Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe” as Want to Read:
We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  209 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Look around you. The reflection of your face in a window tells you that the universe is orchestrated by chance. The iron in a spot of blood on your finger tells you that somewhere out in space there is furnace at a temperature of 4.5 billion degrees. Your TV tells you that the universe had a beginning. In fact, your very existence tells you that this may not be the only un ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about We Need to Talk about Kelvin, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about We Need to Talk about Kelvin

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 625)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Courtney Johnston
It turns out that you can have too many analogies in a pop science book.

Chown sets out to explain the sheer lunacy - the total irrationality - of the quantum world by making comparisons to everyday lives and things. A mass of billions and billions and billions of bananas or microwave ovens would emit as much heat as the sun - because it's the mass, not the substance, that's of crucial importance. Light is both a photon and a wave: "Imagine you are standing by a fire hydrant in New York's Times S
I started reading "Kelvin" halfway through January, and it feels like it's taken me almost that long to compose this review. The problem is that I want to rave, and I'm having to restrain my enthusiasm so I can compose some intelligent arguments as to why you should read this book.

So let me get the raving out of the way first. I really enjoyed this book. I expected to be educated and enlightened, but I never expected to be entertained as well. I laughed more than once, and enjoyed sharing quotes
I'm a little out of my element with quantum physics, and found the examples hard to follow at times...Nevertheless I did experience a few eureka moments along the way and i certainly have an increasing appreciation of how incredible our existence truly is.

I found some of the descriptions of quantum behavior a bit hard to comprehend and yet after a couple of you tube searches on topics such as "wave particle duality", the clever cgi animations had me grasping the ungraspable. On reflection, I can
Jo Watson
I wanted to love this book, but I didn't. I can't really put my finger on it, but the balance between facts, hard science and analogies were off. His analogies at times were very confusing and hard to follow. But maybe I am comparing him to 'the big 3' Greene, Susskind and Kaku. His previous book "Quantum theory cannot hurt you" was a much better read. Perhaps it is the actual device used in the book that I did not enjoy, the taking of everyday 'things. and using them to explain bigger concepts. ...more
Mawa Mahima
We Need to Talk About Kelvin, not Kevin, KELVIN!

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused. But on a higher level.

My group of science geeks were shunned from the classroom a while back, and imprisoned in the science department office with a new occupation as researchers in whatever subject we deemed interesting. (Of course it had to be interesting, we were presenting our research to our peers after all).

I don't know how people do it
Arnost Stedry
Pokud bych měl shrnout obsah Chownovy knihy do jednoho citátu, byl by to tento:

"Odraz vaší tváře v okně sděluje šokující objev v historii vědy: a sice, že svět na jeho nejhlubší úrovni řídí náhody; že věci se nakonec dějí zcela bez důvodu. "

Jak vidno, autor se snaží najít zcela běžné jevy a vystopovat jejich původce až k počátkům vesmíru. A to míním doslova. Přitom se mu daří být zábavný a poučný v duchu nejlepších tradic popularizačních knih Richarda Feynmana. Jeho výklady jsou často překvapivé
Richard Mullahy
Very enjoyable read, although for some of the quantum theory all I can say is that if this is accessible what the hell are the regular books like. My admiration for the theoretical physicists, mathematicians and other that populate this book has only increased from its reading.
Bharath Ramakrishnan
A good book if the universe and it's mysteries interest you. Takes examples of things we observe everyday to reveal facts about the universe. eg: our partial reflection in the window pane tells us something about quantum physics!
Henna Achhpal
I was under the impression that this book would be like Bill Bryson's Nearly A Short History Of Everything and honestly I was really looking forward to gaining snippets of interesting information however I couldn't get past the first ten pages itself. I was expecting it to be about stuff related to physics but written in a way to allow the lay person to understand however it isn't like that. Must say I was disappointed.
Well. I don't really have much to say, clearly this book was not ment for me. It happens to you with movies too but then you say "yeah it's not really my genre" but this was topic of my interest, therefore no comfort of three stars.

