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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  33,407 ratings  ·  3,447 reviews
All the beauty of modern physics in fewer than a hundred pages.

This is a book about the joy of discovery. A playful, entertaining, and mind-bending introduction to modern physics, it's already a major bestseller in Italy and the United Kingdom. Carlo Rovelli offers surprising—and surprisingly easy to grasp—explanations of general relativity, quantum mechanics, elementary p
Hardcover, 81 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Riverhead Books (first published October 22nd 2014)
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Caleb Liu Yes, this is a very clear and very concise introduction written simply and often very elegantly. It gives you a good overview of modern physics, often…moreYes, this is a very clear and very concise introduction written simply and often very elegantly. It gives you a good overview of modern physics, often using wonderfully apt images and metaphors. While you will end up with even more questions after reading this, that is a good thing rather than a bad one. (less)
Nathanael This book will give you a nice context for physics if you are studying them in an academic setting. It will not help you with technical work, but rath…moreThis book will give you a nice context for physics if you are studying them in an academic setting. It will not help you with technical work, but rather give a poetic frame to hang the technical "stuff". Its a fast read so I highly recommend it to augment your studies!(less)

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Brian Clegg
This strikes me as the kind of book that would really impress an arts graduate who thought it was giving deep insights into science in an elegant fashion, but for me it was a triumph of style over substance - far too little content to do justice to the subject. It is, in effect, seven articles strung together as a mini-book that can be read comfortably in an hour, but is priced like a full-length work.

Don't get me wrong, Carlo Rovelli knows his stuff when it comes to physics and gives us postcar
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"Physics opens windows through which we see far into the distance. What we see does not cease to astound us. We realize that we are full of prejudices and that our intuitive image of the world is partial, parochial, inadequate."
― Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics


At the highest level a discussion of physics doesn't just operate on a mathematical level, but a poetic and philosophical level as well. Look closely at the writings of Aristotle, Lucretius, Einstein and Feynman, and one disc
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics
Carlo Rovelli

A theoretical physicist philosophical guide to modern physics. It’s written as an assessable introduction for people unfamiliar with the concepts. Successfully, I believe. A lot of times beginner guides are overly simple for the first chapter and then require years of study to understand the rest of the book. At less than 100 pages, you can’t expect a thorough explanation and quantum physics is mind-bending. You might want the text to best appreciate
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ✺❂❤❣
Ok, I admit to some of my sins. I picked this up to make myself feel better on my loafing, which is something that keeps happening often! I might be deluding myself... or not.

The fabrics of reality, as we try to understand it now, is described in this book in a visionary language. We are able to follow a journey through centuries, to see links between the greatest mind influencers of all ages.

I do too feel better about myself and my lapses in 'daily toil'. Cheers!!!

In his youth Albert Einstein
Kevin Kelsey
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
This book explained the basic concepts of physics, and major breakthroughs in the field over the years in such an effortlessly poetic way, that I couldn't help but be drawn in and understand them a little bit better. Really fantastic stuff.
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review was originally published on the books and pieces blog.

In those moments of life when the grim figures of anxiety, stress, or panic grip me tight and threaten to never let go, I have learned that the one thing sure to scare them off is a nice little face-off with the end of the universe.

That’s my super casual way of saying I’ve been having a bit of a hard time with anxiety recently. Anxiety is a fucker because it messes with my ability to concentrate which is something very necessary
Sean Gibson
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
It should be noted as a point of fact that “brief” does not mean “simple.”

I really like physics. It explains how everything works, and it’s a discipline that doesn’t dogmatically cling to outmoded ideas when new evidence suggests that everything we thought we knew was completely and totally erroneous (I, conversely, very much enjoy clinging dogmatically to outmoded ideas, including, but not limited to, the idea that parachute pants are cool, Van Hagar was the best incarnation of Van Halen, and i
Joey Woolfardis
The first thing that needs to be said is that I have overrated this book by at least one star, maybe two. And I reason thusly...

