cover image Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives

Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives

Brian Clegg. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-61629-8

As the most familiar physical force in the universe, gravity may not seem exciting, but British science writer Clegg (Armageddon Science) shows how this “omnipresent” force—which strengthens bones and muscles and binds together planets, stars, and galaxies—is anything but simple. The history of gravity theory begins with the ancient Greeks, who reasoned that “earthy” (as opposed to “airy”) objects had a kind of “natural heaviness” that made them “want to be at the center of the universe.” Centuries later, Galileo’s experiments with pendulums and rolling spheres revealed gravity as a force that controlled motion everywhere, but even Isaac Newton’s laws of motion failed to pierce the veil around this mysterious “action at a distance.” It took Einstein’s groundbreaking work on relativity theory to reveal how much gravity shapes the universe, warping space into an invisible world only revealed second-hand by the movement of masses and light. Clegg’s accessible presentation offers insight into everything from Aristotelian science to black holes and string theory as it reveals the complexities and surprises of a familiar force that continues to surprise scientists. (May)