Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Everything you need to know about the beauty of modern physics in less than 100 pages.In seven brief lessons, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides readers with admirable clarity through the most transformative physics breakthroughs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This playful, entertaining and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, already...

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Title:Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Author:Carlo Rovelli
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Edition Language:English

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Reviews

  • Darwin8u

    ― Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

    At the highest level a discussion of physics doesn't just operate on a mathematical level, but a poetic and philosophical level as well. Look closely at the writings of Aristotle, Lucretius, Einstein and Feynman, and one disc

    ― Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

    At the highest level a discussion of physics doesn't just operate on a mathematical level, but a poetic and philosophical level as well. Look closely at the writings of Aristotle, Lucretius, Einstein and Feynman, and one discovers not just some code to the operation of the Universe, but love songs to that Universe, a desire to connect to and explain the beauty and transcendence of Nature and our role in this complex and amazing world.

    This book reminds me of a funeral I went to for a former (obvious) client of mine. He was the first nuclear medicine physician in my state and had his PhD and MD. He was a friend and an amazing person. At my table in the church's cultural hall, after the service (but before the burial) was his son, who had his PhD in genetics, a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist, and a theoretical physicist from UC Santa Barbara. The conversation drifted from music to politics to art to nature. It was random, beautiful, and one of those moments that happens by accident and you cherish for years to come. I am reminded of this meal when I read this book.

    This book is short. It is 7 chapters (Six lesson and a conclusion) of about 10 pages each. Imagine you are having a nice, elegant, six course Italian meal with physicists past and present, poets, and philosophers outside in pricy Roman restaurant garden. It is night. It is dark. The canopy of the heavens spins above your heads. Each course brings a new topic. You discuss Einstein and the theory of relativity while eating the appetizer, you move onto Quanta as you eat the soup. The pasta is served just as the conversation turns to the architecture of the Cosmos. When the main course is served, people are already talking about Quarks and the Standard Model. The discussion gets intense. A Romaine salad is served and the host interrupts to talk about the grains of space and, since he is paying, he also talks about loop quantum gravity. Things are slowing down. It is late, the discussion jumps to probability, time, and the heat of black holes as the desert dishes are set down. Finally, as everyone is given their bitter digestifs, they move away to the table to walk in the gardens to discuss everyone's favorite subject: ourselves. Poetry and alcohol flow quickly, conversations grow hot and cold. The center cannot hold. The company departs.

    Anyway, I loved it.

  • Kevin Kelsey

    This book explained the basic concepts of physics, and major breakthroughs in the field over the years in such an effortlessly poetic way, that I couldn't help but be drawn in and understand them a little bit better. Really fantastic stuff.

  • ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Ok, I admit to some of my sins. I picked this up to make myself feel better on my loafing, which is something that keeps happening often! I might be deluding myself... or not.

    The fabrics of reality, as we try to understand it now, is described in this book in a visionary language. We are able to follow a journey through centuries, to see links between the greatest mind influencers of all ages.

    I do too feel better about myself and my lapses in 'daily toil'. Cheers!!!

    Q:

    Ok, I admit to some of my sins. I picked this up to make myself feel better on my loafing, which is something that keeps happening often! I might be deluding myself... or not.

    The fabrics of reality, as we try to understand it now, is described in this book in a visionary language. We are able to follow a journey through centuries, to see links between the greatest mind influencers of all ages.

    I do too feel better about myself and my lapses in 'daily toil'. Cheers!!!

    Q:

    – something, unfortunately, which the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget. He was in Pavia. He had joined his family having abandoned his studies in Germany, unable to endure the rigours of his high school there. It was the beginning of the twentieth century, and in Italy the beginning of its industrial revolution. His father, an engineer, was installing the first electrical power plants in the Paduan plains. Albert was reading Kant and attending occasional lectures at the University of Pavia:

    (c)

    Q:

    Einstein became a renowned scientist overnight and received offers of employment from various universities. (c)

    Q:

    It would take ten years to resolve. Ten years of frenzied study, attempts, errors, confusion, mistaken articles, brilliant ideas, misconceived ideas. (c)

    Q:

    ‘The General Theory of Relativity’, his masterpiece and the ‘most beautiful of theories’, according to the great Russian physicist Lev Landau.

