Ever since time began, or didn’t, I have been fascinated with science things and stuff. I want to know how and why something works. It’s a personality thing I suppose (possibly a procrastination tool too!) At school, before I slunk off and was more concerned with how to spike my hair, I was actually quite good at physics, biology and chemistry. Perhaps somewhere in this personality of mine is a mind that can engage with science.
When I found out that soap and water was quite effective at producing the spike my knowledge of science was quite basic. In the years intervening I have tried to understand things. And, quite often, failed. Bluffers’ guides and 30 Second Theories through to a little Hawking, have often left me feeling like I don’t quite get it.
Now, along comes Reality is not what it seems by Carlo Rovelli, and after reading this little book I kind of get it. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t had the blinkers removed. I’m not sure I could explain it all to you, dear reader, but as I read, highlighted bits and pondered, I found myself nodding and thinking ‘ah, right, ok.’
The book follows a narrative from the early Greek thinking of Democritus on the indivisible atoms through to today’s conjecture around quantum gravity. It shows how over the years theories about space, time, particles and fields have joined, split, merged and
Rovelli is easy to read, and for me, he explained what has been going on at a level I could engage with. The book is now covered in highlights and has many pages with their corners turned. It made an enjoyable read, compared to the patronising approach by many TV programmes and news presentations. Mainstream media will often hail science as having all the answers, Rovelli, though not disagreeing, has a more subtle angle.
The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty: it is nourished by a radical distrust in certainty
Reality, although accessible, isn’t lightweight. There is a lot here that went over my head (although that isn’t too difficult – metaphorically and literally). It has extensive endnotes and bibliography, so further study is an option. It also has all the equations that mean so much yet are understood by so few.
After reading this, I’m hoping I might be able to understand some of the other books I have. If you have an interest in what reality is, or what is the stuff that makes everything, then this book is a great place to start.
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