'A dazzling book ... the new Stephen Hawking' Sunday Times
The bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics takes us on an enchanting, consoling journey to discover the meaning of time
'We are time. We are this space, this clearing opened by the traces of memory inside the connections between our neurons. We are memory. We are nostalgia. We are longing for a future that will not come.'
Time is a mystery that does not cease to puzzle us. Philosophers, artists and poets have long explored its meaning while scientists have found that its structure is different from the simple intuition we have of it. From Boltzmann to quantum theory, from Einstein to loop quantum gravity, our understanding of time has been undergoing radical transformations. Time flows at a different speed in different places, the past and the future differ far less than we might think, and the very notion of the present evaporates in the vast universe.
With his extraordinary charm and sense of wonder, bringing together science, philosophy and art, Carlo Rovelli unravels this mystery. Enlightening and consoling, The Order of Time shows that to understand ourselves we need to reflect on time -- and to understand time we need to reflect on ourselves.
Translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre
In this far-reaching text rife with references to poets, artists, and philosophers, as well as scientists, theoretical physicist Rovelli (Seven Brief Lessons on Physics) takes readers through the current scientific understanding of time, stating that "we inhabit time as fish live in water." Rovelli begins with a look at why time, Rainer Maria Rilke's "eternal current," only flows forward. Humans can see the past but not the future, he writes, because of how heat flows, from hot to cold. He states that "only where there is heat is there a distinction between past and future," using as an example a film of a rolling ball gradually slowing, due to heat-producing friction; if run backwards, the film becomes absurd. Entropy, "the quantity that measures this irreversible progress of heat in only one direction," provides the direction of "time's arrow." Meanwhile, the human perception of simultaneity, the idea of "now" in two different locations, is an illusion, an insight that Rovelli calls "perhaps the greatest and strangest of Einstein's discoveries." In considering time, Rovelli also explores quantum time, loop theory, and the nature of memory. As much philosophy as physics, this accessible study introduces the complex questions behind the perception and study of time.