Miss Leavitt's Stars The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe

ISBN-10: 0393328562
ISBN-13: 9780393328561
Edition: 2006
List price: $13.95
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Description: A forgotten heroine of science and how she solved one of the crucial mysteries of the universe. "A short, excellent account of [Leavitt's] extraordinary life and achievements."Simon Singh, New York Times Book Review How big is the universe? In the  More...

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Book details

List price: $13.95
Copyright year: 2006
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Incorporated
Publication date: 6/17/2006
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 256
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.330
Language: English

A forgotten heroine of science and how she solved one of the crucial mysteries of the universe. "A short, excellent account of [Leavitt's] extraordinary life and achievements."Simon Singh, New York Times Book Review How big is the universe? In the early twentieth century, scientists took sides. One held that the entire universe was contained in the Milky Way galaxy. Their champion was the strong-willed astronomer Harlow Shapley. Another camp believed that the universe was so vast that the Milky Way was just one galaxy among billionsthe view that would prevail, proven by the equally headstrong Edwin Hubble. Almost forgotten is the Harvard Observatory "computer"a human number cruncher hired to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical photographswho found the key to the mystery. Radcliffe-educated Henrietta Swan Leavitt, fighting ill health and progressive deafness, stumbled upon a new law that allowed astronomers to use variable starsthose whose brightness rhythmically changesas a cosmic yardstick. Miss Leavitt's Stars is both a masterly account of how we measure the universe and the moving story of a neglected genius. 10 illustrations.

George Johnson was born in 1952, in Fayetteville, Ark. He has worked for newspapers in Albuquerque, N.Mex. and Minneapolis, Minn., and is a science writer for the New York Times. His first book, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics (1984), won a special achievement award in nonfiction from the Los Angeles chapter of International PEN. Many of Johnson's other books evidence thoughtful, spiritual examinations of the relation between man and science. Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith and the Search for Order (1995) is about the diversity of ideas in New Mexico. Johnson draws parallels between Los Alamos and the worshipful view of scientific discovery and the high desert, a sacred place for the Tewa Indians and Hermanos Penitentes.

Preface
Prologue: The Village in the Canyon
Black Stars, White Nights
Hunting for Variables
Henrietta's Law
Triangles
Shapley's Ants
The Late, Great Milky Way
In the Realm of the Nebulae
The Mysterious K
The Cosmic Stampede
Ghost Stories
Epilogue: Fire on the Mountain
Acknowledgments
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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