The Universe in a Mirror

The Universe In a Mirror, Book Cover
From Princeton University Press, June 2008

Buy an autographed copy!

More than any other scientific instrument invented since Galileo first looked through a spyglass in 1609, the Hubble Space Telescope has helped to reshape our view of the universe. As I wrote in chapter 7, "Here was truth, staring us all in the face."

Yet the effort to build this space telescope was long, hard, painful, and often destructive to the individuals involved. It is my hope that with the publication of The Universe in a Mirror, some of that pain and loss can be repaired, and that the men and women who sacrificed much to make this achievement possible will get the credit they truly deserve.

"Zimmerman demonstrates the importance of vision, perseverance, politics, and good luck in getting this national telescope constructed, fixed, and operated. He also illustrates, somewhat poignantly at times, the human costs and disappointments that came up along the way." --J. Michael Shull, University of Colorado at Boulder
"For everyone who knows something of the story of the space telescope and its travails, this book provides a fascinating look behind the scenes. An excellent contribution to the history of technology." --Robert P. Kirshner, author of The Extravagant Universe
"Spectacular images of the cosmos from the Hubble Space Telescope have become so routine that it's easy to forget the astronomical community's despair in 1990, when NASA discovered that the main mirror was improperly shaped. In The Universe in a Mirror, Robert Zimmerman brings the visionaries behind this most remarkable of instruments vividly to life, taking us artfully through the decades--long minefield of lobbying, funding, design, construction, delay after the Challenger explosion and launch--and then through the Hubble's near-death experience as astronomers realized to their horror that its mirror was ground to the wrong shape. His meticulously researched but engaging prose makes it clear how remarkable an achievement the telescope actually was, and how easily it might not have happened at all." --Michael D. Lemonick, contributing writer to Time and lecturer at Princeton University
"Quite a story. I really liked this book." -- John Huchra, Harvard University

Read the first chapter! [pdf]

Read the Wall Street Journal review by Glenn Reynolds.

Read the Wall Street Journal article by Daniel Henninger.

Read the New York Times review by Dennis Overbye.

Read an interview of the author for

Read an excerpt from the book describing two of Hubble's biggest discoveries.

Named to Booklist's Top Ten Sci-Tech Books for 2008.

Named to the long list of thirteen books eligible to win the 2009 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books.

Read my thoughts upon taking the Page 99 test for page 99 of "The Universe in a Mirror."

Check out the reviews on's webpage.


  • Hugh

    A sequel is needed. The launching of x ray and gamma ray telescopes (e.g. Chandra and Fermi) that continue to expand knowledge of the universe makes possible new branches to astronomy. The observation of neutron stars is now possible, for example, even though they emit little visible light
    One such neutron star was observed to emit gamma rays in bursts at specific frequencies. The rest of the spectrum of X-rays and gamma rays was missing. The reason postulated was that the intense magnetic field of the star interacted with electrons that would emit this radiation. No longer would the radiation be emitted until energies reached quantum levels (Landau levels). Surprisingly, this phenomenon may have an earthly application.
    Fusion experimenters have long been frustrated by the need to heat fusion plasmas. The usual method is to use electron beams to do this, but they naturally lose energy by radiating X-rays (bremsstrahlung radiation). Dynamic fusion techniques using collapsing magnetic fields provide an opportunity to use more of the injected electron energy for plasma heating.

  • wayne

    can the above be deleted?

  • Questioner

    Wayne and Edward:

    This blog is not made because it daily with new, often daily updated entries progresses and displaces old, to stay for a long time on a topic and to discuss it in detail. Because I want to add something to the topic of “consciousness as ultimate reality”. I use the comment column of this entry or article for the sake of simplicity.

    With the video linked here, I would like to point out this extraordinary fact that Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, where he defends his (second) doctoral thesis in this video, has just been successfully confered a doctorate on this topic with the consciousness as a fundamental reality at a Dutch university. Maybe they look at it.

    I reprint here three comments from his YouTube video related to his achievement:

    Monistic Idealism:
    “Well done Dr. Kastrup! Distinguished scholars like yourself making the case for idealism in the academy and in the public square is what will secure its rightful and inevitable comeback. We are forced into a consciousness-only ontology like a checkmated king: any alternative threatens the existence, irreducibility, and causal efficacy of consciousness, all of which are indispensable.”

    Tom G:
    “This is a credit to several things, the classical university system in general, the sincerity and transparency of assessment of Raboud University, and the deep insight and analytical ability of the candidate, Dr Bernado Kastrup. More than this, it may well be analogous (to my mind), to the awarding of a PhD to Louie de Broglie, in the Physics of the earlier 20th century. That idea of ‘matter waves’ was ridiculed until Einstein himself was involved in the Doctoral assessment. A ‘ridiculous’ idea that spawned quantum mechanics and changed our view of the physical universe forever. In fact given the enormous change Kastrup’s thesis represents (not to existing physics, but to the very ontological basis of physics and all of science), Dr Kastrup and the essential basis of this thesis may well take a crucially profound place in the history of Philosophy, and Science, and perhaps change the way humankind views their place in existence.”

    Curtis Hazel:
    “Congratulations! The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. The world will be a better place when this becomes the majority position on consciousness. Bernardo, your determination in pursuing a doctorate in philosophy to further this view of consciousness is honorable. You certainly had nothing to prove based on the body of work already published, but you have now paved the way for future scholars to build on this model. Bravo!!”

Readers: the rules for commenting!


No registration is required. I welcome all opinions, even those that strongly criticize my commentary.


However, name-calling and obscenities will not be tolerated. First time offenders who are new to the site will be warned. Second time offenders or first time offenders who have been here awhile will be suspended for a week. After that, I will ban you. Period.


Note also that first time commenters as well as any comment with more than one link will be placed in moderation for my approval. Be patient, I will get to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *