Cover image for Reality is not what it seems : the journey to quantum gravity / Carlo Rovelli ; translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre.
Title:
Reality is not what it seems : the journey to quantum gravity / Carlo Rovelli ; translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre.
ISBN:
9780735213920
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York, New York : Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

©2016
Physical Description:
280 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published in Italian under the title: La Realtà non è come ci appare.

English translation published in Great Britain by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK.
Contents:
Grains ; Is there a limit to divisibility? ; The nature of things -- The classics ; Isaac and the little moon ; Michael: fields and light -- Albert ; The extended present ; The most beautiful of theories ; Mathematics or physics? ; The cosmos -- Quanta ; Albert again ; Niels, Werner, and Paul ; Fields and particles are the same thing ; Quanta 1: Information is finite ; Quanta 2: Indeterminacy ; Quanta 3: Reality is relation ; But do we really understand? -- Spacetime is quantum ; Matvei ; John ; The loop's first steps -- Quanta of space ; Spectra of volume and area ; Atoms of space ; Spin networks -- Time does not exist ; Time is not what we think it is ; The candle chandelier and the pulse ; Spacetime sushi spinfoam ; What is the world made of? -- Beyond the big bang ; The master ; Quantum cosmology -- Empirical confirmations? ; Signals from nature ; A window onto quantum gravity -- Quantum black holes -- The end of infinity -- Information ; Thermal time ; Reality and information -- Mystery.
Abstract:
Traces how the human image of the world has changed throughout history, demonstrating the evolution of the idea of reality while touching on subjects ranging from the Higgs boson to quantum gravity.

"A closer look at the mind-bending nature of the universe. What are the elementary ingredients of the world? Do time and space exist? And what exactly is reality? Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has spent his life exploring these questions. He tells us how our understanding of reality has changed over the centuries and how physicists think about the structure of the universe today. In elegant and accessible prose, Rovelli takes us on a wondrous journey from Democritus to Albert Einstein, from Michael Faraday to gravitational waves, and from classical physics to his own work in quantum gravity. As he shows us how the idea of reality has evolved over time, Rovelli offers deeper explanations of the theories he introduced so concisely in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. This book culminates in a lucid overview of quantum gravity, the field of research that explores the quantum nature of space and time, seeking to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity. Rovelli invites us to imagine a marvelous world where space breaks up into tiny grains, time disappears at the smallest scales, and black holes are waiting to explode--a vast universe still largely undiscovered."--Dust jacket.
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Summary

Summary

"The man who makes physics sexy . . . the scientist they're calling the next Stephen Hawking." -- The Times Magazine

From the New York Times -bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics , a closer look at the mind-bending nature of the universe.

What are the elementary ingredients of the world? Do time and space exist? And what exactly is reality? Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has spent his life exploring these questions. He tells us how our understanding of reality has changed over the centuries and how physicists think about the structure of the universe today.

In elegant and accessible prose, Rovelli takes us on a wondrous journey from Democritus to Albert Einstein, from Michael Faraday to gravitational waves, and from classical physics to his own work in quantum gravity. As he shows us how the idea of reality has evolved over time, Rovelli offers deeper explanations of the theories he introduced so concisely in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics .

This book culminates in a lucid overview of quantum gravity, the field of research that explores the quantum nature of space and time, seeking to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity. Rovelli invites us to imagine a marvelous world where space breaks up into tiny grains, time disappears at the smallest scales, and black holes are waiting to explode--a vast universe still largely undiscovered.


Author Notes

Carlo Rovelli was born on May 3, 1956 in Verona, Italy. He graduated from the University of Bologna (B.S. and M.S. in Physics) and the University of Padova (PhD in Physics).

His postdoctoral positions included University of Rome, Trieste, and Yale University. He is head of the quantum gravity group at the Aix-Marseille University, Centre de Physique Theorique and is an affiliated Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Pittsburgh.

