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Einstein's Shadow

The Inside Story of Astronomers' Decades-Long Quest to Take the First Picture of a Black Hole
Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Length: 7 hrs and 28 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Einstein’s Shadow follows a team of elite scientists on a historic mission to take the first picture of a black hole, putting Einstein’s theory of relativity to its ultimate test and helping to answer our deepest questions about space, time, the origins of the universe, and the nature of reality.

Photographing a black hole sounds impossible, a contradiction in terms. But Shep Doeleman and a global coalition of scientists are on the cusp of doing just that. 

With exclusive access to the team, journalist Seth Fletcher spent five years following Shep and an extraordinary cast of characters as they assembled the Event Horizon Telescope, a virtual radio observatory the size of the Earth. He witnessed their struggles, setbacks, and breakthroughs, and along the way, he explored the latest thinking on the most profound questions about black holes. Do they represent a limit to our ability to understand reality? Or will they reveal the clues that lead to the long-sought theory of everything?

Fletcher transforms astrophysics into something exciting, accessible, and immediate, taking us on an incredible adventure to better understand the complexity of our galaxy, the boundaries of human perception and knowledge, and how the messy human endeavor of science really works.

Weaving a compelling narrative account of human ingenuity with excursions into cutting-edge science, Einstein’s Shadow is a tale of great minds on a mission to change the way we understand our universe - and our place in it.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the supplemental enhancement PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2018 Sean Fletcher (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

solid and insightful, but unfulfilling conclusion.

a whole book dedicated to a singular task finishes without any conclusions to that task. Went to print prematurely .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The ever elusive black hole

The race to discover a Black Hole is a long, strenuous, very expensive and anything but assured venture.

This follows a group who are obsessed enough to prod into the unknown and how result oriented, and timeline dependent funding clashes with the trial and error approach of Cosmology, where nothing is assured except sleepless nights.

Finally when everything works, it’s still an ambiguous science where many theories can fit the results. Something is definitely there, but what is it?

A book about perseverance and passion, interesting for those Black Hole chasers but others need convincing. Recommended Cosmology read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gary
  • Las Cruces, NM, United States
  • 10-30-18

Science revealed beautifully

There is nothing more exciting than when science’s story is told in a manner such that it really happens with all of its warts, foibles, arcana and a ‘removing of the veil’ that had been obscuring our vision thus allowing us to see the universe in different way for the first time. This book does just that at a very easy to digest level and all readers will profit from reading it.

If only I had an antenna as big as the earth, then I could either see a donut on the moon, or the very big glob of nothing that resides in the center of our galaxy and this book documented how an antenna with the effective aperture the size of the earth came to be. Well, I’ve got news for you Neil and Buzz did not leave a donut on the moon, but the enormous ‘black hole’ that lies at the center of our galaxy about 26000 light years away is real and is well worth getting a picture of. I put ‘black hole’ in quotes only because this book points out that a lot of what we think we know about black holes might not be right and a picture is not only worth a thousand words, but in this case could be worth a Nobel prize.

The information paradox surrounding our understanding of black holes has not really been resolved. The two places where our understanding about the universe as a whole and the very small come together are at a black hole and the big bang. We model the universe as a whole with the General Theory and assume the world is continuous, and we model the sub-atomic with the Standard Model and assume the world is discrete and each Theory is good in their domain of applicability up until they meet at a black hole or the big bang. Mathematical constructs are one thing, but a picture can point us to deeper understanding and maybe the information paradox and whether the universe is continuous or discrete or neither or both can be resolved.

When the picture of the black hole does come (and I suspect it will be fairly soon), for those who have read this book they will be all the wiser for having had read this book and will understand just a little bit better what it means to do science and how science is always more complicated than what it seems, and that picture will be all the more beautiful because of the deeper understanding this book would have brought to the reader.

My only fault with this book is probably a positive for most people. While I thought the author brought together all the physics about black holes in an incredibly coherent way, I wish he had dwelt a little bit more with the mathematics and physics that go into making the effective aperture of the EHT antenna the size of the earth. I’ve seen the math years ago, but I can’t remember what is really going on in the photon collection process and how they are aggregated through the interferometer process.

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Gripping Story

This was published in 2018 after the initial black hole observation run in April of 2017, but before the results are made public. The Event Horizon Telescope is 7 or 8 specialized radio telescopes around the world organized to take a picture of the black hole in the center of our galaxy. It's a gripping story, years in that making, full of science and science politics. Politics because if successful, up to three people will win the Nobel physics from this. So there is lots of politics and maneuvering. The image was taken in April 2017, but it is taking a lot of time to process and correlate the image data to get a picture.

Loved the Audible book!