Cover of The Collapsing Universe
Book 182 Astronomy 1977
Familiar Poems, Annotated Asimov on Numbers
3 spaceships-and-suns
Asimov fan
3 spaceships-and-suns
Target reader

In a time of spectacular developments in the new astronomy, the concept of black holes captures top honors.

As scientific evidence for them mounts, black holes loom as an ominous development in the life, measured in billions of years, of the universe. A black hole is a dense concentration of matter, so dense that its enormous gravitational forces suck in everything, including light waves, within its reach.

Isaac Asimov explores the implications of black holes, with lucid excursions into related questions.

  • Was the mysterious 30-megaton blast that flattened a Siberian foresxt in 1908 actually a small black hole?
  • Does matter drawn into a black hole reappear out the “other side” as anti-matter, a sort of mirror image of the universe as we know it?
  • Do black holes revive the currently sagging theory of the Creation by a cosmic “Big Bang”?
  • Does their existence raise the possibilitiy that matter can move faster than the speed of light?

As he probes these questions, Asimov takes the reader on an engaging tour from the atom’s innermost core to the outermost reaches of the universe introducing such remarkable phenomena as photons, hyperons, gravitons, planetesimals, magmas, red giants, white dwarfs, neutron stars, X-ray stars, supernovas, pulsars, starquakes, collapsars, black holes, and their even more enigmatic relatives—wormholes and white holes.

This is a one-shot astronomy book published by Walker in the mid-1970’s just when black holes were beginning to intrude upon the public’s notice. It’s a typical Asimov non-fiction book, taking the scenic route to its topic—even worse than The Neutrino, it doesn’t get to black holes until the next to last chapter! But that’s OK—here as always Asimov’s focus is on the reasons why this subject is important to us and the full scientific structure that underlies the concept. As a result we find out about stars, about novas, about neutron stars, and so on.

The book is over thirty years old, which means that it’s rather less than up-to-date; but it’s an excellent volume nonetheless, and something I would highly recommend to somebody who wanted to know about black holes.

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