Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Carlo Rovelli, trans. from the Italian by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre. Riverhead, $18.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-399-18441-3
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.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Other - 978-0-14-754391-2
Compact Disc - 978-1-5247-2338-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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