operation and physicists gear up to begin their work to register the long-predicted quakes in space-time.
With each chapter, Bartusiak continues her musical metaphor in tracing the story of general relativity, from the time "Maestro" Einstein enters physics, through the "Starlight Waltz" of neutron stars twisting space-time around themselves, to the "Dissonant Chords" of controversy as physicists fight to get their radically new observatories approved, through the "Finale" as a worldwide endeavor in gravity-wave astronomy is launched.
Winner of 2001 American Institute of Physics SCIENCE WRITING AWARD Journalist category
Library Journal, BEST SCI-TECH BOOKS OF 2000
New York Times NOTABLE BOOK for 2000
Washington Post Book World RAVE SELECTION FOR 2000
U.S. News & World Report TOP PICK OF THE WEEK 2000
Named to Astronomy Magazine's ASTRONOMY BOOKSHELF 2002
"I found it harder to put down than some mystery novels."
-- Sky & Telescope, September 2001
"In Einstein's Unfinished Symphony, Marcia Bartusiak tells the story of a discovery waiting to be made. The cutting edge of science is not about the completely unknown. It is found where we understand just enough to ask the right questions or build the right instrument. Bartusiak, a freelance science writer for many years, tells this story in a breezy but careful style that is informative and easy to read. And, she has quite a good story to tell, even aside from the purely scientific part. Bartusiak suggests that we would soon not only see the universe, but hear it as well. Given this metaphor, she runs with it, not only in the title and subtitle of the book, but in all the chapter titles as well. Bartusiak has given a good account of how and why we run our affairs. When a gravity wave is first detected, the reader of this book will feel like a participant in the great event."
-- David Goodstein, The New York Times, October 2000
"Einstein is hot this year...cross-promotion of related titles will boost sales of this graceful little book about the mysterious subject. Bartusiak (Thursday's Universe) has been writing about gravity waves for more than a decade, and her familiarity with the search and the scientists involved results in a thorough, engrossing and valuable chronicle"
-- Publishers Weekly, October 2000
"Bartusiak does a grand job of highlighting the challenges involved in this staggeringly demanding project [and] has a gift for apt metaphors, talking evocatively of being able to detect the 'cymbal crashes' of exploding stars, the drumbeat' of a swiftly spinning pulsar and the 'glissando' of two black holes merging into one another. Best of all, [she] gives a sense of the ebb and flow of confidence among scientists trying to hunt down gravitational waves."
-- Robert Matthews, New Scientist
"Bartusiak excitingly relates the hunt for proof of the gravity waves predicted by Einstein. The existence of these vibrations, also called spacequakes, would not only confirm the theory of relativity but also allow scientists to listen to the sounds of the Big Bang."
-- Discover, November 2000
"Einstein predicted that gravitational waves exist. But no one has directly detected evidence of the force that shapes the universe. Bartusiak briskly depicts wave seekers, like the lone physicist who still stands by his peer-derided 1969 detection. If found, the waves will be audible: Scientists could listen to a collapsing star."
-- U.S. News & World Report, November 6, 2000
"... Einstein's Unfinished Symphony is her best [book] yet.... a gripping story about real people and real events that makes science come alive; if you want to know what happens at the cutting edge of research today, this is certainly a good place to find out.... Einstein's Unfinished Symphony gives you a ringside seat at what is likely to be the next great revolution in astronomy."
-- John Gribbin, The Washington Post Book World, November 2000
"...eloquent and clear generous with anecdotes... In a poetic touch, [Bartusiak] has given the chapters musical names, each of which alludes to a correlating theme in science. If we are indeed poised to record the soundtrack of the universe, after all, some lyrics might be in order."
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune, November 2000
"Bartusiak gives a good picture of the work of scientists and the obstacles, financial and political, as well as practical and theoretical, that they must undergo."
-- St. Louis Post Dispatch
"[Bartusiak's] clear writing and thorough understanding of the science and personalities behind her topic make her book as absorbing as any film."
-- Science News
"...Marcia Bartusiak is our guide on an intriguing scientific quest spanning nearly a century. Much more than a museum tour, this is a story of passionate, intelligent individuals who yearn for a deeper understanding of the universe. ...Bartusiak's lively style illuminates the contributions of physicists...and leaves the reader rooting for scientists around the world who wait eagerly and patiently for the universe to play them a tune."
"The difficult search for gravity waves resonates through the century in Marcia Bartusiak's new illuminating history Einstein's Unfinished Symphony...[Bartusiak] is adept at making the nuances of general relativity comprehensible. ... Bartusiak introduces us to the major scientists involved in the search for gravity waves, and brings the history to life. ...Einstein's Unfinished Symphony is understandable even to readers who lack a background in astronomy or physics."
-- Mecury, Jan.-Feb. 2001
"All in all, Einstein's Unfinished Symphony provides a delightful and clearly written survey of the physics, the hopes, and the fears of the gravity wave community. You do not need to be an expert in general relativity to appreciate Bartusiak's account, which anyone with a basic grounding in science will benefit from, and enjoy, reading."
-- Science, February 2, 2001
"...science writing at its best. Einstein's Unfinished Symphony is an excellent account of the struggle to detect gravitational waves."
-- The Times Higher, March 9, 2001
"Marcia Bartusiak has written a fine ode to the continuation of Einstein's work... science [is] often rendered deathly dull in books and journals. Not so in Bartusiak's fine magazine work--and not so here. She shows the humanity behind a search that has spurred a largely speculative race. ... This is epic storytelling. There are figures and charts, but the narrative is direct and even understated, often resembling John McPhee at his lean best."
-- The Virginian-Pilot, March 4, 2001
"The route to LIGO was long and checkered; it is beautifully recounted by Marcia Bartusiak in her latest book, Einstein's Unfinished Symphony. Bartusiak is a distinguished science journalist with a reputation for detail and accuracy, and her new book is no exception. ... [This] is an easy-to-read and clear exposition of a field of physics that has, with minor brief and turbulent exceptions, remained far from the popular and professional limelight... "
-- Physics Today, June 2001
"The author's relaxed familiarity with the subject makes this comprehensive book very accessible."
-- Astronomy Now, July 2001
"...accessible and lively writing that translates intricate physical concepts into lyrical language. ... This gripping account of complex, cutting-edge experimentation is brought down to earth and made interesting by an author skilled in the telling of popular science."
-- techdirections.com, September 2001