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What is a black hole? Could we survive a visit to one? Perhaps even venture inside? What would we find? Have we yet discovered any real black holes?

And what do black holes teach us about what physicist John Archibald Wheeler called “the deep, happy, mysteries of the universe”?

These are just a few of the tantalizing questions examined in this jargon-free review of one of the most fascinating topics in modern science. In search of the answers, we trace a star from its birth to its death throes, take a fabulous hypothetical journey to the border of a black hole and beyond, spend time with some of the world’s leading theoretical physicists and observational astronomers scanning the cosmos for evidence of real black holes, and take a whimsical look at some of the wild ideas black holes have inspired.

• • • • • • REVIEWS • • • • • •

“Ferguson succeeds in explaining black holes at a level that will be inviting to those with little or no prior knowledge. Her writing is lucid, her analogies good. Just when you thought it was all over, black holes are back.”
— John Barrow, New Scientist

“Have you ever wanted to pursue reading about black holes, yet didn’t feel like having to read it over and over to understand what is really being said? Well this is the book you should purchase. It is one of the most easy to read books and it manages to avoid all of the astronomical jargon that can get some people confused. And at the same time it teaches you so much in so little time! I know I was on page 79 before I knew it. I just could not put it down! Make sure you get it!
— Online review

“Kitty Ferguson marshals her arguments well, taking a bite at a time and giving the reader the opportunity to digest before cramming in the next. Her text is carefully thought out, vivid and accurate. A sensible index and suggestions for further reading round the whole thing off nicely. I am glad I read it.”
— Roger O’Brien, Journal of the British Astronomical Society

“The reader will be amply rewarded not only with knowledge, but also with the humor, fantasy, poetry and awe Ferguson brings to the subject.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Kitty Ferguson has an amazing gift for translating incredibly difficult concepts from modern physics into language that anybody can grasp. “Prisons of Light” is a great example. If you want to understand black holes, but you know nothing of calculus or quantum dynamics, than this is the book for you. It is enjoyable reading and informative in the extreme. It is the place to start in this subject area. Highly recommended!”
— Fredric Pierce, online review

“This is for those who failed to read Brief History of Time. It explains complex theories with a clarity that astounds. I read through the whole thing in less than 2 days, it was compelling as a novel. This is indeed a great book that makes complicated physics as easy as pie.”
— slidinjac, online review

• • • • • • TABLE OF CONTENTS • • • • • •

1. Prologue
2. A cosmic case of burnout
3. Matters of gravity: Newton and Einstein
4. The capture of light
5. Tripping the theoretical fantastic
6. Crossing the bar
7. Contemplating an enormous nothing
8. Evidence in the case
9. Hearts of darkness
10. The search goes on
11. Passages into the labyrinth
12. Black hole legends and far out ideas
13. Epilogue
14. Further reading, and Index