    There are absolute masterpieces which move us intensely: Mozart’s Requiem; Homer’s Odyssey; the Sistine Chapel; King Lear. To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty – and not only this, but the opening of our eyes to a new perspective upon the world. Einstein’s jewel, the general theory of relativity, is a masterpiece of this order. (c)

    Q:

    vacations. I was studying with the help of a book that had been gnawed at the edges by mice, because at night I’d used it to block the holes of these poor creatures in the rather dilapidated, hippy-ish house on an Umbrian hillside where I used to take refuge from the tedium of university classes in Bologna. Every so often I would raise my eyes from the book and look at the glittering sea: it seemed to me that I was actually seeing the curvature of space and time imagined by Einstein. As if by magic: as if a friend was whispering into my ear an extraordinary hidden truth, suddenly raising the veil of reality to disclose a simpler, deeper order. (c)

    Q:

    an extraordinary idea occurred to him, a stroke of pure genius: the gravitational field is not diffused through space; the gravitational field is that space itself. (c)

    Q:

    The student in question, Bernhard Riemann, had produced an impressive doctoral thesis of the kind that seems completely useless. The conclusion of Riemann’s thesis was that the properties of a curved space are captured by a particular mathematical object which we know today as Riemann’s curvature, and indicate with the letter ‘R’. Einstein wrote an equation which says that R is equivalent to the energy of matter. That is to say: space curves where there is matter. That is it. The equation fits into half a line, and there is nothing more. A vision – that space curves – became an equation. (c)

    Q:

    But within this equation there is a teeming universe. And here the magical richness of the theory opens up into a phantasmagorical succession of predictions that resemble the delirious ravings of a madman, but which have all turned out to be true.

    To begin with, the equation describes how space bends around a star. Due to this curvature, not only do planets orbit round the star, but light stops moving in a straight line and deviates. Einstein predicted that the sun causes light to deviate. In 1919 this deviation was measured, and the prediction verified. But it isn’t only space that curves; time does too. Einstein predicted that time passes more quickly high up than below, nearer to the Earth. This was measured and turned out to be the case. If a man who has lived at sea level meets up with his twin who has lived in the mountains, he will find that his sibling is slightly older than him. And this is just the beginning. (c)

    Q:

    In short, the theory describes a colourful and amazing world where universes explode, space collapses into bottomless holes, time sags and slows near a planet, and the unbounded extensions of interstellar space ripple and sway like the surface of the sea … And all of this, which emerged gradually from my mice-gnawed book, was not a tale told by an idiot in a fit of lunacy, or a hallucination caused by Calabria’s burning Mediterranean sun and its dazzling sea. It was reality.

    Or better, a

    (c)

    Q: Perhaps anyone reading this will still be able to appreciate its wonderful simplicity:

    Rab − ½ R gab = Tab

    That’s it.

    You would, of course, need to study and digest Riemann’s mathematics in order to master the technique to read and use this equation. It takes a little commitment and effort. But less than is necessary to come to appreciate the rarefied beauty of a late Beethoven string quartet. In both cases the reward is sheer beauty, and new eyes with which to see the world. (c)

    Q:

    Quanta

    ...

    The work of Einstein was initially treated by colleagues as the nonsensical juvenilia of an exceptionally brilliant youth. (c)

    Q:

    Heisenberg imagined that electrons do not always exist. They only exist when someone or something watches them, or better, when they are interacting with something else. They materialize in a place, with a calculable probability, when colliding with something else. The ‘quantum leaps’ from one orbit to another are the only means they have of being ‘real’: an electron is a set of jumps from one interaction to another. When nothing disturbs it, it is not in any precise place. It is not in a ‘place’ at all.

