Cover: Ripples in Spacetime: Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy, from Harvard University PressCover: Ripples in Spacetime in HARDCOVER

Ripples in Spacetime

Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy

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Product Details


$29.95 • £21.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674971660

Publication: July 2017


340 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

25 halftones

Belknap Press


A succinct, accessible, and remarkably timely survey of gravitational-wave astronomy as it developed over the past century… This book is a rare find… The book’s remarkable breadth and accessibility should make it the first piece of reading material for anyone—from high school students to policymakers—with an interest in gravitational waves… Ripples in Spacetime sets itself apart by putting the entire field into perspective—past, present, and future. It conveys a sense of awe about a century of scientific investment and achievement and a sense of excitement for what’s to come.—Richard O’Shaughnessy, Physics Today

In a sweeping new book, Ripples in Spacetime: Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy, prolific science writer Govert Schilling has achieved the fascinating trifecta of historical and scientific accuracy, a grand sense of wonder and curiosity, and brilliantly accessible storytelling… Ripples in Spacetime goes far beyond the gravitational wave story you’ve heard over the past few years… It belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in learning the scientific, historical, and personal stories behind some of the most incredible scientific advances of the 21st century. As our scientific progress continues, this book will serve as a reminder of how far we’ve already come, how we got there, and what we’re looking forward to with our most hopeful ambitions.—Ethan Siegel, Forbes [08/03/17]

Govert’s blend of storytelling, interviews, science, and history creates a fantastic read, and for anyone curious about the development of LIGO and what the future holds, you couldn’t ask for a better story.—Ethan Siegel, Forbes [12/13/17]

Schilling gives us a lively and readable account of the [gravitational] waves’ discovery… Schilling underlines that this discovery is the opening of a new window on the universe, the beginning of a new branch of science. Astronomers will no longer be limited to observing space through the waves of electricity and magnetism (for example, visible light) entering telescopes, but will be able to observe it through waves of gravity. Galileo would have been amazed.—Graham Farmelo, The Guardian

In September 2015, a new frontier in astronomy beckoned with the first direct detection of gravitational waves, confirming Albert Einstein’s prediction almost a century before. Govert Schilling’s deliciously nerdy grand tour takes us through compelling backstory, current research and future expectations.—Barbara Kiser, Nature

[Ripples in Spacetime] explains complex ideas clearly and entertainingly… It details the personalities, rivalries, collaborations, controversies, setbacks and successes of the century-long quest to test Einstein’s theories. Bang up to date, the book describes science in progress and as a process: how ideas are developed and discoveries made and rejected or confirmed. The best part for me was the detail the book goes into about the first detection and the meticulous protocols in place to scrutinize and eliminate every possible error. Schilling also looks ahead to what we can expect in this whole new field of astronomy. This is a book for everyone who was as excited as I was when the [Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory] discovery first broke, but also for anyone who wants to know what all the fuss was about.—Jenny Winder, BBC Sky at Night

Engaging.—Manjit Kumar, New Statesman

A detailed account of the quest to detect gravitational waves.—James Ryerson, The New York Times Book Review

[Ripples in Spacetime] offers the reader a journey that goes beyond its title, exploring and connecting topics such as the cosmic-microwave background and its polarization, radioastronomy and pulsars, supernovae, primordial inflation, gamma-ray bursts and even dark energy… The book gives an interesting (and sometimes surprising) glimpse into the lives, aspirations and mutual interactions of the scientific pioneers in the field of gravitational waves.—Guillermo Ballestero, CERN Courier

A fascinating story of astronomy… Schilling walks readers through a lucid history of the universe, of general relativity, and of the bumpy search for Einstein’s last major unconfirmed prediction: the existence of gravitational waves… Schilling delivers a lively, expert, mostly comprehensible account, equal parts politics, personality, and science, of the search that ended two years ago… Schilling emphasizes that this is not simply another feather in Einstein’s cap, but a valuable new tool. The early universe was opaque to radiation until 380,000 years after the Big Bang, but gravity waves poured out from almost the beginning, so a new field of ‘gravitational wave astronomy’ can look back almost to the birth of the cosmos. An exciting history of the second great breakthrough of 21st-century physics.Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In this elegant and captivating book Govert Schilling takes us by the hand through a century of scientific adventures to one of the biggest discoveries of history.—Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, Institute for Advanced Study

I read with great pleasure this friendly book. The placement of the detection of gravitational waves in the greater history of astronomy and physics is nicely done, and readers not yet familiar with many of the concepts will come away from the book having really learned some of the physics as well as having a sense of what real science and real scientists are like. The scope and organization makes it entertaining and leaves room for surprises.—David Shoemaker, Spokesperson, LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Senior Research Scientist, MIT Kavli Institute