The New York Times bestseller from the author of The Order of Time and Reality Is Not What It Seems, Helgoland, and Anaximander
“One of the year’s most entrancing books about science.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Clear, elegant...a whirlwind tour of some of the biggest ideas in physics.”—The New York Times Book Review
This playful, entertaining, and mind-bending introduction to modern physics briskly explains Einstein's general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role humans play in this weird and wonderful world. Carlo Rovelli, a renowned theoretical physicist, is a delightfully poetic and philosophical scientific guide. He takes us to the frontiers of our knowledge: to the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, back to the origins of the cosmos, and into the workings of our minds. The book celebrates the joy of discovery. “Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world,” Rovelli writes. “And it’s breathtaking.”
This enchanting book from Rovelli, an Italian theoretical physicist, looks at physics as a continually changing quest for understanding of our universe, instead of as immutable laws of nature. These pieces, expanded from a series of articles written for a general audience that knows "little or nothing about modern science," are not true lessons, though there are some conceptual explanations. Rather, the essays are a joyous celebration of scientific wonder. Rovelli compares Einstein's general theory of relativity to Mozart's Requiem or the Sistine Chapel: "To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty." Exploring that beauty and mystery, he notes the "paradox at the heart of our understanding of the physical world." When Rovelli arrives at the edges of certainty, his writing turns lyrical, even mystical, as science becomes "incandescent in the forge of nascent ideas." Discussing thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, he poses a Zen-like question "What is a vibrating time?" that leads to the book's heart: he asserts that the study of infinitesimal particles and black holes is part of being human, and that the divide between science and the rest of learning is artificial. "The border is porous," Rovelli writes. "Myths nourish science, and science nourishes myth."