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The 4 Percent Universe Audiobook

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality

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Publisher's Summary

Over the past few decades, a handful of scientists have been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only four percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, our books, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown.

Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of the quest to find this “dark” matter and an even more bizarre substance called “dark energy”. This is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science, and solving it will bring fame, funding, and certainly a Nobel Prize. Based on in-depth reporting and interviews with the major players—from Berkeley’s feisty, excitable Saul Perlmutter and Harvard’s witty but exacting Robert Kirshner to the doyenne of astronomy, Vera Rubin—the book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have fueled their search, redefined science, and reinvented the universe.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our view of the cosmos is profoundly wrong, and Copernicus was only the beginning: not just Earth, but all common matter is a marginal part of existence. Panek’s fast-paced narrative, filled with original reporting and behind-the-scenes details, brings this epic story to life for the very first time.

©2011 Richard Panek (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“It’s the biggest mystery of all: why is the universe expanding at an accelerated rate? At its heart is a search for what forces and particles make up reality. It baffled Einstein, and it now obsesses a cadre of fascinating cosmologists. By brilliantly capturing their passions and pursuits, Richard Panek has made this cosmic quest exciting and understandable.” (Walter Isaacson, New York Times best-selling author of Einstein: His Life and Universe)

“A superior account of how astronomers discovered that they knew almost nothing about 96 percent of the universe…. Panek delivers vivid sketches of scientists, lucid explanations of their work, and revealing descriptions of the often stormy rivalry that led to this scientific revolution, usually a media cliché, but not in this case.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Science journalist Panek offers an insider’s view of the quest for what could be the ultimate revelation.... This lively story of big personalities, intellectual competitiveness, and ravenous curiosity is as entertaining as it is illuminating.” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    John 06-13-14
    John 06-13-14 Member Since 2017
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    "Not What I Expected"

    I expected a good, well organized primer on theories surrounding dark matter. By "Race to Discover the Rest of Reality" I thought the author would describe bleeding edge research into higher theoretical physics. I was surprised to find that he mean't this quite literally. He focuses mainly on the competition between groups of scientists and universities to be the first to publish on various topics.

    We are given smatterings of physics theory with loads of academic esoterica. There are lengthy sections describing how this or that scientist came to feel their toes had been stepped on or how someone had stabbed them in the back by publishing before agreed upon dates. Perhaps I simply misunderstood what the book was about to but these sort of things don't interest me at all. Perhaps an anecdote here or there might be interesting but this goes way beyond that.

    If you are hoping to read about physics or the cosmos I recommend one of the books by Brian Greene. They explore cosmic theory in great detail and in a highly engaging manner, without overwhelming you with math or the kind of personal gripes that are described here.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
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    Russell T. Stauffer Texas 05-26-14
    Russell T. Stauffer Texas 05-26-14
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    "Soooooo many words, so little happens / discovered"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    The book is certainly detailed, of every blind alley and dead end along the search for dark energy and dark matter. I generally love physics/astronomy books but this one was like waiting for the punch lines that never seem to arrive.

    Somehow, I kept listening (and listening, and listening) for a serious breakthrough in the search or a compelling new slant on the science. These never quite happen.

    But.... I understand it's different strokes for different folks, so I will offer this: If you enjoy the history of a quasi-wild-goose chase, this book has all the scientific process details you would ever want. The book also gives you a nice profile of the various scientists, and of the

    Glad this one was "free" with my member-credit.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    As narrators go, Ray Porter is better than many narrators, but to my ear he always (even in other audiobooks) has sort of a slightly disgusted / sarcastic undertone to his vocal inflection.


    Was The 4 Percent Universe worth the listening time?

    The 4 percent Universe was not really worth the time I gave it.


    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hendrick Mcdonald 07-17-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Mostly history, drama, and infighting"

    Plenty of detail here on the lives of the astronomers who pieced together the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, but all that detail actually made me understand less rather than more. The book focuses on the drama and infighting of the scientific community, but in the process of listening to these stories the science and explanations behind these discoveries gets lost.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Yates 04-29-16
    S. Yates 04-29-16 Member Since 2017
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    "Excellent scientific history of dark energy/matter"
    What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

    As always, Porter is an excellent steward for the work. He imbues excitement and energy into a topic that is difficult. His narration helped bring the individual players to life.


