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The 4% Universe

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the

Race to Discover the Rest of Reality


"Dark," cosmologists call it, in what could go down in history as the ultimate semantic surrender. This is not "dark" as in distant or invisible. This is not "dark" as in black holes or deep space. This is "dark" as in unknown for now, and possibly forever: 23 percent something mysterious that they call dark matter, 73 percent something even more mysterious that they call dark energy. Which leaves only 4 percent the stuff of us. As one theorist likes to say at public lectures, "We're just a bit of pollution." Get rid of us and of everything else we've ever thought of as the universe, and very little would change. "We're completely irrelevant," he adds, cheerfully.




“A lively new account of twentieth-century (plus a little twenty-first-century) cosmology....The book is as much about how the science got done as about the science itself.”                                     


“The centerpiece of The 4% Universe is a compelling narrative of science at its best.”

The Wall Street Journal


“Fascinating. One of the most important stories in the history of science.”

The Washington Post

"The balance between lively characters and provocative ideas keeps the book moving as quickly as a high-stakes thriller, but the payoff here is an answer of truly cosmic significance."

Ad Astra, the magazine of the National Space Society


"Impeccably researched and highly readable."

 —New Scientist


"Panek writes eloquently about the mind-bending search for meaning in a universe dominated by stuff no one can see."

Science News


“By brilliantly capturing the passions and pursuits, Panek has made this cosmic quest exciting and understandable.”

—Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe

“In his journalistic yet artful style, Panek guides you through the quirky discoveries that established the existence of dark matter and dark energy. But along the way, you also get to meet the quirky cosmologists who got us there.”

–Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ameican Museum of Natural History,
host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
"Modern cosmology tackles some of the biggest questions we have about the nature of the cosmos. In The 4% Universe, Richard Panek brings this quest down to a human scale. The rivalries, the surprises, and the excitement are brought vividly to life."
—Sean Carroll, author of Something Deeply Hidden
"A contemporary adventure story of modern-day explorers who venture forth into the universe not by ships, but by telescopes and satellites...Riveting."
—Lee Smolin, author of The Trouble with Physics
"A reliable and readable account of how scientists discovered—and are struggling to come to grips with—the astounding fact that most of the observable universe has not yet even been observed, must less understood."
—Timothy Ferris, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way and
The Science of Liberty 
"The 4% Universe is a lively and well-researched account of the personalities and ambitions of modern scientists."
—Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams