Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Books: Seven Brief Lessons On Physics By Carlo Rovelli

(Drivebycuriosity) - The universe is an amazing place - full of miracles. They are described by  physics. Reading a book about contemporary physics, like Quantum Physics or both Relativity Theories, is like reading Alice in Wonderland. I just finished reading "Seven Brief Lessons On Physics" by Carlo Rovelli which is full of miracles (amazon).

The author promises "a rapid overview of the most fascinating aspects of the great revolution that has occurred in physics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries" and deals with Albert Einstein´s general theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, the architecture of the universe and more.

The book  - based on some essays for an Italian Sunday paper! - is very fluently written but extremely condensed (the printed version has just 68 pages) even you don´t find any equation there.  I enjoyed the clear and crisp style, but digesting it was very challenging for me because I am an economist and not a physicist. Fortunately I have read at least a dozen of books about these issues before, which helped very much. Rovelli`s book is certainly the most entertaining & amusing of all the physics books I have read. Stephen Hawking`s "A Brief History of time" might be a better introduction - and maybe less challenging - but "Seven Brief Lessons" is much more modern and a good complement.

Rovell writes colloquial - and sometimes almost poetic. The author presents - and sometimes criticizes -  new theories & touches a lot fascinating ideas, for instance the concept of  "exploding black holes". He also gets philosophical and muses about "what role do we have as human beings who perceive, make decisions, laugh, and cry, in this great fresco of the world as depicted by contemporary physics".

I do not pretend that I understood much of that, but his lectures certainly animated my thinking and extended my horizon. If you are not a physicist but want to learn about contemporary developments in physics you might include this book into a reading list with at least 5 items.

PS 1: Very helpful are a series of books published by Oxford University Press with the label: "A Very Short Introduction", especially "Particle Physics" by Frank Close (amazon), "Quantum Theory" by John Polkinghorne (amazon) & "Cosmology" by Peter Coles (amazon).

PS 2 For illustration I used a painting by Basquiat. This image looks a bit like the highly sophisticated equations which are the foundation of contemporary physics.

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