Review of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 136, 1252, 155–156 (June 2016)

This is a book review of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. The seven lessons cover general relativity, quantum mechanics, the structure of the universe, elementary particles, quantum gravity, black-hole thermodynamics, and ourselves. "Lessons" sounds perhaps too strict; these are essays, illuminating not only the topics but also Rovelli's personal connections to them. While the first four chapters discuss common topics in popular-science books, the next three are somewhat unusual in this respect: chapters five and six because they discuss cutting-edge areas, and the last chapter because it is concerned with humans---not as animals and thus just another part of the universe, but as beings with souls (a concept which Rovelli is able to convey without any trace of mysticism). In this short book, Rovelli cannot really enable the uninitiated reader to see through the jargon to the inner beauty, but he does provide some motivation for doing so, the reward being beauty like that we can perceive in other areas of our experience.

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