March 26, 1996
Blind Watchers of the Sky tells the story of the people and ideas that shaped our view of the universe in a way that will open your eyes to the human side of discovery.
Everyone “knows” that the Earth travels around the sun, the universe is billions of years old, and stars are trillions of miles away. But since it is rare to feel the earth move, billions of years are a nearly incomprehensible time, and no one has ever visited a star, how did we learn these things?
Astronomical facts we take for granted were once revolutionary ideas that were dismissed as absurdities. The simple things we know about the universe are not at all obvious, but the results of remarkable insight, hard work, and sometimes blind luck.
Rocky Kolb’s colorful recreation of the lives and accomplishments of Tycho, Kepler, Galileo, Herschel, Hubble, and other astronomers expands our image of scientists as merely long-haired youths dreaming under apple trees, disheveled old men with wild hair scribbling on blackboards, or bespectacled computer hackers. Contributing to our understanding of the universe have been princes and paupers, professors and mule drivers, solitary men and women working in isolation, and anonymous members of large scientific teams. The only thing they all shared is an unrelenting curiosity about the universe.
The book begins in 1572 with Tycho’s startling revelation that the heavens can change, and ends with the explosive 20th-century discovery of the big bang. In an engaging, whimsical style, this leading cosmologist shares his personal insight into the profound ideas, silly misconceptions, and remarkable revolutions in thought that are all part of the process of discovery.
Rocky Kolb, founding head of the NASA/Fermilab Theoretical Astrophysics Group and University of Chicago professor, combines art, humor, music, and philosophy in writings and lectures for the general public. He is presently involved in the production of a six-part series on cosmology for Great Teachers Videos.