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Cosmic Catastrophes


  • 48 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 304 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.56 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 523.8/4465
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: QB843.S95 W48 2000
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Supernovae
    • Stars
    • Hyperspace

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521651950 | ISBN-10: 0521651956)

  • Published July 2000

Replaced by 9780521857147


In this tour de force of the ultimate and extreme in astrophysics, renowned astrophysicist and author J. Craig Wheeler takes us on a breathtaking journey to supernovae, black holes, gamma-ray bursts and adventures in hyperspace. This is no far-fetched science fiction tale, but an enthusiastic exploration of ideas at the cutting edge of current astrophysics. Wheeler follows the tortuous life of a star from birth to evolution and death, and goes on to consider the complete collapse of a star into a black hole, worm-hole time machines, the possible birth of baby bubble universes, and the prospect of a revolutionary view of space and time in a ten-dimensional string theory. Along the way he offers evidence that suggests the Universe is accelerating and describes recent developments in understanding gamma-ray bursts--perhaps the most catastrophic cosmic events of all. With the use of lucid analogies, simple language and crystal-clear cartoons, Cosmic Catastrophes makes accessible some of the most exciting and mind-bending objects and ideas in the Universe. J. Craig Wheeler is currently Samuel T. and Fern Yanagisawa Regents Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin and Vice President of the American Astronomical Society as of 1999.


1. Setting the stage: star formation and hydrogen burning in single stars; 2. Stellar death; 3. Dancing with stars: binary stellar evolution; 4. Accretion disks: flat stars; 5. White dwarfs: quantum dots; 6. Supernovae: stellar catastrophes; 7. Supernova 1987a: lessons and enigmas; 8. Neutron stars - atoms with attitude; 9. Black holes in theory: into the abyss; 10. Black holes in fact; 11. Supernovae and the universe; 12. Black holes, worm holes and beyond.

Prize Winner

Robert Hamilton Award for the Best Book by a University of Texas Professor


"This accessible, painstaking work of astronomical exposition brings to a general readership Wheeler's knowledge of stars, supernovae and their cousins...Wheeler moves from black holes into space-time and gee-whiz cosmology and to supernova-related theories about the universe's's the star-level science here that really shines." Publishers Weekly

"Wheeler tells the story of the creation of the universe from the Big Bang onward...for the intelligent reader without a technical background...lucid and generously illustrated." Kirkus Reviews

"Wheeler's is one of those rare popular science books that leaves readers both thoroughly entertained and considerably more expert than when they began. Written in a lively, jargon-free style, laced with personal anecdotes, this is a hard-to-put-down, deeply satisfying book." Kitty Ferguson, author of the best-seller,^D Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of Everything. Universe^D

"Wheeler infects the reader with the excitement of this golden age of discovery of extreme environments in the universe. His innovative explanations deepen understanding of the connections between stars, the universe, and fundamental physics." Professor Robert V. Wagoner, Stanford University

"Wheeler excels at presenting difficult material in understanding terms, often with superb analogies...a valuable book."

"The writing style is very informal and the explanations are kept at a general, nonmathematical level...very informative and well worth reading. It is as up to date as possible on some of the most exciting and cutting-edge topics in astrophysics...I would feel comfortable using this book as a text in a survey-level astronomy class, and I would also happily recommend it both to amateurs interested in following current topics in astrophysics and to my physicist colleagues." Sky & Telescope

"...the explanations in the book are exceptionally clear and accurate...Many of the topics discussed by Wheeler, such as gamma ray bursts, and the connections between quantum gravity and cosmology, are at the forefront of research...Wheeler communicates the excitement of astrophysics, while highlighting what is understood but also bringing his readers to the brink of the unknown." American Association of Physics Teachers

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