Although brief in terms of pages, this book is not a breeze. Each lesson moves through the evolution of theories on the make up of the universe. Carlo Rovelli starts with Einstein’s work that proved “that atoms really exist” and laid “the first foundation for quantum mechanics” [p 3]
It only takes a few pages before I have difficulty wrapping my head around things – even though I’ve heard about them before.
“Heisenberg imagined that electrons do not always exist. They only exist when someone or something watches them, or better, when they are interacting with something else. They materialize in a place, with a calculable probability, when colliding with something else. “The ‘quantum leaps’ from one orbit to another are the only means they have of being ‘real: and electron is a set of jumps from one interaction to another. When nothing disturbs it, it is not in any precise place. It is not in a ‘place’ at all.” [p 17]
Couldn’t it just as easily be true that we just don’t know how to track their movement? But, hey, I’m just an English major, not a physicist.
Rovelli works in the field of loop quantum gravity, which “is an endeavor to combine general relativity and quantum mechanics.” [p 47] If I remember correctly, in “The Big Bang Theory” television show, Sheldon and Leslie Winkle have an argument about whether loop quantum gravity or string theory is the best way to model the universe. [Poor Leonard is caught in the middle of the argument.] I find it notable that Rovelli doesn’t give string theory the time of day.
All in all an interesting book that serves as an introduction into modern physics theories.