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Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity (Transcript)

496 pages


Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity is the companion book to the audio/video series of the same name. It contains a full transcript of the series as well as the complete course guidebook which includes lecture notes, bibliography, and more.

About this series:

For the first time in human history, we can see the full splendor and mystery of the universe, thanks to instruments on scores of planetary probes and observatories that have been launched into space since the 1990s. From Saturn’s rings to the heart of the Milky Way, and from colliding galaxies to cataclysmic gamma-ray bursts at the edges of visible space, some of the most spectacular sights in the cosmos are now as easy to see as the stars above. Many of these cosmic phenomena occur at wavelengths of light that are beyond the range of human vision and can only be detected by special instruments in space.The dazzling new images are not just a data bonanza for scientists; they have entered popular culture, appearing in art galleries and coffee-table books, as well as on posters, T-shirts, and even postage stamps. Above all, this stunning archive is providing a new perspective on our dynamic universe, including views such as these:Solar magnetic storms: The Solar Dynamics Observatory has recorded dramatic time-lapse footage of the sun in ultraviolet light, including a huge explosion of material from the solar atmosphere, with debris smashing back into the sun’s seething outer layer.Runaway star: A normal-looking nearby star is in fact racing through space more than 20 times faster than a rifle bullet. The action shows up in an infrared view, which beautifully reveals a shock wave of interstellar gas in front of the star, like the bow wave on a speedboat. Galactic crash scene: When viewed in wavelengths beyond human vision, Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy to our own, displays evidence of having been struck 200 million years ago by a dwarf galaxy—just as Andromeda will one day collide with our Milky Way.Dark matter revealed: Most of the matter in the universe doesn't emit, absorb, or scatter light at any wavelength. The most convincing proof that this dark matter must exist shows up in combined X-ray and visible light images of distant colliding galaxy clusters.And that’s only the beginning. Our instruments in space have prospected for water and life on Mars, detected thousands of possible planets orbiting other stars, mapped superheated matter swirling into gigantic black holes, and deciphered the all-pervasive echo of the big bang, which is the key to understanding the large-scale structure of the universe.The fantastic scientific story behind these remarkable images is yours in A Visual Guide to the Universe, produced in partnership with the Smithsonian—one of the world’s most storied and exceptional educational institutions. These 18 lavishly illustrated lectures that take you from our neighborhood of the solar system to the farthest reaches of space and time. Your guide is Professor David M. Meyer, an award-winning teacher, popular public speaker, and distinguished astronomer at Northwestern University.Greatest Hits of Astronomy’s Golden AgeDesigned for astronomy novices and practiced observers alike, A Visual Guide to the Universe covers a wide range of telling phenomena that have made our era a golden age of astronomical discovery. In selecting the images, Professor Meyer has aimed for variety and scientific significance, while also focusing on key concepts in astronomy, making this course an ideal visual tour through today’s thrilling science of the universe.As Professor Meyer discusses different images, you learn background ideas such as the electromagnetic spectrum and the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram for charting stellar evolution. You also hear about techniques for finding extrasolar planets in the glare of faraway stars and the breakthroughs that mak

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