“Rovelli is a genius and an amazing communicator… This is the place where science comes to life.” ―Neil Gaiman
“One of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline...[a] momentous book” ―John Banville, The Wall Street Journal
A startling new look at quantum theory, from the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and The Order of Time.
One of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists, Carlo Rovelli has entranced millions of readers with his singular perspective on the cosmos. In Helgoland, he examines the enduring enigma of quantum theory. The quantum world Rovelli describes is as beautiful as it is unnerving.
Helgoland is a treeless island in the North Sea where the twenty-three-year-old Werner Heisenberg made the crucial breakthrough for the creation of quantum mechanics, setting off a century of scientific revolution. Full of alarming ideas (ghost waves, distant objects that seem to be magically connected, cats that appear both dead and alive), quantum physics has led to countless discoveries and technological advancements. Today our understanding of the world is based on this theory, yet it is still profoundly mysterious.
As scientists and philosophers continue to fiercely debate the meaning of the theory, Rovelli argues that its most unsettling contradictions can be explained by seeing the world as fundamentally made of relationships rather than substances. We and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another. This bold idea suggests new directions for thinking about the structure of reality and even the nature of consciousness.
Rovelli makes learning about quantum mechanics an almost psychedelic experience. Shifting our perspective once again, he takes us on a riveting journey through the universe so we can better comprehend our place in it.
Physicist Rovelli (The Order of Time) dazzles with this look at the "almost psychedelic experience" of understanding quantum theory. He begins by explaining the theory's development on the North Sea island of Helgoland in 1925, when Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist, discovered the "strangely beautiful interior" of an atom's mathematical structure. From there, Rovelli outlines what he views as the "most convincing" understanding of quantum theory, a relational interpretation that suggests quantum theory describes "how every physical object manifests itself to any other physical object" and hinges on the idea that interactions between objects form observable reality and, thus, all objects, including humans, exist only in terms of their interactions with other objects. He puts this idea into conversation with philosophy and consciousness, fields where debates about quantum theory are plenty, writing, "Our prejudices concerning how reality is made are just the result of our experience." These are big ideas, but Rovelli easily leads readers through the knotty logic, often with lyricism: "The courage to radically reinvent the world: this was the subtle fascination of science that first captivated me as a rebellious adolescent." Readers who follow along will be left in awe.