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.
Table of Contents
The National Academies Press (NAP) has partnered with Copyright Clearance Center's Rightslink service to offer you a variety of options for reusing NAP content. Through Rightslink, you may request permission to reprint NAP content in another publication, course pack, secure website, or other media. Rightslink allows you to instantly obtain permission, pay related fees, and print a license directly from the NAP website. The complete terms and conditions of your reuse license can be found in the license agreement that will be made available to you during the online order process. To request permission through Rightslink you are required to create an account by filling out a simple online form. The following list describes license reuses offered by the National Academies Press (NAP) through Rightslink:
Click here to obtain permission for the above reuses. If you have questions or comments concerning the Rightslink service, please contact:
Rightslink Customer Care
Tel (toll free): 877/622-5543
To request permission to distribute a PDF, please contact our Customer Service Department at 800-624-6242 for pricing.
To request permission to translate a book published by the National Academies Press or its imprint, the Joseph Henry Press, please click here to view more information.