    It’s as if God had not designed reality with a line that was heavily scored, but just dotted it with a faint outline. (c)

    Q:

    This lesson is made up mostly of simple drawings. The reason for this is that before experiments, measurements, mathematics and rigorous deductions, science is above all about visions. Science begins with a vision. Scientific thought is fed by the capacity to ‘see’ things differently than they have previously been seen. I want to offer here a brief, modest outline of a journey between visions. (c)

    Q:

    A world of happenings, not of things. (c)

    Q:

    So, for the moment we have to stay with the Standard Model. It may not be very elegant, but it works remarkably well at describing the world around us. And who knows? Perhaps on closer inspection it is not the model that lacks elegance. Perhaps it is we who have not yet learnt to look at it from just the right point of view; one which would reveal its hidden simplicity. (c)

    Q:

    A handful of types of elementary particles, which vibrate and fluctuate constantly between existence and non-existence and swarm in space even when it seems that there is nothing there, combine together to infinity like the letters of a cosmic alphabet to tell the immense history of galaxies, of the innumerable stars, of sunlight, of mountains, woods and fields of grain, of the smiling faces of the young at parties, and of the night sky studded with stars. (c)

    Q:

    A university student attending lectures on general relativity in the morning and others on quantum mechanics in the afternoon might be forgiven for concluding that his professors are fools, or have neglected to communicate with each other for at least a century. In the morning the world is curved space where everything is continuous; in the afternoon it is a flat space where quanta of energy leap.

    The paradox is that both theories work remarkably well. (c)

    Q:

    It is not the first time that physics finds itself faced with two highly successful but apparently contradictory theories. The effort to synthesize has in the past been rewarded with great strides forward in our understanding of the world. Newton discovered universal gravity by combining Galileo’s parabolas with the ellipses of Kepler. Maxwell found the equations of electromagnetism by combining the theories of electricity and of magnetism. Einstein discovered relativity by way of resolving an apparent conflict between electromagnetism and mechanics. A physicist is only too happy when he finds a conflict of this kind between successful theories: it’s an extraordinary opportunity. Can we build a conceptual framework for thinking about the world which is compatible with what we have learnt about it from both theories?

    Here, in the vanguard, beyond the borders of knowledge, science becomes even more beautiful – incandescent in the forge of nascent ideas, of intuitions, of attempts. Of roads taken and then abandoned, of enthusiasms. In the effort to imagine what has not yet been imagined. (c)

    Q:

    The illusion of space and time which continues around us is a blurred vision of this swarming of elementary processes, just as a calm, clear Alpine lake consists in reality of a rapid dance of myriads of minuscule water molecules. (c)

    Q:

    We realize that we are full of prejudices and that our intuitive image of the world is partial, parochial, inadequate. ... If we try to put together what we have learnt in the twentieth century about the physical world, the clues point towards something profoundly different from our instinctive understanding of matter, space and time. Loop quantum gravity is an attempt to decipher these clues, and to look a little further into the distance. (c)

    Q:

    Why does heat go from hot things to cold things, and not vice versa?

    It is a crucial question, because it relates to the nature of time. In every case in which heat exchange does not occur, or when the heat exchanged is negligible, we see that the future behaves exactly like the past. For example, for the motion of the planets of the solar system heat is almost irrelevant, and in fact this same motion could equally take place in reverse without any law of physics being infringed. As soon as there is heat, however, the future is different from the past. While there is no friction, for instance, a pendulum can swing forever. If we filmed it and ran the film in reverse we would see movement that is completely possible. But if there is friction then the pendulum heats its supports slightly, loses energy and slows down. Friction produces heat. And immediately we are able to distinguish the future (towards which the pendulum slows) from the past. We have never seen a pendulum start swinging from a stationary position, with its movement initiated by the energy obtained by absorbing heat from its supports. The difference between past and future only exists when there is heat. The fundamental phenomenon that distinguishes the future from the past is the fact that heat passes from things that are hotter to things that are colder.

    So, again, why, as time goes by, does heat pass from hot things to cold and not the other way round?

