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Gravity's Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos

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3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  206 ratings  ·  42 reviews
One of The Barnes and Noble Review Editors’ Picks:Best Nonfiction of 2012

Selected by The Christian Science Monitor as one of “21 smart nonfiction titles we think you'll enjoy this summer”

Selected by The New Scientist as one of 10 books to look out for in 2012


We’ve long understood black holes to be the points at which the universe as we know it comes to an end. Often billio
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ebook, 272 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 676)
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Sharon Reamer
The idea of singularities, massive black holes - ravenous behemoths, lurking at the center of every galaxy is fairly mind-blowing. Most of the concepts are well illustrated and there are simple but effective diagrams throughout the book.

The ideas behind Caleb Scharf's area of expertise - black holes and their effects on the formation of galaxies and even superclusters of galaxies is intriguing and he makes a very plausible case for most of his speculations and hypotheses.

I liked the author's wri
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John Gribbin

Gravity’s Engines is a book of two parts. The first part provides a thorough and workmanlike account of black holes -- the “engines” of the title -- for the non-scientist. Although there are several other books around which set out to cover much the same ground, there is always room for another, and this one has the advantage (for the time being at least) of being the most up to date.

Of course, there is no point in being up to date unless the story is told accurately, and Caleb Scharf, who is Di
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Nilesh
Gravity's engines is a good, "middling", "one of the books to read" for anyone passionately interested in the latest cosmology. And it is just about that.

The book is certainly not for the neophytes. The author tries hard to make the subject understandable, but moves too superficially on many of the important connected topics and dives perhaps too deep in the narrow field of Black Holes and universe formation to provide a satisfactory overview of reality as it is.

For those well-versed with the b
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Anna
Niezwykle ciekawy temat pokazujący historię odkryć astronomicznych, w szczególności poznawania czarnych dziur - od pierwszych nieśmiałych tez, że takie obiekty w ogóle mogą istnieć, poprzez historię całych pokoleń fizyków i astronomów, z których każdy wniósł swoją cegiełkę do katedry astrofizyki, aż po takie inicjatywy jak kolektywne klasyfikowanie zdjęć astronomicznych przez międzynarodową społeczność internautów-ochotników w projekcie Galaxy Zoo czy zawieszona z powodu cofnięcia finansowania L ...more
Gary
An amazingly written book. The author really know how to explain things well and tie it into an overriding narrative. If you have any interest in black holes and galaxy formation (and who among us doesn't!), this book is a must listen. You will become completely up to date in the subject.

Usually, I don't like it when the author does his own reading, but Mr. Scharf does an excellent job and makes the reading as exciting as the subject matter deserves.

I can't recommend this book strongly enough. H
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Kain
Naukowo już wyrastam z tego typu książek, więc pierwsze rozdziały czytałem z pewnym znużeniem - autor zanim przechodzi do meritum, stara się wprowadzić czytelnika w temat, co zajmuje mu pół książki. Pod moim względem, książkę uratowała jej znaczna świeżość (u nas pojawiła się tego lata) i lekkie pióro autora, więc finalnie wypada bardzo dobrze.
Polecam więc, jeśli ktoś lubi literaturę popularno-naukową, jest to świetna książka - nie wymaga od czytelnika dużej wiedzy, a jednocześnie serwuje najnow
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Gianni Costanzi
Non so perché, forse l'aura di mistero che da sempre li circonda, ma sono sempre stato attratto da questi oggetti cosmici dalle proprietà estreme e di difficile comprensione.. Così appena ho visto questo libro l'ho acquistato e divorato in pochissimo tempo.. sono rimasto affascinato fin dall'inizio, quando l'autore partendo da un fotone rilevato da un telescopio e comparso quindi sullo schermo del suo monitor, ripercorre la "vita" di questo fotone.. da 12 miliardi di anni fa, quando il nostro si ...more
Charlene
If you only read one book on black holes, let this be that book. Scharf has a rare ability to view the universe from the type of wide scope that allows for a fairly complete understanding of how our beautiful cosmos works. Often concepts are isolated. Scharf has a talent to tie things together.

There have been some updates from Hawking as of late, concerning the event horizon of black holes. This book goes into glorious detail about what sorts of things occur near a black hole. It is easy to thi
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Timothy Pecoraro
This isn't necessarily a bad book. Perhaps I'm the wrong audience for it. Very light on new information and very heavy on the history of Astronomy as it relates to Black Holes. While I was certainly grateful for the exhaustive refresher. I'm starting to think that all nonfiction books these days suffer from a sense of false advertising. While there is some good new information here it exists on perhaps 20-30 pages in the middle and toward the end of the book. Which means that the average reader ...more
Brie
I have to say it has been awhile since I have read a science book where there was so much new research and information I hadn't come across before. The title says "Gravity's Engines: How Bubble Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos". The two in Italics I had never heard before relating to Black Holes, so I should have known there would be lots of new information here.

This book is all about black holes, and who isn't interested in that? I think most people are at least
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Bob Nichols
The first half of this book discusses gravity and Scharf clears up a few points that have been confusing. Does an object free float in space or free fall? Scharf answers this indirectly (this is probably not a question for him) when he writes about an object "falling in the gravity field of a massive object." Does gravity "pull" light, thereby bending it? Again, indirectly, Scharf notes that light has no mass, but "simply follows the shortest path in time and space" toward a massive body. We als ...more
Brian Clegg
Black holes are the rock stars of cosmology. With the possible exception of the Big Bang, nothing gets better press. And there has been plenty written about the guts of black holes – but in Gravity’s Engines, Caleb Scharf turns the picture on its head and explores the interaction of black holes with the environment around them.

