Is it truly possible to explain the most compelling theories in modern physics in less than 100 pages? In language even nonscientists can understand? Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli proves that such an explanation is indeed possible—and surprisingly beautiful—in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. An international bestseller, it has outsold Fifty Shades of Grey in Italy, where Rovelli’s book was first published.
Rovelli perfectly conveys the mix of blind faith, crushing doubt and wonder that have guided our understanding of the world around us. The third lesson, “The Architecture of the Cosmos,” uses eight simple diagrams to graph our evolving understanding of ourselves and where exactly we are, from a lone stick man sandwiched between flat planes of Earth and sky to mere stardust that may well be a dream experienced by something in another universe.
In lessons on general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary particles, gravity and black holes, Rovelli beautifully merges the study of the universe with our ever-shifting understanding of our place within it. “We are like an only child who in growing up realizes that the world does not revolve only around himself, as he thought when little,” Rovelli writes. “Mirrored by others, and by other things, we learn who we are.”
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics is a science book that reads like a poem, and resonates like one, too. It’s educational to be sure, but its biggest lesson seems to be that remaining curious is our greatest hope as individuals and a species.