Even though it may be popular-sciency way of describing interesting of the universe the way it was described did not even slightly cought me in.
A good pop science book, well worth reading. However not quite as engaging as many such books and a bit heavy in places. This does have the benefit though of rephrasing some familiar subjects in clearer ways and raising new and interesting aspects that you may not have read about elsewhere. There's a pretty good glossary too, one that's actually worth reading.
Noushin Afrashteh
If atoms, stars and astrophysics isn't your cup of tea then this book will not make you change your mind. I picked it because i had heard great reviews about it and was hoping it can make me understand the excitement world of stars and atoms. Didn't work; in fact, if anything, now I now why i'm interested in the subject; it all so subjective.
An amazing Sunday afternoon read, well-written, entertaining and all around interesting book that takes the discoveries of physics and astronomy throughout history and brings them closer to the layman understanding by taking everyday stuff from our lives and forming the explanations from them. Definitely a good read, I'd recommend it.
Very easy to read although I had to make a second pass at some of the chapters. The style of writing is engaging but the book could really do with some illustrations as I found myself completely bewildered at certain points and had to read and re-read paragraphs over and over before I could make sense of what was being described.
I've been meaning to read something by Chown for some time after hearing a recommendation from "Dr Karl" on the "Naked Scientist" podcasts. As they say...I wasn't disappointed! Explanations of current cosmology and quantum science pitched at just the right level for high school/undergraduate folks with an interest in science.
I enjoyed this book, Marcus Chown is very good at delivering popular science. In this tome, he takes the simplest of starting points and explains how they hint at the deepest mysteries of the universe. Some of the quantum mechanics gets a bit deep but it still makes for a good read.
Aug 22, 2010 Rose added it
Shelves: 2010, science
Before I read this book, I was confused about this subject. Having read it, I am still confused. But on a higher level.

(Apologies to Fermi)
Nov 03, 2010 Steve marked it as to-read
Review of this book in the 20 October 2010 issue of The Independent, London, in an article entitled "Endangered: The Science Book Prize."
Lingliang Zhang
Insightful look into how much simple science that we take for granted really tells us about the nature of reality.
Helen Callaghan
Advanced scientific and quantum concepts explained beautifully. Really enjoyed it and found it very helpful.
I'll come back with a review when my brain has stopped hurting!
Paul Cheney
Interesting book. very complex in parts.
Loved this book!
Cefotax marked it as to-read
Jan 25, 2015
Maha Almojel
Maha Almojel marked it as to-read
Jan 24, 2015
Vaishnavi marked it as to-read
Jan 23, 2015
Molly marked it as to-read
Jan 21, 2015
Hrvoje Vrhovski
Hrvoje Vrhovski marked it as to-read
Jan 18, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 21 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Quantum 1 6 Jan 21, 2010 03:21AM  
  • In Search of the Multiverse
  • Molecules at an Exhibition: Portraits of Intriguing Materials in Everyday Life
  • Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
  • A World Without Ice
  • Darwin's Island: The Galapagos In The Garden Of England
  • Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story Of Human Life In Britain
  • Antimatter
  • Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets
  • Why Beauty Is Truth: A History of Symmetry
  • What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life
  • Wonders of the Universe
  • Science and Islam
  • How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells
  • The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World
  • Dice World: Science and Life in a Random Universe
  • God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science
  • Complexity: A Guided Tour
  • Storms Of My Grandchildren: The Truth About The Climate Catastrophe And Our Last Chance To Save Humanity
Marcus Chown is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. Formerly a radio astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, he is currently cosmology consultant of the weekly science magazine New Scientist. He is the author of the bestselling Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, The Never Ending Days of Being Dead and The Magic Furnace. He also wrote The Solar System, the bestselling ap ...more
More about Marcus Chown...
Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You The Never-Ending Days of Being Dead: Dispatches from the Frontline of Science The Quantum Zoo: A Tourist's Guide to the Neverending Universe The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms What a Wonderful World: One Man's Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff

Share This Book

“Fermi proslul svou schopností jednoduchým a rychlým způsobem odhadnout fyzikální veličiny. Při explozi první jaderné bomby v Alamogordu v poušti v Novém Mexiku 15. července 1945 například upustil kus papíru z výšky ramen a sledoval, jak se vlivem nárazové vlny z bomby odklonil. Tím, že věděl, že epicentrum je devět mil daleko, odhadl energii výbuchu – jednalo se o ekvivalent více než 10 000 tun TNT.” 3 likes
“Odraz vaší tváře v okně sděluje šokující objev v historii vědy: a sice, že svět na jeho nejhlubší úrovni řídí náhody; že věci se nakonec dějí zcela bez důvodu.” 1 likes
More quotes…