    Any additional comments?

    Really excellent science book explaining how scientists discovered dark matter and dark energy (and thus realized that we had only been looking at about 4% -- or, per more recent measurements 5% -- of our universe). The author does an admirable job trying to make the subject matter accessible to a lay reader. It is that difficult balance between giving sufficient detail to be accurate and not overwhelming a reader who does not possess advanced degrees in physics and astronomy. I think Panek largely succeeds, and where he doesn't it isn't really his fault - you can only make things so simple, at some point this science is a heavy lift. What is really refreshing is that he not only walks you through the discoveries, the advances, the struggle for primacy in the field, but he also imbues the players (dozens of scientists) with personalities. I believe this is a book I'll reread again, just to really grasp the subject matter. Recommended for those who would like to see how much more there is to the universe than meets the eye.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin 03-18-16
    Kevin 03-18-16 Member Since 2010
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    "It would've been better if I was a scientist"

    The work is an interesting look at the development of the search for dark matter and energy. Sometimes I felt it was bogged down into the jargon of the field, but that may say more about me than the book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AJ Rothman 12-14-15
    AJ Rothman 12-14-15
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    "Simply as good as it should be"

    This was my first book on cosmology, I'm about 9 months in and I'm now a expert on the related subjects, quantum mechanics, particle physics and cosmology (Without the Math). I've listened to book after book and some up to 6 times, including this one, 4 times. I was new to audible, and depending on available credits and type of traffic, you may not listen to it 4 times.

    This is the highest quality audio I have ever heard in a book, complemented by an outstanding narrator. He really is great. (Really should download at high-quality, it does matter)

    I'm so happy to have started my journey into this subject with this book. It gave me a foundation that was absolutely flawless. It's not as scientific, as much as it is history. It does have just enough spaced out but it's not about the science, it's about the 2 teams, making history. It must have been very boring in real life, (a competition to look at changes to dots ) but it reads like an epic adventure, it really does and deserves to be. Most importantly it introduces you to many, so many more real people that you will hear of again, and these people should certainly be known.
    If your into cosmology, particle physics, I don't see how you can get by without knowing this history.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mario C. 08-23-16
    Mario C. 08-23-16 Member Since 2016
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    "More history and politics than science"

    Book focused a lot on the dates and politics of the discoveries, specially towards the end, no so much on the science

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    XEVEN Dover NH, United States 03-28-16
    XEVEN Dover NH, United States 03-28-16 Member Since 2017
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    "4% Interesting"
    Would you try another book from Richard Panek and/or Ray Porter?

    I am not sure, maybe not it depends on the content and whether the author is knowledgeable of the subject.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Richard Panek again?

    Yes


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Ray Porter?

    Yes


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The 4 Percent Universe?

    The useless and uninteresting details of the astronomers and physicist life.


    Any additional comments?

    Kinda disappointed I thought this book would go deep into what dark energy and dark matter actually are but the book doesn't. I am not sure I learned much new from this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Android Dave 10-08-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Starts with the revelation and flashes back to how it happened"

    Wonderfully written more like a story of the lives of some very notable people. Includes brief examples of home life and how it pushed them harder or complicated their efforts. Includes the contributions by people I did not know their work had influenced the chase of the "missing mass" problem, later known as Dark Matter. Gives great story of the race between 2 collaborations working on super nova as a standard candle. Could say it was MIT vs Berkley but the collaborations were so much larger than that. The dirty tricks pulled by people who knew better. The eventual resolution of priority of discovery whether you agree or not. Very well written story that communicates all the technical aspects so that anyone can understand and enjoy the story as it unfolds

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron Bonner SAN FRANCISCO, CA, US 06-19-15
    Aaron Bonner SAN FRANCISCO, CA, US 06-19-15
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    "Good insight into the history and inner workings"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    As it stands it's a great book. Just not what I was looking for. This is a study into the inner workings of the scientific community, end fighting and such. If that is what your interested in it is and fantastic book. I was looking for something more scientific.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Not sure yet.


    What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

    He's great. No problem at all with listening to more of his work.


    Was The 4 Percent Universe worth the listening time?

    I didn't finish it. But remember it's not what I was looking for. Others might and probably will find it very interesting.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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