The result is stunning. I can’t remember when I last read a popular science book where I learned as much I hadn’t come across before. In particular Scharf’s descriptions o
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Chris
A very interesting journey through the history of astrophysics to the future planned scientific endeavours of mapping the event horizon of a black hole. It was slow in the middle when covering the authors scientific pursuits, but picked back up towards the end.
Dan Downing
Subtitled "How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos", Schraf's Exploration of the possible function and structure of black holes draws upon his enormous expertise and today's advanced theories of cosmology.
The ideas put forth here are not the only ones being offered to explain what is happening and what has happened in our Universe, but the concision of explanation and scope of theory make for a strong case; certainly a dazzling and enthralling one.
Well written
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Harry Lane
A pretty good overview of what's current in deep space astronomy, written in nontechnical language and very readable. I particularly enjoyed the early chapters that covered some of the historical development of the field. Scharf also covered some interesting material about how the theories of quantum mechanics inform cosmology. He began to lose me in the last third of the book. The descriptions of how the science was done was murky to me (possibly more my fault than the author's.) And it seemed ...more
Leendert
amazing that we know this much about black holes. so these things aren't just monster destructors - they're regulators of a sort; the volumes, speeds, distances talked of in this book is so mind boggling that after a while the whole thing becomes unimaginable - neutron stars revolving in less than a second, things billions of times the mass of our sun etc;

the idea of astro-paleontology - imagine what we might still do with that in the future as our telescopes becomes larger and larger; as Schar
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Chris Karr
Extremely accessible and effectively mind-blowing.
Allison Virtue
An interesting book that danced back and forth between being technical and chatty. In addition to letting me know all sorts of things about black holes I did not know before, it also gave me a good grounding in the history of astronomy. From the technicalities of the telescopes to the thought process that lead to black holes being discovered in the first place, this book was a solid study of the topic. I believe this would be a tough read for someone with no grounding in astronomy or physics, it ...more
Jimagn
A well written book that makes a good case for the biological influences of super massive black holes. The author writes for a popular audience, including background stories that might be more enticing to a general readership. Some of the stories may at first seem off topic, but prove to be good entry pints for the science. Most of the material is available in other books, but new information and theories keep it fresh. Sometimes the writing is a little over dramatic. The notes at the end are go ...more
Colin
Gravity's Engines is an extremely interesting book which will indulge all of your fantasies if you're remotely interested in black holes, astrophysics or space in general for that matter. It's a great look into the surprising amount that we currently know about black holes, the build up to now and the last few pages discusses what we could learn and what it would take to learn those things.

What a fascinating time to be alive. I hope you enjoy the book, I did.
Robert Mckay
Black holes are one of the most fascinating things in astronomy. And it astronomers have now discovered that most, if not all, galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center. Scharf explains, in plain English, what black holes are and what they do. The only quarrel I have is that the drawings are amateurish – he ought to have availed himself of the artist who’s illustrated Brian Greene’s books.
Marcus
Contains a lot of interesting information, but the writing is uneven. Some sections are informative and tight without being too dry, while other sections contain twice as many words as needed to convey the information. Toward the end, I was really struggling as there was a lot of repetition. I do still recommend the book... the information content is enough to compensate for the writing.
Berkay
Eloquently written and highly informative, Gravity's Engines has a knack for creating pictures in your mind of objects and processes that are often impossible to imagine. The simple diagrams and layman's approach to the mathematics behind the work makes it hugely accessible, thus required reading for anybody interested in the cosmos or black holes in particular.
Jim Allen
Reading now. Mick this book is very difficult to read. Very intellectual compared to all the other books I read in the past few years. If you can stick with it it is very rewarding. Fascinating journey into the cosmos and universe. Makes me feel insignificant and like a small grain of sand on the beach.
JKA
Dave Schey
Gravity's Engines is all about super-massive black holes and the role they play in configuring galaxies and star formation. They don't just suck in stuff; they also blow out a lot. This is a good book for learning more about black holes from someone who is very actively involved in their research.
John Robertson
Superb! Well paced, gently introduces the reader to challenging concepts, nice coverage of key personalities in the field, and, in the later part of the book, contains startling insights into the function of black holes in the creation of the cosmos. I will have to read this again!
Science For The People
Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #193 on December 21, 2012, on our special Book Review episode. This book was reviewed by Brian Clegg and the review can be heard starting at timestamp 00:06:14. http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/episode...
Larry Roth
Easy to read summary of complex science discoveries and theories about how the cosmos began and functions. Contains biography of some the world's greatest scientists. A great book to read to get an overview of the reality about how there is something instead of nothing.
Denzil
Interesting stuff. Some parts way over my head but generally quite readable and very enjoyable.
Jonathan Sterkenburg
I'm interested in crazy speculation about the conditions for life. This book made me ponder the question on cosmological scales. There are some fascinating remarks about our Milky-way being a special galaxy in some ways. The dust jacket is wonderful.
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