Download E-books The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe PDF

By Thomas Levenson

The beautiful, all-but-forgotten tale of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and the hunt for a planet that by no means existed

For greater than fifty years, the world’s most sensible scientists sought for the “missing” planet Vulcan, whose life used to be mandated through Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity. numerous hours have been spent at the hunt for the elusive orb, and a few of the era’s so much expert astronomers even claimed to have came across it.

there has been only one challenge: It used to be by no means there.

In The Hunt for Vulcan, Thomas Levenson follows the visionary scientists who inhabit the tale of the phantom planet, beginning with Isaac Newton, who in 1687 supplied a proof for all subject in movement through the universe, resulting in Urbain-Jean-Joseph Le Verrier, who virtually centuries later outfitted on Newton’s theories and chanced on Neptune, turning into the main recognized scientist on the earth. Le Verrier tried to surpass that triumph by means of predicting the lifestyles of one more planet in our sun approach, Vulcan.

It took Albert Einstein to figure that the secret of the lacking planet used to be an issue no longer of measurements or math yet of Newton’s concept of gravity itself. Einstein’s basic thought of relativity proved that Vulcan didn't and will now not exist, and that the quest for it had in simple terms been a quirk of working lower than the inaccurate set of assumptions in regards to the universe. Levenson tells the formerly untold story of ways the “discovery” of Vulcan within the 19th century set the level for Einstein’s enormous step forward, the best person highbrow fulfillment of the 20th century.

A dramatic human tale of an epic quest, The Hunt for Vulcan deals perception into how technology quite advances (as against the way in which we’re taught approximately it at school) and the way the easiest paintings of the best scientists finds an artist’s sensibility. beginning a brand new window onto our global, Levenson illuminates a few of our such a lot iconic principles as he recounts one of many strangest episodes within the historical past of science.

Praise for The Hunt for Vulcan

“Delightful . . . an enthralling story approximately an all-but-forgotten episode in technology history.”The Wall road Journal

“Engaging . . . At middle, it is a tale approximately how technology advances, one perception at a time. however the immediacy, virtually romance, of Levenson’s writing makes it nearly novelistic.”The Washington Post

“A brief, fantastically produced publication that tells a cautionary story. . . . Levenson is a breezy author who renders complicated rules in down-to-earth language.”The Boston Globe

“Looping via technology historical past from Isaac Newton onwards, Levenson elegantly finds the evolutionary nature of clinical thought.”Nature

“This pleasant and enlightening drama tells the tale of the quest for a planet that didn't exist and the way Einstein resolved the secret with the main appealing idea within the heritage of science.”—Walter Isaacson

“Equal to the simplest technology writing I’ve learn wherever, via any writer. superbly composed, wealthy in old context, deeply researched, it's, certainly, nice storytelling.”—Alan Lightman, writer of The unintentional Universe

“Levenson tells us the place Vulcan got here from, the way it vanished, and why its spirit lurks this day. alongside the way in which, we research greater than somewhat simply how technology works—when it succeeds in addition to while it fails.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Science writing at its top. This e-book is not only realized, passionate, and witty—it is profoundly wise.”—Junot Díaz

From the Hardcover edition.

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Extra resources for The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe

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Used to be Watson’s Vulcan a brand new planet or simply a mistake, a standard item in conceal? Watson by no means confessed to any doubt: “there is not any uncertainty within the position of (a)” and he was once certain that “I observed either it and Theta Cancri. ” that most different eclipse observers hadn’t noticeable it him now not a section, and for a superior cause: any skilled employee, conversant in high-powered telescopes, he wrote, may “know how doubtful a seek will be less than the conditions. ” real adequate. besides, veterans of the Vulcan quest had heard this prior to. One guy will get to determine it; each person else doesn’t. back. at first, such a lot of Watson’s colleagues have been ready to droop judgment. He was once a certified observer and an outstanding one, so the astronomical neighborhood used to be unwilling just to push aside his findings. however the sheer weight of all that not anything noticeable within the different telescopes pointed on the solar whilst left such a lot astronomers unsure—at best—about what to make of this most modern imaginative and prescient of the elusive planet. a number of flatly refused to defer to popularity. C. F. H. Peters—discoverer of forty-eight asteroids and one in all Watson’s avowed opponents within the minor planet game—published a devastating assault in this newest Vulcan candidate. He accused Watson of creating a chain of trouble-free error. Peters wondered Watson’s makeshift method for marking positions. He argued that Watson couldn’t have made a competent overview of the brightness of “a. ” He provided an evidence for Watson’s description of the bizarre ruddy colour of the proposed planet. not one of the steps in Watson’s technique survived scrutiny, best Peters to his blunt, virtually brutal end: “It is, for this reason rather obvious to each unbiassed brain that Watson saw Theta and Delta Cancri, not anything else. ” — Peters’s record bubbled with scorn, and Watson reacted with a mix of formal protection and outrage, writing, “Professor Peters’s complete assault upon the integrity of my observations isn't really of the slightest final result, when you consider that he has created the mistakes in his personal brain,” including “I don't intend to interact in any controversy approximately those concerns and particularly with anyone who was once, on the time of the observations, greater than thousand miles away. ” Publicly, his colleagues gave him tepid help. remark within the magazine Nature chided Peters for his tone, writing “Throughout Prof. Peters’s criticisms…there is evinced a undeniable animus which may were to boot shunned. ” reasonable sufficient, yet for all its likely neutral account of the Peters-Watson struggle, the character piece subtly made its judgment transparent. “We will enterprise to assert that the final feeling among astronomers while first studying Prof. Watson’s announcement…[is that he] wouldn't possibility his entire clinical recognition by way of placing forth any such assertion to the area, until he used to be firmly confident of its fact. ” The hammer fell within the following couple of phrases: “Otherwise, the truth that there have been recognized stars at the parallel or approximately so and not more than one measure west of the gadgets alleged to be new, could most likely were felt to be a nearly deadly objection to the truth of the invention.

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