His recent book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (2016) is a New York Times bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his latest explanatory work, Rovelli (Seven Brief Lessons on Physics), a theoretical physicist and proponent of loop quantum gravity, sets himself the difficult task of attempting to clarify for laypeople the most recent scientific theories about the nature of the universe. He begins with historical lessons, going back to philosophical questions posed in Western antiquity. Rovelli races forward through the work of Newton, Faraday, and Maxwell to get to how Einstein refined and added to the field theories of electromagnetism. One of the book's strengths is the picture Rovelli develops of how scientists build on the work of others. But the bulk of the book focuses on evaluating the perplexing nature of space and time, which, as they are commonly understood, appear to be little more than convenient constructs. "Space is created by the interaction of individual quanta of gravity," Rovelli writes, while "the world is made entirely made from quantum fields." The difficulty of understanding this aside, Rovelli smoothly conveys the differences between belief and proof, and concludes with a lovely chapter on being ignorant and eager for the next discovery. Rovelli's work is challenging, but his excitement is contagious and he delights in the possibilities of human understanding. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

In this beautifully written book, Rovelli (director, the quantum gravity group, Centre de Physique Théorique, Aix-Marseille Université; Seven Brief Lessons on Physics) describes the state of theoretical physics today and how we got there. He starts with the ancient Greek philosophers, some of whom noted that assuming space to be infinitely divisible leads to logical paradoxes and a few who proposed that the world was composed of indivisible small pieces that are constantly in motion. Throughout, the author refers back to the ancients and explains how their intuition was markedly prescient. Today our model of reality has two parts: quantum mechanics and general relativity. However, singularities arise when, as with black holes, we allow an object with mass to shrink to a point, which brings the two theories into conflict. To eliminate the singularities, the author proposes a theory of quantum gravity, which assumes that space itself is composed of a huge number of incredibly small quanta-not an infinite number of infinitesimal points. With full disclosure, Rovelli tells us that this is a work in progress and that many disagree with him. But he makes a convincing argument for his position and includes a lovely explanation of why time itself may be an illusion. Verdict This is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort. It includes neither experimental support nor mathematical formulas; an excellent choice for the intelligent layperson.-Harold D. Shane, Mathematics Emeritus, Baruch Coll., CUNY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Prefacep. 1
Introduction: Walking Along the Shorep. 5
Part 1 Roots
1 Grainsp. 15
Is There A Limit to Divisibility?p. 23
The Nature of Thingsp. 32
2 The Classicsp. 41
Isaac and the Little Moonp. 41
Michael: Fields and Lightp. 53
Part 2 The Beginning of the Revolution
3 Albertp. 67
The Extended Presentp. 69
The Most Beautiful of Theoriesp. 77
Mathematics or Physics?p. 91
The Cosmosp. 94
4 Quantap. 109
Albert Againp. 110
Niels, Werner, and Paulp. 114
Fields and Particles are the same thingp. 126
Quanta 1 Information is Finitep. 130
Quanta 2 Indeterminacyp. 132
Quanta 3 Reality is Relationalp. 134
But Do We Really Understand?p. 137
Part 3 Quantum Space and Relational Time
5 Spacetime Is Quantump. 147
Matveip. 151
Johnp. 154
The Loops' First Stepsp. 159
6 Quanta of Spacep. 161
Spectra of Volume and Areap. 163
Atoms of Spacep. 169
Spin Networksp. 171
7 Time Does Not Existp. 175
Time is not what we think it isp. 177
The Candle Chandelier and the Pulsep. 179
Spacetime Suship. 183
Spinfoamsp. 186
What is the World Made Of?p. 192
Part 4 Beyond Space and Time
8 Beyond the Big Bangp. 201
The Masterp. 201
Quantum Cosmologyp. 206
9 Empirical Confirmations?p. 210
Signs from Naturep. 214
A Window onto Quantum Gravityp. 218
10 Quantum Black Holesp. 222
11 The End of Infinityp. 230
12 Informationp. 238
Thermal Timep. 249
Reality and Informationp. 253
13 Mysteryp. 258
Notesp. 266
Annotated Bibliographyp. 270
Indexp. 273

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