Physicist Rovelli is a charming, thought-provoking tour guide as he takes us on “a magical journey out of our common-sense view of things”by Manjit Kumar / November 17, 2016 / Leave a comment
Reality is Not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli (Allen Lane, £16.99)
This hugely engaging book, which leaves the head spinning, was published in Italy before Carlo Rovelli’s international bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. Rovelli, an Italian theoretical physicist based in Marseille, admits that Seven Lessons was “a synthesis of some of the topics you find here.” But Reality is Not What It Seems is a far more challenging and rewarding read.
At the heart of both books is “loop quantum gravity,” an attempt championed by Rovelli to unite the two great pillars of modern physics—quantum mechanics and general relativity. Without quantum mechanics there would be no internet, mobile phones and many other everyday gadgets, even though the theory itself “remains shrouded in obscurity and incomprehensibility.” General relativity is Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity in which the Earth moves around the Sun because mass warps space, and warped space tells matter how to move.
The two theories led to a re-evaluation of certain concepts about the world: matter and energy in quantum mechanics; space and time in relativity. Rovelli explains why the theories in their current forms are incompatible and thus the need for a quantum theory of gravity.
From evaporating black holes to quantum fields, Rovelli is a charming, thought-provoking tour guide as he takes us on “a magical journey out of our common-sense view of things” to a strange, mysterious realm where reality at its most fundamental level does not exist in space or develop in time, but still allows the existence of space, time, particles, waves and light.