    The reason was discovered by Boltzmann, and is surprisingly simple: it is sheer chance.

    Boltzmann’s idea is subtle, and brings into play the idea of probability. Heat does not move from hot things to cold things due to an absolute law: it only does so with a large degree of probability. The reason for this is that it is statistically more probable that a quickly moving atom of the hot substance collides with a cold one and leaves it a little of its energy, rather than vice versa. Energy is conserved in the collisions, but tends to get distributed in more or less equal parts when there are many collisions. In this way the temperature of objects in contact with each other tends to equalize. It is not impossible for a hot body to become hotter through contact with a colder one: it is just extremely improbable. (c)

    Q:

    Einstein wrote a moving letter to Michele’s sister: ‘Michele has left this strange world a little before me. This means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction made between past, present and future is nothing more than a persistent, stubborn illusion.’ (c)

    Q:

    Within the immense ocean of galaxies and stars we are in a remote corner; amidst the infinite arabesques of forms which constitute reality we are merely a flourish among innumerably many such flourishes. (c)

    Q:

    Myths nourish science, and science nourishes myth. But the value of knowledge remains. If we find the antelope we can eat. (c)

    Q:

    The information which one physical system has about another has nothing mental or subjective about it: it’s only the connection that physics determines between the state of something and the state of something else. A raindrop contains information on the presence of a cloud in the sky; a ray of light contains information on the colour of the substance from which it came; a clock has information on the time of day; the wind carries information about an approaching storm; a cold virus has information of the vulnerability of my nose; the DNA in our cells contains all the information in our genetic code (on what makes me resemble my parents); and my brain teems with information accumulated from my experience. The primal substance of our thoughts is an extremely rich gathering of information that’s accumulated, exchanged and continually elaborated. (c)

    Q:

    It is not against nature to be curious: it is in our nature to be so.

    One hundred thousand years ago our species left Africa, compelled perhaps by precisely this curiosity, learning to look ever further afield. Flying over Africa by night, I wondered if one of these distant ancestors setting out towards the wide open spaces of the North could have looked up into the sky and imagined a distant descendant flying up there, pondering on the nature of things, and still driven by the very same curiosity. (c)

    Q:

    What’s more, we do damage. The brutal climate and environmental changes which we have triggered are unlikely to spare us. For the Earth they may turn out to be a small irrelevant blip, but I do not think that we will outlast them unscathed – especially since public and political opinion prefers to ignore the dangers which we are running, hiding our heads in the sand. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our individual mortality. I fear that soon we shall also have to become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilization.

    ...

    And it’s certainly not the first time that this will have happened. The Maya and Cretans, amongst many others, have already experienced this. We are born and die as the stars are born and die, both individually and collectively. This is our reality. Life is precious to us because it is ephemeral. And as Lucretius wrote: ‘our appetite for life is voracious, our thirst for life insatiable’ (De rerum natura, III, 1084). But immersed in this nature which made us and which directs us, we are not homeless beings suspended between two worlds, parts of but only partly belonging to nature, with a longing for something else. No: we are home.

    Nature is our home, and in nature we are at home. This strange, multicoloured and astonishing world which we explore – where space is granular, time does not exist, and things are nowhere – is not something that estranges us from our true selves, for this is only what our natural curiosity reveals to us about the place of our dwelling. About the stuff of which we ourselves are made. We are made of the same stardust of which all things are made, and when we are immersed in suffering or when we are experiencing intense joy we are being nothing other than what we can’t help but be: a part of our world. (c)

    Q:

    It is part of our nature to love and to be honest. It is part of our nature to long to know more, and to continue to learn. Our knowledge of the world continues to grow.

    There are frontiers where we are learning, and our desire for knowledge burns. They are in the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, at the origins of the cosmos, in the nature of time, in the phenomenon of black holes, and in the workings of our own thought processes. 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. And it’s breathtaking. (c)

  • Elizabeth

    This review was originally published on

    .

    In those moments of life when the grim figures of anxiety, stress, or panic grip me tight and threaten to never let go, I have learned that the one thing sure to scare them off is a nice little face-off with the end of the universe.

