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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Everything you need to know about the beauty of modern physics in less than 100 pages.In seven brief lessons, Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides readers with admirable clarity through the most transformative physics breakthroughs of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This playful, entertaining and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, already a major bestseller in Italy, explains general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, and the role of humans in the strange world Rovelli describes. This is a book about the joy of discovery. It takes readers to the frontiers of our knowledge: to the most minute reaches of the fabric of space, back tothe origins of the cosmos, and into the workings of our minds. Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world, Rovelli writes. And its breathtaking....

Title : Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
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ISBN : 9780399184413
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 86 pages
Url Type : Home » Seven » Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Reviews

  • Elizabeth

    This review was originally published on the books and pieces blog.

    In those moments of life when the grim figures of anxiety, stress, or panic grip me tight and threaten to never let go, I have learned that the one thing sure to scare them off is a nice little face-off with the end of the universe.

    That’s my super casual way of saying I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with anxiety recently. Anxiety is a fucker because it messes with my ability to concentrate which is something very necessary

    "These lessons were written for those who know little or nothing about modern science."


    That’s me, right there. Little to nothing; me and Jon Snow are with you. The principle of the book is to give a tiny “overview” of the revolutions in the understanding of physics that have happened in the past century or so. It begins with lesson one – Einstein that fluffy haired moppet, who changed the world by suggesting that space isn’t, well, space. It’s not an empty area populated by waves and forces and things – it literally IS those forces. There was some visualising of rubber sheets which left me a little cross-eyed but essentially getting the gist of it. But then Rovelli happily hopped onwards to lesson two where he calmly announced that quantum mechanics means that reality only sometimes exists.

    OKAY THEN, RIGHT, THAT’S FINE. YOU CARRY ON. I’LL LEAVE MY BRAIN IN THIS PUDDLE.

    By lesson five time itself had gone out the window and the entirety of the universe followed shortly thereafter. Physics, it seems, does not fuck around. But it was the seventh chapter that really leaves you staring into the void.

    Rovelli uses this final lesson to grapple with the relevance of physics to our lives. Or, more accurately, of the relevance of our lives in the vast and uncaring strangeness of the cosmos. With the same sparse simplicity of words that he used to set out the mind-bending reality that is revealed by physics, he touches on the concepts of thought, learning, philosophy, ethics, and, of course, of death. Like many of the books where science meets philosophy, the wording gets close to religious in its solemn beauty.

    "We are born and die as the stars are born and die, both individually and collectively. This is our reality…."


    That’s dark stuff, man. COLD. But actually I found myself weirdly comforted. Rovelli takes pains to explain that however dark and weird the universe may seem, we are not alien to it, but part of it. We are at home in its weird unreality. It’s quite a moment when you can look into the void and the only thing that comes to mind is that old song by Simon and Garfunkel…

    Hello darkness, my old friend.

    I've come to talk with you again."


    It reminded me of The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, that strange and lovely conglomeration of scientific ideas, literature and philosophy compiled and presented by A.C. Grayling as a secular bible. Like a religious person seeking succour in a religious text I find my calm in the place where science meets philosophy.

    "Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking."


    The concepts set out in this book are mind-bendingly weird. I’m not sure I really comprehended the full meaning of it all (which is probably the point, temptations to learn more and all that) but it was completely and utterly engaging. My only criticism was, really, its brevity. For some of the more complex concepts just a little more time spent trying to give me a better mental grasp of these slippery thoughts would have been perfect. A page, maybe two. No more.

    The writing style is excellent – elegant, flowing, and measured. And a translated text I can only suppose that this is a sign of both an excellent author and some damn fine translators. It balances the need for simple explanations of complex ideas with evocative, beautiful prose – it’s a science book written for readers, not scientists after all.

    It’s worth reading for the madness of the physics alone but for my anxious brain it was the strange, warm bath in the restaurant at the end of the universe that it needed. And for that, Carlo Rovelli, I thank you.

    This review was originally published on the books and pieces blog. ...more

  • Matteo Fumagalli

    "Non siamo curiosi contro natura, siamo curiosi per natura. [...] Nasciamo e moriamo come nascono e muoiono le stelle, sia individualmente che collettivamente. Questa è la nostra realtà. Per noi, proprio per la sua natura effimera, la vita è preziosa."

  • Jamie

    Quick read. I felt the author talked about himself more than any of the theories he was trying to convey in his book.

    These are such complex theories, that were so dumbed- down it was impossible to read at times.

  • Frabe

    Rovelli, mi si dice, ha il pregio raro

    di spiegare la materia in modo chiaro.

    Io leggo, mi arrovello e... non imparo,

    sicché il mio finale è molto amaro:

    in fisica son proprio un gran somaro!

  • Nooilforpacifists

    Why is everyone so crazy for this book? It's written on in the most abstract generalities (yet he can't resist including the general relativity equation for gravity without explanation). It's a high-level history almost anyone could have written, with one chapter expressing the favorite European flavor of the day: "we're doomed."

    Without footnotes pointing to the more exacting details of physics, what is the audience for this book? The Sunday Supplements? The readers won't learn much--for exampl
    ...more

  • Panagiotis

    Ο Ροβέλι είναι μια εξέχουσα μορφή της θεωρητικής φυσικής. Πέραν της καθαρά ερευνητικής του δραστηριότητας, γράφει σε μια Ιταλική εφημερίδα, φέρνοντας τον καθημερινό άνθρωπο λίγο πιο κοντά στα επιτεύγματα της φυσικής. Σε τούτο το βιβλίο μαζεύει τα πιο σημαντικά του άρθρα, τα εμπλουτίζει και φτιάχνει έναν τόμο.

    Το βιβλίο είχε εξαιρετική επιτυχία, πέρασε σε πωλήσεις μεγαθήρια. Δεν μου κάνει εντύπωση. Πέραν του ότι στην χώρα του ο Ροβέλι έχει μεγάλη απήχηση, γράφει με πάθος αλλά και σεμνότητα. Μέσα σ
    ...more

  • Brian Clegg

    This strikes me as the kind of book that would really impress an arts graduate who thought it was giving deep insights into science in an elegant fashion, but for me it was a triumph of style over substance - far too little content to do justice to the subject. It is, in effect, seven articles strung together as a mini-book that can be read comfortably in an hour, but is priced like a full-length work.

    Don't get me wrong, Carlo Rovelli knows his stuff when it comes to physics and gives us postcar
    ...more

  • RK-ique

    One brief book on modern physics for those of us who know nothing of the subject. I recall a friend talking excitedly about quantum physics in 1968. I paid little attention at the time and since. Now I want to understand a bit of this, just a bit.

    Rovelli does a good job of explaining complex concepts in plain language. Some of it did not come through very well but the book has served its purpose - to give me a sense of the basic problems and concepts of modern physics. In 80 pages, I cannot exp
    ...more