Cover image for Lonely hearts of the cosmos : the scientific quest for the secret of the Universe
Lonely hearts of the cosmos : the scientific quest for the secret of the Universe
Overbye, Dennis, 1944-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Harper & Row, [1991]

Physical Description:
viii, 438 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QB981 .O96 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
QB981 .O96 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Subtitled The story of the scientific quest for the secret of the universe, this is an accessible, popular account (though also with much to interest the more sophisticated) of the intellectual adventurers who, over the past 40 years, have sought answers to the deepest questions we know to ask of the world. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Author Notes

Dennis Overbye is Deputy Science Editor of "The New York Times" & a critically acclaimed science writer who has contributed to "Time," "The New York Times Magazine," & many other publications. His first book, "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos," was nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award in Nonfiction & a "Los Angeles Times" Book Award in Science. He lives in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Overbye brings the often obscure world of cosmology to life by tracing its post-World War II history. Whether the universe will expand forever or will eventually collapse upon itself has been at the center of cosmological debate throughout this period. Overbye procedes from the work of Edwin Hubble's successor, Allan Sandage, to the present era of black holes, supersymmetry, and the search for that Holy Grail of physics--the Grand Unified Theory--concluding with the historic January 1986 Keauhou Beach Symposium in Hawaii. He could have filled the book with complex scientific equations and theories, but instead he concentrates upon the scientists. Their ego clashes, bitter feuds, and frequent following of false leads make it all read almost like a combination soap opera and murder mystery. Since Overbye attended many of the meetings at which the entire discipline of cosmology changed course, his work will serve future generations by giving a firsthand account of the modern scientific process. Meanwhile, it's essential reading for anyone wishing to understand modern cosmology. ~--Jon Kartman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Unexpected discoveries, seething rivalries and inspired guesswork are all in a day's work for modern cosmologists, several of whom are profiled here. ``Overbye's personal narrative makes complex realms of conflicting theory and observation accessible to the layperson,'' said PW. Photos. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Modern cosmology--the science of superstrings, wormholes, and Grand Unifications Theories--has been popularized in such recent books as Stephen Hawking's semitechnical A Brief History of Time ( LJ 4/15/88) and David Darling's fanciful Deep Time ( LJ 5/15/89). Overbye, the editor of Discover magazine, focuses on the people who contributed to contemporary theories of the universe. Through interviews and personal anecdotes, Overbye presents an insider's view of the lives, works, and personalities of such legendary figures as Hawking; John Wheeler, the ``father of the black hole''; and Alan Guth, architect of the ``inflationary universe'' concept. This approach depicts science as a human process and, in a sense, brings cosmology with all of its rarefied concepts ``down to earth.'' For more formal biographical and technical information on the work of a greater number of leading cosmologists, see Alan Lightman and Roberta Brawer's Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists ( LJ 6/1/90).-- Gregg Sapp, Mon tana State Univ. Lib., Bozeman (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

"Astronomy is an impossible science. It's a wonder we know anything at all." Overbye's quote of Allan Sandage sets the tone of this volume. In fluid prose, Overbye hovers over modern cosmologists, the scientists who seek to reveal the origin of the universe, and shows them to be real people rather than stereotypes. The personalities of the scientists are the glue holding the book together. Scientific theories are introduced, but are not explained well enough for this book to function as a reference. However, readers will get a feel for the controversy that permeates this science. An outstanding science writer, the author pushes to a new level the art of explaining science without resorting to complex mathematics. In spite of this advantage, insufficient information is given for the reader to make a balanced judgment on the controversy. The style is entertaining; the author's personal friendships have filled the book with inside stories and sympathetic tales. The anecdotes may be used by future historians of science, but the book will better serve general readers than college science library collections. -M. K. Hemenway, University of Texas at Austin

Table of Contents

Prologue: Delegates to Eternityp. 1
I The Man in the Cage
1. His Master's Voicep. 11
2. The Candy Machinep. 30
3. The War of the World Modelsp. 44
4. Bonfires on the Shores of Timep. 67
5. God's Turnstilep. 85
6. The King of Black Holesp. 104
7. The Big Bangp. 126
8. The Galaxy Makersp. 140
II Fermiland
9. The Long Marchp. 161
10. The Endless Good-Byep. 174
11. Fermilandp. 190
12. The Triumph of Beautyp. 216
13. The Reluctant Cosmologistp. 231
14. The Free Lunchp. 249
III The Shadow Universe
15. The Hubble Warsp. 263
16. The Z-Machinep. 285
17. Springtime for Neutrinosp. 301
18. Zwicky's Revengep. 322
19. The Astrologer's Cursep. 338
20. Dreamtimep. 359
IV The Last Gentleman
21. Sandage in Exilep. 385
22. The Day the Universe Stopped Expandingp. 400
23. The Other Sidep. 417
Afterword: The Golden Agep. 426
Epiloguep. 437
Indexp. 441