    That’s my super casual way of saying I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with anxiety recently. Anxiety is a fucker because it messes with my ability to concentrate which is something very necessary

    This review was originally published on

    .

    In those moments of life when the grim figures of anxiety, stress, or panic grip me tight and threaten to never let go, I have learned that the one thing sure to scare them off is a nice little face-off with the end of the universe.

    That’s my super casual way of saying I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with anxiety recently. Anxiety is a fucker because it messes with my ability to concentrate which is something very necessary for actually reading and enjoying books rather than continually picking them up and putting them down and wandering around the house worrying about the fact that you haven’t read any damn books to talk about on your book-related social media and feeling like you should be doing something productive instead but not actually being able to do it and then worrying about that as well. BASTARD.

    But back to the subject at hand: science books!

    When none of my fictional favourites can hold my attention I find that often a little non-fiction does the job. And so on my latest foray to the book shops I spotted SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS by Carlo Rovelli and snapped it up. It’s such a wee little thing and yet so intriguing with its evocative title that it seemed perfect. 78 pages of basic science, what could possibly be more innocuous. Little did I know.

    The tiny size of SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS belies the size of the utter mind-fuck that is held within.

    Allow me to explain. It starts amicably enough:

    That’s me, right there. Little to nothing; me and Jon Snow are with you. The principle of the book is to give a tiny “overview” of the revolutions in the understanding of physics that have happened in the past century or so. It begins with lesson one – Einstein that fluffy haired moppet, who changed the world by suggesting that space isn’t, well, space. It’s not an empty area populated by waves and forces and things – it literally IS those forces. There was some visualising of rubber sheets which left me a little cross-eyed but essentially getting the gist of it. But then Rovelli happily hopped onwards to lesson two where he calmly announced that quantum mechanics means that reality only sometimes exists.

    OKAY THEN, RIGHT, THAT’S FINE. YOU CARRY ON. I’LL LEAVE MY BRAIN IN THIS PUDDLE.

    By lesson five time itself had gone out the window and the entirety of the universe followed shortly thereafter. Physics, it seems, does not fuck around. But it was the seventh chapter that really leaves you staring into the void.

    Rovelli uses this final lesson to grapple with the relevance of physics to our lives. Or, more accurately, of the relevance of our lives in the vast and uncaring strangeness of the cosmos. With the same sparse simplicity of words that he used to set out the mind-bending reality that is revealed by physics, he touches on the concepts of thought, learning, philosophy, ethics, and, of course, of death. Like many of the books where science meets philosophy, the wording gets close to religious in its solemn beauty.

    That’s dark stuff, man. COLD. But actually I found myself weirdly comforted. Rovelli takes pains to explain that however dark and weird the universe may seem, we are not alien to it, but part of it. We are at home in its weird unreality. It’s quite a moment when you can look into the void and the only thing that comes to mind is that old song by Simon and Garfunkel…

    It reminded me of

    , that strange and lovely conglomeration of scientific ideas, literature and philosophy compiled and presented by

    as a secular bible. Like a religious person seeking succour in a religious text I find my calm in the place where science meets philosophy.

    The concepts set out in this book are mind-bendingly weird. I’m not sure I really comprehended the full meaning of it all (which is probably the point, temptations to learn more and all that) but it was completely and utterly engaging. My only criticism was, really, its brevity. For some of the more complex concepts just a little more time spent trying to give me a better mental grasp of these slippery thoughts would have been perfect. A page, maybe two. No more.

    The writing style is excellent – elegant, flowing, and measured. And a translated text I can only suppose that this is a sign of both an excellent author and some damn fine translators. It balances the need for simple explanations of complex ideas with evocative, beautiful prose – it’s a science book written for readers, not scientists after all.

    It’s worth reading for the madness of the physics alone but for my anxious brain it was the strange, warm bath in the restaurant at the end of the universe that it needed. And for that, Carlo Rovelli, I thank you.

