Seven Brief Lessons on Physics 2A small book, no more than 100 pages, with some very big ideas. I must start my review with complete honesty, I bought this book because the cover is fantastic, but the read turned out to be so much better. Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, one of the founders of a popular theory in physics called loop quantum gravity, through a series of translated essays first published in an Italian newspaper explains the major concepts of modern physics. Rovelli’s concise, comprehensible and beautiful writing makes sense of some of the most intricate notions such as quantum mechanics, cosmology, thermodynamics and general relativity. His enthusiasm for the subjects pours off the pages and his poetic descriptions make for a more than enjoyable and thought provoking read. Rovelli manages to take some of the most complicated science known to man and present the essence of the topics without getting bogged down in the details.

Most interesting to me is Rovelli’s commentary on the humility of sceince greats; Albert Einstein began an early passage in his groundbreaking paper on the quantization of light with “It seems to me” — Rovelli simplifies by observing, “Genius hesitates.” An interesting thought to ponder during this election cycle.

Rovelli on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the impact of which he
captures in a wonderfully poetic passage:

It’s a moment of enlightenment. A momentous simplification of the world: space is no longer something distinct from matter — it is one of the “material” components of the world. An entity that undulates, flexes, curves, twists. We are not contained within an invisible, rigid infrastructure: we are immersed in a gigantic, flexible snail shell. The sun bends space around itself, and Earth does not turn around it because of a mysterious force but because it is racing directly in a space that inclines, like a marble that rolls in a funnel. There are no mysterious forces generated at the center of the funnel; it is the curved nature of the walls that causes the marble to roll. Planets circle around the sun, and things fall, because space curves.

 

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
by Carlo Rovelli