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Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  228 ratings  ·  44 reviews
For all curious readers, a lively introduction to radical ideas and discoveries that are transforming our knowledge of the universe

This book provides a tour of the “greatest hits” of cosmological discoveries—the ideas that reshaped our universe over the past century. The cosmos, once understood as a stagnant place, filled with the ordinary, is now a universe that is expan
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Yale University Press
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May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
There have been a number of books lately on the history of science, but most of them are very detailed - perhaps too much so for the average lay reader. This book includes just enough information to highlight the major players and their main contributions, and most interestingly, perhaps, to explain why the history of science has changed drastically in the past thirty years.

Specifically, the author points out that we are now in an era of “big science” - i.e., one dependent on large teams in more
James F
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I tend to read in "projects", and once in a while I actually finish one. I've been reading our library's popular and semi-popular books on cosmology for about two years now, in chronological order starting with Steven Weinberg's 1977 "classic", The First Three Minutes. I finally reached the last book the library has, from 2016.

Mapping the Heavens is a historically oriented book about "maps" of the universe; the first chapter is about literal star maps and charts from antiquity and the middle age
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book's mostly about the history of the astronomical breakthroughs such as Copernican Model of Universe, Accelerating Universe, Dark stuffs and energy, Black holes and quasars. A very little ideas from the author regarding the mapping and it's future scope in the epilogue. It's good to know both the facts and speculations.

Personally, I found this book very addictive. The author uses very simple yet catchy words that could inspire the readers to watch out for the sky. I've read outstanding boo
Dannii Elle
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book in exchange for an honest review on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, Priyamvada Natarajan, and the publisher, Yale University Press, for this opportunity.

This is the non-fictional accounts of some of the greatest cosmological discoveries in the history of mankind. From past to present, this chronicles amazing discoveries, complex theories and astounding sightings that showcase man's obsession with the unknown and with the unknowable universe around us.

I expected this to b
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it

​There really wasn't much new here. The history of how we came to know our universe has been told many times over. One thing this book did have going for it was that it was new (2016). Yet, the newer advances in mapping the skies were but mere mentions in this book. She included only a scarce little bit about Stephen Hawking's collaboration with Yuri Milner. This collaboration is extremely exciting and, for a 2016 book, deserved much more attention.

I appreciated how much time she spent detailin
Apr 20, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
This is a very interesting look at some of the history around such cosmological discoveries as black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and string theory. The author frequently points out how various personalities or situations often got in the way of advancing scientific knowledge, dispelling the notion that science is an orderly advance from one level of knowledge to the next. I think I understand the things explained a little better than I did before, but I'm not sure I'd go along with
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Fairly nice outline of 20th and 21st-century cosmology. It covers, in brief, the major discoveries of the past 120 years in terms of the big picture of the universe at large. Not bad as a primer on how we know what we know and an intro but this topic can go much deeper.
Sumanth N
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Fantastic book to learn about our universe! The author discusses in great detail about black holes, dark matter, dark energy, and how the discoveries were made and defended, without requiring the reader to have advanced knowledge of physics, astronomy or math. The author clearly delineates the arguments between the theoretical and observational groups without a bias. The later chapters - about the six cosmological constants, the Supernova cosmology project and theories about bubble universes mak ...more
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mindbogglingly cool. At least, the parts I understood were.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Not what I expected. History of astrophysics. Interesting read nevertheless.
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: astronomy
It's a well written book about some of the most important discoveries in cosmology, about the people behind those discoveries and a bit of discussion about who has gotten the fame and credit for a discovery when someone else might have discovered it before.

I did find that it is certainly a great book to read if you're just getting acquainted with cosmology - you'll start to understand what role Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity plays in modern science, how it was discovered that th
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent discussion of the history and development of the field of astronomy. Written in easy to understand terms, the author looks at many of the great turning points in this field. A must read for anyone interested in the current state of astronomy and cosmology.

I received this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway but the opinions expressed are solely my own.

Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The author, a scientist, often seems to be that superb conversationalist who weaves stories and facts in a way that is just aimed at you. I'm a non scientist and enjoyed every minute of this private conversation about science, cosmology and a solid hope for the future. The science, history and theory are all here. But, in a way that was always accessible for me. A splendid read.
Tonstant Weader
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos is an excellent guide to the many radical discoveries that are remaking our understanding of the cosmos. The author, Priyamvada Natarajan is a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale who maps dark matter by observing how light is bent by “potholes” as it travels from its source to where we see it. These potholes reveal the mysterious dark matter whose effects we can map (Well, Natarajan can map.) even while we don’t have a clue ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Mapping the Heavens provides a solid summary for the layman of the current state of cosmology and our understanding of the universe and its component parts. It’s bolstered by a friendly and slighty quirky narrative voice, which attempts to be inclusive in its telling. Readers looking for an introduction to the big issues in astronomy and how they developed will find much to like here.

Unfortunately, the book is a bit of a hodge-podge. It starts off as a very cursory history of the mapping of the
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a pretty good book. Strengths: the approach is historical, so one gets a sense of how ideas about the cosmos evolved, and how, in particular research and discoveries about atoms and sub-atomic particles and forces on the one hand, and research and discoveries about what is observed in space, on the other, ultimately came to be part of the same overall intellectual endeavor. The historical approach also permits Natarajan to discuss the process of science, not just its "results", and to de ...more
Covers topics such as celestial physics, black holes, dark matter, the big bang and string theory. A brief account of technological advances that improved scientific analyses throughout history. There is the strange assertion that biologists think only Earth harbours life - including no citation - but on the whole it's decent. I do think that Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a little better. ...more
Ruben Garcia
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly researched thorough explanation of how the current view of the universe came into fruition. It's peppered with tons of insight of how the world and specially the scientific community's reaction to proposed discoveries changed since ancient times to now. Specifically, how science has become a mainstream worldwide effort where communities, not singular geniuses like Einstein or Newton, rule it.
Certainly a slow read, wrote notes as it went along and that helped immensely to let the mater
Caitlin Merriman
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really interesting book, the narrative of how we came to have our current understanding of the universe is a fascinating one, and looking at how science itself has changed is a very effective way of anchoring the discussion. Some of the writing is a little trite and some of the technical descriptions could be clearer (very very possible I just didn't get them) but overall it was very good
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good and clear explanation of where we currently find ourselves in our understanding of the universe end our place in it and how we managed to find our way to this knowledge.

The author also details some of the conflicts between scientists (philosophers) of the beliefs in their day and the new explanations that were developed.

Good book!
Sara Saab
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I loved this. My complaints are only that the final chapter was a bit woolly and looked again into the past, instead of peering into the future. I learned so much! Gravity waves, standard candles, the cosmological constant. Did you know that the calcium in our bones was made in supernovae?
Bob Brimm
Aug 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
Very boring and superficial. I love reading about cosmology but there was nothing here to enjoy. A bunch of historical facts that you can find searching Wikipedia.
Christopher Obert
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
A great book about the universe and how we can understand it all.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Had to do quite a bit of re-reading of passages, though not because of the writing, but rather the abstractness of the concepts being discussed. All in all, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
An excellent review of the major topics of cosmology. Natarajan does a great job of capturing the process of science, with all its zigs, zags and subjectivity.
Danielle Shtab
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great read that really furthered my love of maps whether they were cosmic or not.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An intelligent read for the curious minds seeking the origin and fate of our universe.

Priyamvada Natarajan takes us through a journey of human sacrifices and patience which finally led to the discovery of every radical idea about our cosmos that we know to this day.
May 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Kind of a boring rehash of every other popsci history out there. Good enough if you're new to the subject but didn't really add anything to an already crowded field.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written! It contains a lot of what other similar books have written about...although some more up to date details.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Similar in content to the 4% Universe, but also very well written.
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