A collection of gems…

Author:  Carlo Rovelli

seven-brief-lessons-on-physics-cover-165x250Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.  The title is completely self-explanatory.    But as it is with so much in modern physics, the title’s simplicity is deceptive.  Presented by Carlo Rovelli, an Italian physicist at Aix-Marseille University, this slim volume is compelling evidence that less is actually more.  Beautifully translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre, each lesson is an expansion of a series of articles published in Il Sole 24 Ore, an Italian newspaper.

Lesson one takes the reader back one hundred years to Einstein’s greatest achievement, his general theory of relativity which completely transformed our view of the universe.  In subsequent essays, Rovelli explores the concept of quanta, the structure of the cosmos, the elementary particles, quantum gravity, probability and time.  In the final essay, he explores humanity’s search for meaning in this brave new world, attempting to reconcile fate, freedom and randomness in our daily lives.

Professor Rovelli

Professor Rovelli

While each lesson is a like an exquisite poetic gem, my favorite is lesson five, which illuminates the search for a way to unify relativity and quantum theory, focusing on some of Rovelli’s own work on loop quantum gravity theory.  Describing space at its most elemental level, it presents amazing ideas that I’ve never encountered before, discussing them in an entirely straightforward manner.

Einstein said that if you can’t explain something simply, then you don’t really understand it.  Rovelli puts that idea to the test in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and he may come closer to succeeding than anyone else possibly could.  Splendidly written for the general reader, each essay is a treat for anyone interested in the seemingly bizarre world we live in.

— D. Driftless

author photo by Temugin (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Check out some of Dave’s other reviews of physics books:  Einstein and the Quantum   /   Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space  /   Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

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