Taking on the simultaneous roles of expert scientist, journalist, historian and storyteller of uncommon enchantment, Levin delivers pure signal from cover to coverLevin profiles the key figures in this revolution with Dostoyevskian insightShe harmonizes science and life with remarkable virtuosityBut as redemptive as the story of countless trials and unlikely triumph may be, what makes the book most rewarding is Levins exquisite prose, which bears the mark of a first rate writer an acute critical mind haloed with generosity of spirit Maria Popova, The New York Times Book Reviewfront page review The astonishing story of how science was able to measure such a tiny effect, at a cost of a few hundred million dollars which seems modest given the achievement , is told by Janna Levinin her superb Black Hole Blues Ms Levin is able to tell the tale so soon, and so well, because she has had privileged access to the experiment conducted with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, known as LIGOMs Levins easy stylemakes readers feel as if they are sitting in on her interviews or watching over her shoulder as she describes two black holes colliding This is a splendid book that I recommend to anyone with an interest in how science works and in the power of human imagination and ability John Gribbin, The Wall Street JournalLevin is herself a theoretical physicist as well as an accomplished novelist , but in Black Hole Blues she isof a journalist, and a good one at thatLevins writing is casual and sometimes poetic, and the fortunate existence of an interesting and curious cast of characters makes her book a unique and convincing account of the discovery of gravitational waves She liberally inserts her own impressions and emotions into the text, and the reader cant help sharing her surprises, her concerns, and her sympathiesShe doesnt ignore the science, which is interspersed throughout the book in short passagesnot too much to overwhelm, but not too little to leave the reader puzzledThis short volume will serve as a unique literary resource for those who wish to understand the history of one of the most ambitious science projects of the twentieth century The New York Review of BooksLevin s authoritative account of the brilliant physicists and engineers who envisioned such a remarkable experiment places readers right in the middle of the action, tracing LIGO s evolution from an inspired idea in the s to the most expensive project in the history of the National Science Foundation She perfectly captures the fast paced, forward thinking, bureaucracy averse atmosphere of a large scale scientific experiment, but she also lays bare the decades of interpersonal strife that, at times, threatened to undermine the experiment s success The author s portrait of these pioneers is especially engaging for her ability to contextualize humanness not just within the scope of the physical experiment, but in the face of such dizzying stakessurely a Nobel is on the line and has been since the beginning Levin herself is also wondrously present in this narrative, nimbly guiding readers through scientific jargon and reminding us of the enormous profundity of modern physics A vestige of the noise of the black hole crash, she writes, has been on its way to us since early multicelled organisms fossilized in supercontinents on a still dynamic Earth A superb alignment of author and subject Levin is among the best contemporary science writers, and LIGO is arguably the most compelling experiment on the planet Kirkus starred review Lively, poignant, engaginga story worth telling Science Magazine Levin explains in clear terms the scientific heart of this achievement and the deep and personal fascination that pursuing it has held for several generations of scientists She also captures the cost of getting to this point, both financialthis is big science in its truest senseand, in many cases, personalIlluminating Nature Compelling a fascinating book about not just the science of gravitational waves but also the very human process by which that science gets donekely to stand the test of time The Space Review A miraculously beautiful bookI feel a kind of civic duty to get it into the hands, hearts, and minds of as many people as possible This particular book is one of the finest I ve ever read the kind that will be read and cherished a century from now Dr Levin is a splendid writer of extraordinary intellectual elegance partway between Galileo and Goethe, she fuses her scientific scrupulousness with remarkable poetic potency Brain Pickings Science will never seem as rock n roll to you as it does in Janna Levins Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, a book that tells the story of the scientists who have dedicated their careers to trying to record the music of the universe This book recounts the decades of passion and obsession that led to the recent scientific breakthrough And its really cool Bustle,Nonfiction Books About Science That Anyone Can Get IntoA fascinatingly human narrative about the treasure hunt for evidence of gravitational waves Levin navigates the books complex science with skill, devoting sections to explaining how pulsars emit gravitational wavesor why somescientists didnt believe black holes existed until the sShe writes with a smart, snappy voice that always follows one rule she never editorializes on the facts which rings true to the scientific methodReveals the human struggle behind real world science Barnes and Noble Sci Fi and Fantasy BlogScience writing at its best a slim volume that sings that tale of discovery, charting how these scientists got to that day last autumn Black Hole Blues is as illustrative, temperamental, and dramatic as it is poetic SignatureFollowing the detection of gravitational wavesyears after Einstein predicted their existence, Levin, a professor physics and astronomy at Barnard College, goes behind the scenes for a chatty insiders look at the brilliant, eccentric people who continued the search for the elusive phenomenonLevin tells the story of this grand quest with the immediacy of a thriller and makes the fixations and foibles of its participants