Saturday, December 10, 2016

Thoughts on Rovelli’s 7 Lessons in Physics: Great intuition on tricky concepts (esp. gravity) - wish it wasn't so brief

I read Carlo Rovelli’s book Seven Lessons in Physics with great interest. I have some physical knowledge myself but certainly nothing about the sophisticated particle physics that he talks about and I found the book gave me good intuitions about how to think about the frontiers of physics. I particularly like the way he talks about the fundamental differences between the conceptions of general relativity and those of quantum mechanics -- the eternal feud of Einstein and Bohr -- and how they give rise to very different pictures of the universe that to this day have not been fully reconciled. I also liked the way he talked about various attempted reconciliations, such as loop quantum gravity, and the simplifications and assumptions they make. The discussion about heat and the arrow of time was also good. The distinction between the statistical mechanical nature of probability and the quantum mechanical conception of it could have been discussed in a little more detail. I would have also liked a little more detail on many modern complicated physical ideas put forth, such as quarks and the SU(5) theory predicting proton decay theory, but I guess that would be out of the scope of this book. Altogether an enjoyable read. I just wish there had been more than brief lessons.

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Carlo Rovelli, Seven Lessons in Physics