Martin Harwit, author of the influential book Cosmic Discovery, asks key questions about the scope of observational astronomy. Humans have long sought to understand the world we inhabit. Recent realization of how our unruly Universe distorts information before it ever reaches us reveals distinct limits on how well we will ultimately understand the Cosmos. Even the best instruments we might conceive will inevitably be thwarted by ever more complex distortions and will never untangle the data completely. Observational astronomy, and the cost of pursuing it, will then have reached an inherent end. Only some totally different lines of approach, as yet unknown and potentially far more costly, might then need to emerge if we wish to learn more. This accessible book is written for all astronomers, astrophysicists, and those curious about how well we will ever understand the Universe and the potential costs of pushing those limits.
Lennard A. Fisk - Thomas M. Donahue Distinguished University Professor of Space Science, University of Michigan
Jay M. Pasachoff - Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy, Williams College, Massachusetts
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