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Quintessence: The Mystery of the Missing Mass

January 01, 2001

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Will the universe continue to expand forever, reverse its expansion and begin to contract, or reach a delicately poised state where it simply persists forever? The answer depends on the amount and properties of matter in the universe, and that has given rise to one of the great paradoxes of modern cosmology: there is too little visible matter to account for the behavior we can see. Over ninety percent of the universe consists of ”missing mass” or ”dark matter” – what Lawrence Krauss, in his classic book, termed ”the fifth essence.”In this new edition of The Fifth Essence, retitled Quintessence after the now widely accepted term for dark matter, Krauss shows how the dark matter problem is now connected with two of the hottest areas in recent cosmology: the fate of the universe and the ”cosmological constant.” With a new introduction, epilogue, and chapter updates, Krauss updates his classic for 1999 and shares one of the most stunning discoveries of recent years: an anti-gravity force that explains recent observations of a permanently expanding universe.


“The picture of cosmology we so carefully and optimistically developed over the 1980s, based on the fusion of ideas from particle physics and astrophysics, is now undeniably incomplete.  Over the past five years it has become clear that ‘dark matter’ alone is not abundant enough to eventually halt the observed universal expansion.”  Thus Krauss, chairman of physics at Case Western Reserve University, introduces this revised edition of a book he published a decade ago under the title, “The Fifth Essence.”  The fifth essence, an allusion to a term of Aristotle’s, was Krauss’s name for dark matter.  Now something else must be considered; he calls it “quintessence.” It is “a nonzero vacuum energy” that “may dominate the energy of the universe, govern its ultimate destiny, and swamp all matter, even dark matter, in ultimate cosmic importance.”  Krauss is an accomplished guide through modern cosmology.  The rewards of the search for dark matter and vacuum energy, he says, “could be spectacular: a window on the universe at the earliest instants of creation, an understanding of its destiny, and finally, an understanding of the formation of all the structure we observe.”

Scientific American,  September 2000,  pg 105


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