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Download The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality Audiobook

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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (882 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Richard Panek Narrator: Ray Porter Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Over the past few decades, a handful of scientists have been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only four percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, our books, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown.

Richard Panek tells the dramatic story of the quest to find this “dark” matter and an even more bizarre substance called “dark energy.” This is perhaps the greatest mystery in all of science, and solving it will bring fame, funding, and certainly a Nobel Prize. Based on in-depth reporting and interviews with the major players—from Berkeley’s feisty, excitable Saul Perlmutter and Harvard’s witty but exacting Robert Kirshner to the doyenne of astronomy, Vera Rubin—the book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have fueled their search, redefined science, and reinvented the universe.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our view of the cosmos is profoundly wrong, and Copernicus was only the beginning: not just Earth, but all common matter is a marginal part of existence. Panek’s fast-paced narrative, filled with original reporting and behind-the-scenes details, brings this epic story to life for the very first time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Somebody needed to tell this story—of all that is dark and mysterious in the cosmos. Science writer Richard Panek has risen to that task. 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, author of Death by Black Hole

  • “It’s the biggest mystery of all: why is the universe expanding at an accelerated rate? At its heart is a search for what forces and particles make up reality. It baffled Einstein, and it now obsesses a cadre of fascinating cosmologists. By brilliantly capturing their passions and pursuits, Richard Panek has made this cosmic quest exciting and understandable.”

    Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of Einstein: His Life and Universe

  • The 4 Percent Universe is 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, much less understood. It has the further merit of relating how scientists arrive at their findings, rather than simply presenting their theories as objects of admiration or adoration. Highly recommended.”

    Timothy Ferris, author of Coming of Age in the Milky Way and The Science of Liberty

  • “Modern cosmology tackles some of the biggest questions we have about the nature of the cosmos. In The 4 Percent Universe, Richard Panek brings this quest down to a human scale. The rivalries, the surprises, and the excitement are brought vividly to life. People are a very tiny percentage of the universe, but we remain the most interesting part.”

    Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

  • “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

  • “Science journalist Panek offers an insider’s view of the quest for what could be the ultimate revelation…This lively story of big personalities, intellectual competitiveness, and ravenous curiosity is as entertaining as it is illuminating.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A superior account of how astronomers discovered that they knew almost nothing about ninety-six percent of the universe…Panek delivers vivid sketches of scientists, lucid explanations of their work, and revealing descriptions of the often stormy rivalry that led to this scientific revolution, usually a media cliché, but not in this case.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “In an age when our telescopes can peer billions of years into the past, it’s humbling to learn that we don’t even know what ninety-six percent of the universe is made from. In this accessible audiobook, journalist Richard Panek explains the efforts of astronomers and physicists to unlock the twin mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Ray Porter’s narration is perfectly paced, and his sonorous voice moves the story along with confidence, despite the sometimes technical nature of the text. But this is no dry physics lecture: Panek explains the quest for understanding through the colorful personalities who led the way, and Porter adds another layer of warmth with his characterizations.”


  • A Audie Award Finalist Audie Award Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Olivia Waite | 2/19/2014

    " A beautifully clear and well-written book that leaves you feeling much smarter about not understanding dark matter in the slightest. Highly recommended. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Paul Bianchi | 2/10/2014

    " I enjoyed the book, but probably wouldn't have followed it as well if I wasn't already familiar with the science. The emphasis of the book is definitely on the race, the competition between the two research teams to determine how the universe is expanding. Read it to get into the mindset of those doing the research, but there are better books on the science itself. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Merritt Phillips | 1/26/2014

    " Interesting topic, I learned several things about discoveries made by man have helped formulate theories about the universe we live in. The most interesting part of the story deals with two research teams (one at MIT and one at Berkeley) who are competing to see if Super Nova can be used a light references to determine how old the universe is and confirm that the universe is still expanding and will continue to expand forever (so the current theory goes). These physicist have egos for sure. Both teams came to this same conclusion almost at the same time (Jan 1998)based on two entirely different data sets. Only 4% of the universe consists of atoms which emit energy so we can see them. 26% is dark matter (has mass but doesn't emit any energy so we can't see it). The rest is dark energy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Brent Peters | 1/7/2014

    " A fascinating read... we still have much to learn about our universe. "

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About the Author
Author Richard Panek

Richard Panek is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and the author of The Invisible Century and Seeing and Believing. He has frequently written for the New York Times as well as Discover, Smithsonian, Esquire, and Outside, among other publications. He lives with his wife, Meg Wolitzer, and their two sons.