    This review was originally published on

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  • Sean Gibson

    It should be noted as a point of fact that “brief” does not mean “simple.”

    I really like physics. It explains how everything works, and it’s a discipline that doesn’t dogmatically cling to outmoded ideas when new evidence suggests that everything we thought we knew was completely and totally erroneous (I, conversely, very much enjoy clinging dogmatically to outmoded ideas, including, but not limited to, the idea that parachute pants are cool, Van Hagar was the best incarnation of Van Halen, and i

    It should be noted as a point of fact that “brief” does not mean “simple.”

    I really like physics. It explains how everything works, and it’s a discipline that doesn’t dogmatically cling to outmoded ideas when new evidence suggests that everything we thought we knew was completely and totally erroneous (I, conversely, very much enjoy clinging dogmatically to outmoded ideas, including, but not limited to, the idea that parachute pants are cool, Van Hagar was the best incarnation of Van Halen, and it’s not a crime to wear socks with sandals).

    Do I understand physics? Heck no. If you could have seen my brain (insert microscope joke here) as I read this slim but enlightening tome, it would have looked distressingly like one of those delightful taffy pulling machines you see at quaint, old-fashioned candy stores on Mackinac Island or a boardwalk somewhere.

    That said, for someone who hasn’t read much on physics in about 20 years, this is an excellent (and mercifully high-level) overview of the current state of the field and includes brief forays into topics ranging from general relativity to cutting-edge loop quantum gravity theory. Of particular note is the current thinking on the dimension of time and how our perception of time may, in fact, be just that—a perception and not a fixed value (reading that section was the point at which my poor taffy puller exploded and left me all sticky…insert atrocious double entendre here).

    If you’re an armchair science enthusiast like me, this is probably just the right amount of detail; if you’re smarter than I am (likely) or more well read on what’s going on in physics these days, though, you may want to look elsewhere for a dose of enlightenment.

  • Joey Woolfardis

    The first thing that needs to be said is that I have overrated this book by at least one star, maybe two. And I reason thusly...

    It is at times poetic, always interesting and forever thought-provoking. It is a beautifully bound hardback (if you have that copy), small enough to take with you everywhere and enjoy anywhere, and tactile enough to let you enjoy what you have just read in a way many books do not allow.

    However...

    Carlo Rovelli is the Italian version of

    The first thing that needs to be said is that I have overrated this book by at least one star, maybe two. And I reason thusly...

    It is at times poetic, always interesting and forever thought-provoking. It is a beautifully bound hardback (if you have that copy), small enough to take with you everywhere and enjoy anywhere, and tactile enough to let you enjoy what you have just read in a way many books do not allow.

    However...

    Carlo Rovelli is the Italian version of

    Professor Brian Cox. He is a physicist who writes to help the everyday man understand what he does on a daily basis. This is a good thing. You can't just go talking to people about quarks and expect them to know their neutrons from their neurons

    their neutrinos.

    The science is-as science can be-accurate and wonderful. It's the basics, without going in to entropy, but Rovelli does not have the best bedside manner. His explanations are not on point and he seems to run over himself a few times. Once or twice I lost the train of thought, because, even though atoms make up molecules, they are different things in essence, but they're the same as well, and Rovelli doesn't quite get this across in a way that doesn't make me want to just start reading Alan Bennett in Alan Bennett's voice and to hell with atoms.

    It's also focused heavily on space, which is the of-the-moment sexy side of physics (and science as a whole). It's popular, so here's a book on it. "Let me tell you about gravitational waves and these quarks I got... *eyebrow wiggle*" Space is sexy right now. Eau de Elon Musk. Base notes of glandular secretions etc

    was also originally written in Italian and has been translated in to English, and that always presents a problem. It seems ridiculous to wonder why it couldn't have been written in English in the first place, because almost 99% of the poetry and wonder will have been lost. Unless someone who speaks both English and Italian fluently and has read the both of them can tell me otherwise, I'd say this is a pointless book in it's current format.

    A beautiful book, nonetheless. Which brings me on to why the stars are shining more. And the reason is, this book will bring in the readers who read it purely for the pretty cover. Or because Emma Roberts was seen reading it on Instagram. And I like that.

    Popularity very rarely touches at the heart of the deserving and, whilst it may not be perfect, it is accurate (as accurate as theories can be, aye? (that's a physicist joke #sorrynotsorry)) and will either spark the imagination of the reader, make them wonder about the world and want to find out more... or will make them continue as they were before.

    But to be given the chance, in this world of over-paid talentless fecks, where women who can't string a sentence together get paid millions because everyone is horny but won't admit it and people who make stuff with their own hands still are labelled weirdos...

    To know that I've kept the average 5-star rating quite high and that anyone who bases a book on the average of its stars on GoodReads might pick this up (the exact kind of person who

    to read this). Well done me.

    So why not the ever-elusive five stars? Because I'm a sparkly lion not a sheep. And I'm not your mam.

  • Lori

    Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

    by

    Carlo Rovelli

    A theoretical physicist philosophical guide to modern physics. It’s written as an assessable introduction for people unfamiliar with the concepts. Successfully, I believe. A lot of times beginner guides are overly simple for the first chapter and then require years of study to understand the rest of the book. At less than 100 pages, you can’t expect a thorough explanation and quantum physics is mind-bending. You might want the text to best appreciate

    Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

    by

    Carlo Rovelli

    A theoretical physicist philosophical guide to modern physics. It’s written as an assessable introduction for people unfamiliar with the concepts. Successfully, I believe. A lot of times beginner guides are overly simple for the first chapter and then require years of study to understand the rest of the book. At less than 100 pages, you can’t expect a thorough explanation and quantum physics is mind-bending. You might want the text to best appreciate it. Thanks to Houston Public Library I had both.

    For millennia people thought there was only Earth and sky:

    Twenty-six centuries ago, Anaximander figured out that there's space on all sides:

    Other Ancient Greeks concluded that the earth was a sphere, with celestial objects orbiting it:

    Then Copernicus figured out that Earth orbited the sun:

    Then we realized our solar system was just one of one hundred billion in our galaxy:

    I really liked the ending. It’s dark, but I liked it.

    *********************************************************

  • Brian Clegg

    This strikes me as the kind of book that would really impress an arts graduate who thought it was giving deep insights into science in an elegant fashion, but for me it was a triumph of style over substance - far too little content to do justice to the subject. It is, in effect, seven articles strung together as a mini-book that can be read comfortably in an hour, but is priced like a full-length work.

    Don't get me wrong, Carlo Rovelli knows his stuff when it comes to physics and gives us postcar

    This strikes me as the kind of book that would really impress an arts graduate who thought it was giving deep insights into science in an elegant fashion, but for me it was a triumph of style over substance - far too little content to do justice to the subject. It is, in effect, seven articles strung together as a mini-book that can be read comfortably in an hour, but is priced like a full-length work.

    Don't get me wrong, Carlo Rovelli knows his stuff when it comes to physics and gives us postcard sketches of a number of key areas, mostly in the hot fields like cosmology and quantum gravity (though interestingly focussing on the generally rather less popular loop quantum gravity). However he's not so good on his history of science, and can, as scientists often do when writing for the general public, over-simplify.

    The last of the articles is different from the rest - rather than take in a specific field (quantum physics, say) as the earlier articles do, it looks at how people and science interact. In some ways this is the freshest and most interesting part of the content... it's just hard to see why it's a 'lesson in physics.'

    This book came across to me like a taster menu from a fancy restaurant. It will certainly hit the mental tastebuds, and contains a number of delights - but it is insubstantial and leaves you wanting far more. I can see the title doing very well as a gift book. It looks pretty and is handsomely bound, but there are plenty of better options out there if a reader really wants to be introduced to the wonders of modern physics.

  • Jamie

    Quick read. I felt the author talked about himself more than any of the theories he was trying to convey in his book.

    These are such complex theories, that were so dumbed- down it was impossible to read at times.

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