What is gravity? Nobody knows—and just about nobody knows that nobody knows. How something so pervasive can also be so mysterious, and how that mystery can be so wholly unrecognized outside the field of physics, is one of the greatest conundrums in modern science. But as award-winning author Richard Panek shows in this groundbreaking, mind-bending book, gravity is a cold case that’s beginning to heat up.
In The Trouble with Gravity, Panek invites the reader to experience this ubiquitous yet elusive force in a breathtakingly new way. Gravity, Panek explains, structures not only our bodies and our physical world, but also our minds and culture. From our very beginnings, humans’ conceptions of gravity have been inextricably bound to our understanding of existence itself. As we get closer and closer to solving the riddle of gravity, it is not only physics that is becoming clearer. We are also getting to know ourselves as never before.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Nobody knows what gravity really is, but that hasn’t stopped science writer Richard Panek from trying to pin it down. In The Trouble with Gravity, he studies how humanity has conceived of this omnipresent-but-elusive force that holds the universe together. With a sustained sense of wonder, Panek finds the roots of science in our myths and poetry, uncovering the provocative side of something we only think we know. His rigorous-but-readable book won’t reveal what gravity is, but will challenge your view of the universe and our place in it.
Science writer Panek (The 4 Percent Universe) examines evolving theories of gravity in this thought-provoking volume, rounding up "the usual suspects Aristotle, Newton, Einstein" to reconstruct their preconceptions and interrogate their conclusions. From the rigid spheres-only cosmology of Aristotle, which forced mathematicians to try to manipulate "the math down here to match the motions up there," to Copernicus's equations introducing the "possibility that Earth was a planet like any other," to the experiments of Galileo establishing that a rolling ball "sped up at an unvarying rate," Panek demystifies early investigations of gravity with easy humor and a philosophical bent. In contemporary theories, readers learn "the velocity of light is finite in Maxwell's equations, too, but it's also, crucially, something else: constant," which, in the 1860s, shifted the paradigm once again. Ultimately, he observes, Aristotle's view of the universe held sway for two millennia, while "Einstein's lasted less than a decade," thanks to the introduction of quantum mechanics. Panek's inquisitive, fine-tuned narrative is full of character and, unlike many other books on physics, imbued with the friendly casualness of a coffee-shop chat. As such, it will delight both lay readers and serious students.
Trouble with gravity