by Richard Panek
Oneworld Publications, 2011
Review by Ramona Wadi
Panek presents a scientific account which is at once informative and accessible even to the reader whose interest does not lie in science. A narrative which asserts in the prologue, "It's 1610 all over again." entices to reader to appreciate science in its own evolution, in its philosophy and within the backdrop of history.
The quest undertaken by the scientists to determine the secret of dark matter unfolds at a fast pace. However, this is just a fragment of Panek's narration, as three quarters of the unknown universe consisted of a substance known as dark energy, which was responsible for the expansion of the universe, defying the laws of gravity. The universe is suddenly 'new' - with experiments revealing that what we know of the universe consists of only around 4%.
The 4% Universe deals with the subject from various aspects - the enormity of the unknown and the insistence to define it. In the wake of the discovery lies the unassailable knowledge that what cannot be articulated into factual recognition is ultimately greater than the fraction of the universe which we know and form part of. Whilst our consciousness seems to be only concerned with the immediate and the accessible, the immense reality beyond what we know of our realm leads one to ponder almost philosophically about how the prologue delves even further beyond.