Miss Leavitt's Stars

Miss Leavitt's Stars

The Untold Story of the Woman Who Discovered How to Measure the Universe

Book - 2005
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How big is the universe? In the early twentieth century, scientists took sides. One held that the entire universe was contained in the Milky Way galaxy. Their champion was the strong-willed astronomer Harlow Shapley. Another camp believed that the universe was so vast that the Milky Way was just one galaxy among billions--the view that would prevail, proven by the equally headstrong Edwin Hubble.Almost forgotten is the Harvard Observatory "computer"--a human number cruncher hired to calculate the positions and luminosities of stars in astronomical photographs--who found the key to the mystery. Radcliffe-educated Henrietta Swan Leavitt, fighting ill health and progressive deafness, stumbled upon a new law that allowed astronomers to use variable stars--those whose brightness rhythmically changes--as a cosmic yardstick. Miss Leavitt's Stars is both a masterly account of how we measure the universe and the moving story of a neglected genius
Publisher: New York : Norton, c2005
ISBN: 9780393051285
0393051285
Branch Call Number: 522 LEA JOH
Characteristics: xiv, 162 p. : ill. ; 21 cm

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johnsankey
Dec 07, 2010

a truthful description of the way science progresses, by curiosity followed by measurement followed by over-reach then consolidation, then over-reach again ..., always guided by a fundamental faith in the universality of physical laws, always distorted, often delayed, by the human failings of the scientists involved.

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