Echo of the Big Bang. (Books).
MICHAEL D. LEMONICK
Launched in 2001, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has hovered in deep space, looking for a barely perceptible pattern of hot and cold spots left over from the Big Bang. The architects of WMAP hope that data generated by this probe will help astrophysicists answer to some of the most compelling questions in cosmology, including: How old is the universe? What is its geometry? Is it finite or infinite? and HOW fast is it expanding? Time science reporter Lemonick has had unlimited access to the WMAP team while it has been deciphering the results generated by the probe so far. He provides an engaging, behind-the-scenes account of how WMAP, as well as its predecessor, the Cosmic Background Explorer, was built and launched and how data from each are processed. The concluding chapter recaps a report by the team from just 2 months ago. The findings announced then include indications that ordinary atoms account for just 4.4 percent of the universe, dark matter makes up about 23 percent, and dark energy is the bulk at over 70 percent. Also, as recounted in the chapter, the first stars came into being when the universe was just 200 million years old, much earlier than astrophysicists previously thought. Princeton U Pr, 2003, 215 p., b&w photos, hardcover, $24.95.