I’ve written a review of Richard Panek’s quite good new book The 4% Universe, which has appeared at the Wall Street Journal. The main topic of the book is the supernova searches that led to what seems to be a non-zero value of the cosmological constant. It also discusses the astronomical evidence for dark matter, as well as on-going searches for a dark matter particle.
One of the most interesting themes of the book is that of the encounter between the two different cultures of particle physics and astronomy. Astronomers have begun to worry not only about a new culture of large collaborations, but about the danger of an over-emphasis on certain specific measurements of fundamental significance. For more about this, see the article by Simon White from a few years ago Fundamentalist Physics: why Dark Energy is bad for Astronomy. Now that cosmologists have their own highly successful Standard Model, they’re starting to take a look at what happened after the arrival of the Standard Model in particle physics, and worry that they too may someday become victims of their own success.
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