Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Rovelli, Carlo. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. Trans. Simon Carnell and Erica Segre. New York: Riverhead Books, 2016. Print.

This international bestseller describes breakthroughs and mysteries of physics with an intended audience of the general public. The book is adapted from a series of weekly segments in the Sunday edition of an Italian newspaper. As of this writing, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics was the number one seller in the Physics category of books on Amazon.

The book is divided into seven lessons/chapters:

1)      General Relativity: Space and time curve because the gravitational field is space itself. Time is relative, not universal (3-12).

2)      Quanta: Electrons do not exist unless observed; reality materializes through interaction (13-22).

3)      The Architecture of the Cosmos: A history of our understanding of the cosmos—from the idea that Earth is at the center, to Copernicus decentering it, and finally our current understanding, based on images from the Hubble telescope: there are billions of galaxies (23-30).

4)      Particles: There are several elementary particles that interact throughout space, moving in and out of existence (31-38).

5)      Grains of space: This chapter describes loop quantum gravity--space has minimal units (quanta) linked together and we can learn more about the history of the universe by looking at black holes. Perhaps the expansion of the universe follows an earlier contraction of space. (39-50).

6)      Probability, Time, and the Heat of Black Holes: The past, present, and future exist simultaneously but we experience an illusion that time passes or flows, and that there is a past and future separate from the present. The present is subjective. We can perhaps better understand time by studying black holes. (51-64).

7)      Ourselves: We are naturally curious, so we follow leads to develop our knowledge. Still, what we know is limited by our perspective, and happens within the brain. We are part of the universe, and we ourselves are ephemeral—we’ll soon be extinct, a blip in the cosmos. (65-81).

PhysicsKatie Ancheta