By Chet Yarbrough
By Richard Panek
Narrated by Ray Porter
“The 4% Universe” is an exploration of dark matter and dark energy by creative writing academic Richard Panek. Panek has won science and non-fiction writing awardsfrom the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Perhaps because Panek is not a scientist, it seems “The 4% Universe” is more about Sciences’ human drama than scientific understanding. For example, Panek’s explanation of candle power to determine the distance of Supernovas from earth lacks clarity because his focus is more about competition among scientists than definition and understanding of candle power and its cosmological significance; Panek writes more about names and actions of people than about 96% of the universe that awaits discovery.
The following Youtube presentation offers context to much of Panek’s explanation of the science of cosmology:
Panek begins his exploration of cosmology by noting that known elements of the universe, including man, make up only 4% of the universe; everything else is something else, something dark and presently un-observable.
Panek tells the story of how the idea of one universe became a concept of many solar systems in many galaxies. As telescopes became more refined and greater detail could be observed, the universe as a fixed solar system became a became a moving, dynamic multiverse. Solar systems appear to be flat spirals; they rotate and speed away from each other at rates of speed in direct proportion to their distance from the center of a theorized big-bang. However, individual galaxies maintain a level of stability that belies their dispersion rates based on a big-bang. Solar systems’ flat spiral appearance and stability are related to the 96% of cosmological matter that is un-observed. The most astounding recent postulation suggests that the apparent uniformity of the Universe is caused by inflation; i.e. the idea that within the first second of the big bang, the size of the Universe doubled, and re-doubled more than a 1000 times to become a uniform distribution of galaxies based on the original mass of the big bang and cohesion provided by dark matter and dark energy.
Though it has been found that galaxies on the periphery of the big bang are expanding at a more rapid rate than galaxies closer, the universe, as a whole, is expanding at a slower rate; or not; i.e., evidence is now suggesting the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate and will continue to expand forever.
Panek suggests science has not reached cosmology’s destination; because it is Science it never will, but it is on a road that leads to a better understanding of where life came from, how it exists, and maybe, how it ends.
Panek shows cosmology has evolved from astrology to physics. The study of the cosmos reveals a convergence of the miniscule with the unfathomably large.
Panek’s book is interesting but using the World Wide Web for additional information is needed to make the book worth its purchase price. [contact-form-7 id=”1710″ title=”Contact form 1″]