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The 4-Percent Universe

Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality

Richard Panek

It is one of the most disturbing aspects of our universe: only four per cent of it consists of the matter that makes up every star, planet, and every book. The rest is completely unknown. Acclaimed science writer Richard Panek tells the story of the handful of scientists who have spent the past few decades on a quest to unlock the secrets of “dark matter” and the even stranger substance called “dark energy”. These are perhaps the greatest mysteries in science,and solving them will reshape our understanding of the universe and our place in it.
The stakes could not be higher. Panek’s fast-paced narrative, filled with original, in-depth reporting and intimate, behind-the-scenes details, brings this epic story to life for the very first time.

  • Publication date: March 1, 2012
  • ISBN: 9781851688968
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 288
  • Publication date: March 1, 2012
  • ISBN: 9781780741246
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 320


“A superior account of how astronomers discovered that they knew almost nothing about 96 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.” Starred review.

Kirkus Reviews

"[A] fascinating tale of cosmology's known unknowns."

BBC Focus

"Impeccably researched and highly readable."

New Scientist

"Panek provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of science in the raw as alliances are forged and friendships strained. There is a new universe to explore..."

The Times

"The 4% Universe is a compelling narrative of science at its best… An illuminating guide to the dark mysteries lying at the heart of the intersection of astronomy and fundamental physics."

The Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating… Panek's passion for the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy wins the day."

Washington Post

"Richard Panek delights us with [a] mesmerizing tale…. This book has it all; the excitement of great fiction — only it's true."

Philadelphia Enquirer

"A compelling narrative of a quest full of technological challenges, unexpected turns and expected human rivalries over high stakes."

Dallas Morning News

"A rich portrait of modern scientific life."

The Guardian

"Easily digestible, fast-paced... To the connoisseur of popular science, indeed, the way author Richard Panek tells the tale is as interesting as the events: half drama, half detective story."

Physics World

"Lively… [Panek] Is a wondrously clear explicator."


“Reads… like an adventure novel…. Panek has craftily combined his lucid and accessible descriptions of science with thepersonal, often intimate story of those unlocking the finer details of the Universe.”

BBC Sky at Night

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, Discover, and Esquire, among many other publications. He and his wife, the novelist Meg Wolitzer, live in New York.

Author page

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