I belong to two reading groups; one of them used to meet on a Wednesday evening once a month, but for various reasons we had to change the day and then no-one could manage the same evening and so we decided to meet in the afternoon, which at the moment seems more flexible. Somehow the change of time has changed the feel of the group; it’s still lovely, and it’s great to be with friends who have such interesting and different points of view… but it’s just different!
This month we read quite a challenging book, a very short book, but for people with an arts/literature/English background, reading about science and reading about physics was… well, it was a challenge! The book we read was a best-seller in Italy; it is ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ by Carlo Rovelli. It’s less than a hundred pages long, and physically (little joke) it’s a beautiful book, lovely cover, pages which feel nice to touch. The way the book is laid out, the font, the size of the book, everything about it makes you want to read it, even though the subject matter is a little daunting to people who have never studied science.
Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist and his focus has been on the physics of space and time. He’s Italian but has also worked in the USA; he now lives and works in Marseilles, “directing the quantum gravity research group of the Centre de Physique Théorique”. His Penguin book page says: These seven short lessons guide us, with simplicity and clarity, through the scientific revolution that shook physics in the twentieth century and still continues to shake us today. In this mind-bending introduction to modern physics, Carlo Rovelli explains Einstein’s theory of general relativity, quantum mechanics, black holes, the complex architecture of the universe, elementary particles, gravity, and the nature of the mind.
We always try and choose something different to discuss, and this certainly was very different. We decided to each take a different chapter to talk about and there were two ‘lessons’ which we’d discuss generally – we all read the whole book, we just focussed on a particular thing. My chapter was on the Architecture of the Cosmos…
I can’t say I understood very much of the book, but I read it all and enjoyed it; beautifully written, with humour, descriptions of other things, explained in a down to earth way (another little joke) and we had one of our best reading group meetings… even without the wine! Our hostess gave us a cream tea with fresh strawberries so we didn’t miss our usual refreshment.
I really recommend this book, even if you have no clue about science… the ideas are really difficult, but it gives a glimpse into a fascinating subject which I just wish I had the right sort of brain to appreciate!