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[Comments] (1) Voyage to the Great Attractor: I think the only books I'd read about cosmology were Steven Hawking's two. They left me with an incomplete picture of the universe. I knew that science had determined that there was a universe, and it was full of galaxies, but I had little idea of the large-scale (supergalactic) structure. But a while ago I looked at this map and all that changed. There are clusters and superclusters of galaxies, and creepy megastructures like the Great Attractor that are dragging our local group through the sky. What do these huge clumps of matter want?

Voyage to the Great Attractor does not answer these teleological questions. It tells of the discovery of the Great Attractor and of the subsequent attempts to demonstrate that the Great Attractor really exists and is not just observational error. Because the G.A. is hard to see: it turns out to be right in the part of the sky blocked from view by the Milky Way. Dastardly attractor! (I wonder whether or not this orientation is an accident. I can do a thought experiment where this happens naturally, but I can also poke big holes in the thought experiment. Since the book contains no speculation on this topic, I'm assuming it's an accident.)

Unlike the Hawking books, this book focuses less on results and more on the observing and computer-programming and arguing leading up to the results. Along the way you get a good overview of current (1990s) cosmology. The book also explains in detail concepts I was fuzzy on but that are neccessary for astronomers to do their work: what the red-shift is used for, why the cosmic microwave background is the frequency it is, etc.

This book contains no string theory, so if you don't believe in string theory you can learn all about the large-scale structure of the universe without having someone's unfalsifiable theory of its small-scale structure crammed down your throat. I'm going for the real niche markets here.

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Posted by Nathaniel at Thu Sep 28 2006 01:34

Accident? It is clearly part of a _vast scheme_.

Well, vast something, anyway.


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