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Publisher's Summary

In this deeply original book, science writer Anil Ananthaswamy sets out in search of the telescopes and detectors that promise to answer the biggest questions in modern cosmology. Why is the universe expanding at an ever faster rate? What is the nature of the "dark matter" that makes up almost a quarter of the universe? Why does the universe appear fine-tuned for life? Are there others besides our own?

Ananthaswamy soon finds himself at the ends of the earth in remote and sometimes dangerous places. Take the Atacama Desert in the Chilean Andes, one of the coldest, driest places on the planet, where not even a blade of grass can survive. Its spectacularly clear skies and dry atmosphere allow astronomers to gather brilliant images of galaxies billions of light-years away. Ananthaswamy takes us inside the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope on Mount Paranal, where four massive domes open to the sky each night "like dragons waking up." He also takes us deep inside an abandoned iron mine in Minnesota, where half-mile-thick rock shields physicists as they hunt for elusive dark matter particles. And to the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, where engineers are drilling 1.5 miles into the clearest ice on the planet. They're building the world's largest neutrino detector, which could finally help reconcile quantum physics with Einstein's theory of general relativity.The stories of the people who work at these and other dramatic research sites, from Lake Baikal in Siberia to the Indian Astronomical Observatory in the Himalayas to the subterranean lair of the Large Hadron Collider make for a compelling new portrait of the universe and our quest to understand it.

An atmospheric, engaging, and illuminating read, The Edge of Physics depicts science as a human process, bringing cosmology back down to earth in the most vivid terms.

©2010 Anil Ananthaswamy (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A meticulous, accessible update of the latest ideas and instruments that contribute to the clarification of an increasingly puzzling universe." (Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Pittston, PA, United States
  • 06-05-10

Physics ain't for wussies!

This book is an adventure brochure of the most extreme places on Earth where scientists need to go to experiment and observe, in pursuit of the boundaries of scientific knowledge. If you're going to find the Higg's Boson or prove String Theory, that's just the way it is. So the author goes around the world, and to the poles, describing the incredible feats of engineering and harsh environments where this science is done. The author has a way with words, and his descriptions are poetic. The hard science in the book is kept to layman's terms, no equations, no complex scientific analogies. On the whole, it is a good book, I listened to the entire thing and enjoyed it. 4/5 stars only because it is more about the extreme locations where physics is being done, rather than the extreme concepts in physics itself. Great narrator.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Having read a number of these kind of books, I can say that they span a wide range of readability and technicality. This book is very readable, accessible. And, it's just technical enough to be interesting while explaining some pretty technical subjects such as the search for WIMPs.

The stories are great and hopefully will enhance the readers respect for scientific research.

A+ A lot of fun, very interesting and educational. That's a great read in my book.

Chris Reich

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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how do you prove string threory?

this book is less about physics and more about the machienes we have built to test all these grand quantum theories. all the theories in the world are ultimetly useless if they cannot be tested. but how do you mesure something that intreacts so weakly that it can travel through our planet and not touch anything? and if you make a detector sensitive enough to detect something so weak and small, how do you filter out all the big stuff that can throw off your readings? and how do you figure out where the stuff you discover came from? that is what this book is about. the detectors and experiments that we have built, and what they are trying to discover with all this unbelievably complex (and expensive) hardware. i pull one star for the good, but dry narration; and for wishing that there had been a little more detail here. if you think the LHC is fascinating, then this book is for you. if you don't know what the LHC is, i would reccomend this book as a good intro to the world of extreme particle physics.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • Nicholasville, KY, United States
  • 08-05-10

A History of Modern Astronomy

This was interesting and I continued reading it even though I realized after a while that this was more of a lesson in history and geography then anything on the 'edge of physics'. I'll read the description a little more closely next time. For what it is, this is a good book. The narrator does a great job and it was an enjoyable book. I wouldn't recommend it though unless you get really jazzed by the history of science.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • North Miami, FL, United States
  • 04-14-10

Surprised by the personal, earthiness of Anil

Anil excels in letting you feel the lives of the people and places of discovery.

The ending was disappointing. It's style and emphasis were obviously not Anil's. The editor's heavy handedness glared over Anil's in an attempt to interject the manipulated contrivance and preachiness of the 'Global Warming' cult.

Luckily, Anil's own unique, warm personal wonder and respect for the honest sweat and sacrifice of true discovery touches a reader's heart and mind.

Enjoy this book. =)

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Waste of credit

Worse Audible purchase ever and I purchase a lot. What is the point of this book? There is very little science. Mainly it's just descriptions of remote locations and observations of the way scientist dress, eat, drink, smoke, sleep. So Russia and the Antartica is cold. Waste of time

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Excellent adventure around the world if physics!

A well told story of the extremes we are going to in the pursuit of knowledge. A relentless and unending journey to explore the origins of the universe.

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Good insight into what we don't know!

What did you love best about The Edge of Physics?

Liked being 'along for the ride' in foreign locations to hear what's going on out there.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?


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Travel Log

What would have made The Edge of Physics better?

More physics. Less of the author traveling around hobnobbing, visiting, pestering, scientists.

What was most disappointing about Anil Ananthaswamy’s story?

What this book has to say about physics would take 3 hours. I did not need to know what the author had to drink, or that the local sheep have a different flavor. (cooked)

This EDGE of physics was so 3 years ago. This made the book confusing. I keep going and trying to figure out when this happened. Longer ago then when the book was published.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

All this being said, Anil Ananthaswamy can write. He can write dialogue, very well in fact. His ability to write a believable dialogue is better than most novelists.

Any additional comments?

This book isn't bad it is just is not what it says it is. It is a little history, some personality study and a refutation of Einstein' s assertion that there is no special place to do physics. Apparently it is done best in the most G-d forsaken places. Oh, and ones that you can't get there from here.

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Interesting, but over my head!

Would you try another book from Anil Ananthaswamy and/or L. J. Ganser?

Yes, it stretches me! I've really enjoyed what I've been able to understand. LOVED it when the announcement about the Higgs Boson was made regarding dark matter, and at least I had an inkling what they were talking about!!

Would you recommend The Edge of Physics to your friends? Why or why not?

Yes, I have already. I have shared it with my 11 year old son, just to stretch his thinking as well. It's ok to listen and not understand every word and concept!

Would you listen to another book narrated by L. J. Ganser?

Yes, I like the narrator!

Do you think The Edge of Physics needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Who knows! Don't ask me, like I said, I'm struggling with what I'm learning now (and I'm pretty smart!),