understandablePublishers WeeklyNot only is Levin a theoretical cosmologist but also an eloquent writer able to explain high science to laymenLevins third book is not only an engaging story of a major scientific discovery but also of the universes many mysteriesand the ceaseless human quest to solve them Even if you were bad or uninterested in science, dont miss this one IU News A quick, engaging readThis is less a story about the science of gravitational waves than a story about the doing of science, with vividly described personalities and personality conflicts LIGOs development had several periods that would fairly be described as tumultuous, and Levin goes into these in compelling detailFun and insightful ForbesWhat makes me excited about this is that it promises to be a practical look at how the science actually got done, which is muchaccessible for the nonscientist Im Here For This Book RiotThis is a beautifully written account of the quest to open the gravitational wave window onto our universe, and use it to explore our universes warped side black holes and other phenomena made from warped spacetimeAs a participant in this wonderful quest, I applaud Janna Levin for capturing so well our vision, our struggles, and the ethos and spirit of our torturous route toward successKip Thorne, author of The Science of InterstellarIf Hunter Thompson had taken a break to get a PhD in physics and then become obsessed with gravitational waves, he might have written a book like this And maybe not Janna Levin s book is smart, hip, and resonant with the sounds of scientists at workAlan Lightman, author ofThe Accidental UniverseScience meetscinma vrit in this riveting book Janna Levin immerses us in the heady world of scientists straining to detect gravitational waves, the faintest whispers in the universe What emerges is a story about listening the most sensitive, determined, obsessive listening anyone has ever tried to do Keenly observed and lyrically written, her account of this quest will move you Steven Strogatz, Professor of Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of xJanna Levins book is a delightful read With humor as well as understanding, she tells the human stories inside the project to detect gravitational waves from astronomical sources She describes the hopes and aspirations of the people who have been working for many years on the cutting edge technology to achieve the sensitivity to detect the elusive waves predicted by Albert Einstein inAs a professional astrophysicist and an expert in the phenomenology of black holes, she explains well the remarkable discovery made by the project a century later Rainer Weiss, Emeritus Professor of Physics MIT A first hand account of the scientific pursuit to detect gravitational wavessounds without material medium that are generated by the collision of black holes and other exotic astrophysical events In , Albert Einstein became the first to predict the existence of gravitational waves, which were finally detectedthis month In this book, Levin recounts the dramatic search over the lastyears for these elusive waves, which are considered to be the holy grail of modern cosmology and the soundtrack of the universe Levin is an accomplished astrophysicist and a colleague of the four scientists at the center of this book It is a story that, until now, has been known only to those most involved with the project NPRWorthwhile reading for anyone considering a science career, or for those of us who love to learn how science frontiers are pushed forward San Francisco Book ReviewIn Black Hole Blues, Levin documents LIGOs transformation from small to big, chronicling particularly well the growing pains during its development from a few ideas at individual labs to one of the largest projects ever funded by the National Science FoundationLevin is at her best when she comes closest to ethnography The ideas and motivations of the troika and collaborators ring through distinctly, despite her mediating proseBlackHole Blues should appeal to anyone interested in the workings of big science, whatever the fieldphysics, astronomy, molecular biologyLevin gives her readers a satisfying look at how big science starts, develops, andin the endsucceeds Sky TelescopeA remarkable achievement that potentially opens up a whole new chapter in our understanding of the cosmos and, with perfect timing, Janna Levins elegant and lucid book is here to tell us how it was doneThe human drama is compellingThe main protagonistscomprise as fascinating a triumvirate as you will find anywhere in scientific literature Levin, a distinguished astrophysicist in her own right, writes eloquently, sometimes even poetically, about the search for what she calls gravitys music Mail on SundayUK This is a popular science book that is very, very well writtenLevin has inverted the usual formula Your average popsci hack plods breathlessly through the technicalities, inserting little fragments of reportage for drama and to make the storyhuman This is a terrible idea Levin starts from the humans and the story, and lets the science emerge until, finally, the science and the human become oneBrilliant Bryan Appleyard,The Sunday Times UK It is hard to imagine that a better narrative will ever be written about the behind the scenes heartbreak and hardship that goes with scientific discovery Black Hole Blues is a near perfect balance of science, storytelling and insight The prose is transparent and joyfulIt is as inevitable as gravity that this book will win a swath of awards New StatesmanUKJANNA LEVINis a professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University She is also director of sciences at Pioneer Works, a center for arts and sciences in Brooklyn, and has contributed to an understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions, and gravitational waves in the shape of spacetime Her previous books include How the Universe Got Its Spots and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN Bingham Prize She was recently named a Guggenheim fellow

5 thoughts on “Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space: Black Holes and the Quest to Hear the Invisible