Recommended Reading: “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics”

Consider this: “Planets circle around the sun, and things fall, because space curves.”

Such a means of explaining the force of gravity has the capacity to change the way people think about physics, which is exactly what Carlo Rovelli’s “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” does — and more.

In a mere 78 pages, Rovelli guides us on a journey through space and time from its smallest dimensions of the sub-atomic building blocks, to the almost infinite dimensions of the universe itself. In a novella-like format reminiscent of Fitzgerald or Camus, Rovelli’s book managed to summarize, with accessible fluency, everything from black holes to quantum mechanics and the cosmos. While not an exhaustive expose on any of the topics, “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” triumphantly educates the reader on otherwise complex theories.

Beyond characterizing facts science might already know, Rovelli addresses the open door of physics by highlighting the “scientific loose ends” related to each topic. The honest assertion that science has yet to fully answer every question was delightedly refreshing — and intriguing.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring part of this book t was how Rovelli masterfully illustrated the intrinsic and intimate relationship between science and philosophy. He asks: “What is the ‘present’?” The discussion proceeds to explore free will and the meaning of the self, with science at the intersection of existentialism and romanticism.

I have read widely about physics and cosmology, and noted how difficult it is to express the basic concepts in non-mathematical language. Rovelli, writing in Italian and translated by a poet, achieves an extraordinary combination of elegant expression and scientific rigor, while conveying the sheer beauty of physical laws. Physics, it turns out, is something of a great work of art unto itself. Presented in an accessible yet intellectually rigorous style, I would classify “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” as nothing less than scientific literature.

–Robert Rosenkranz