It is at times poetic, always interesting and forever thought-provoking. It is a beautifully bound hardback (if you have that copy), small enough to take with you everywhere and enjoy anywhere, and tactile enough to let you enjoy what you have just read in a way many books do not allow.


Carlo Rovelli is the Italian version of our beloved may he never go back to
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Quick read. I felt the author talked about himself more than any of the theories he was trying to convey in his book.
These are such complex theories, that were so dumbed- down it was impossible to read at times.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics, science
Engaging but over-slight summary of a few foundational concepts of modern physics, including special relativity, quantum theory, the standard model, as well as some leading hypothetical ideas like loop quantum gravity.

It's always welcome to read someone who's working from the conviction that these ideas should be accessible to everyone, not just a coterie of science graduates, and Rovelli certainly has an appealing turn of phrase. For instance: talking about Hawking radiation in the context of c
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it

These seven brief lessons about physics are interesting, enlightening, and (more or less) accessible to non-scientists. The author, Carlo Rovelli, is a theoretical physicist with great enthusiasm for his subject matter.

The lessons (which I'm greatly simplifying) include:

Special Theory of Relativity: The faster you move, the slower time passes. This would be really obvious if you could travel at the speed of light.
General Theory of Relativity: Space is not empty, but composed of particles of so
Riku Sayuj
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Short and sweet. Six extremely brief lessons on six crucial areas of Physics and a final one on where we fit into all of it. Rovelli starts with General Relativity and shows us how elegant and simple it is - to re-imagine space as a place that bends, stretches, and interacts with the stars. What a leap of imagination it must have taken to think of emptiness itself as an object which interacts. Rovelli says that that is a key to modern physics, the realization that it is all about interactions an ...more
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)
One brief book on modern physics for those of us who know nothing of the subject. I recall a friend talking excitedly about quantum physics in 1968. I paid little attention at the time and since. Now I want to understand a bit of this, just a bit.

Rovelli does a good job of explaining complex concepts in plain language. Some of it did not come through very well but the book has served its purpose - to give me a sense of the basic problems and concepts of modern physics. In 80 pages, I cannot exp
Why is everyone so crazy for this book? It's written on in the most abstract generalities (yet he can't resist including the general relativity equation for gravity without explanation). It's a high-level history almost anyone could have written, with one chapter expressing the favorite European flavor of the day: "we're doomed."

Without footnotes pointing to the more exacting details of physics, what is the audience for this book? The Sunday Supplements? The readers won't learn much--for exampl
Carlo Rovelli considers that everything is relational, and things only exist in virtue of their interactions with other things, so it's perhaps appropriate that I read Setti brevi lezioni di fisica in the way I did. Rovelli knows physics and Italian, and has used that knowledge to produce the book, so there is a relationship R between the book, physics and Italian. Most readers will know Italian, have the book in front of them, and make use of R to obtain knowledge about physics. I'm in a differ ...more
As a poem, this is quite beautiful. As a brief lesson, I'm confused. If the purpose was to ignite curiosity, I suppose this book met its objective. If its purpose was to distill the laws of physics into a comprehensible narrative, I'm afraid it did not work for me. I'm more confused now than when I started. I'm admittedly just starting my exploration of physics, but so far to me it seems like a subject you need to do a deep dive. Though this writing is poetic, the towering concepts seemed ethere ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Carlo Rovelli

This little book is a summary of the seven major science subjects condensed into seven lessons of no more than twelve pages each.

It is written for readers like me, who know little about modern science and are grateful to get to know a little more.


The first lesson is dedicated to Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, “the most beautiful of theories.”

Newton, the great father of modern science, had his ideas about “the for
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
The Guardian has a list – the hundred best books of the 21st century and I was reading over it, mostly to see which books that had gone by without leaving so much as a ripple upon my attention – and one of them was this book. It sounded interesting, I tracked it down.

This was quite nice, not least since it is clearly written and covers quite a lot of ground in what is a remarkably small amount of space. The author is a physicist, not that that is much of
TS Chan
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking.

Brief though these lessons may be, simple they are not. The preface elucidates that these are lessons for those who have little to no knowledge of modern science and serve to provide a quick general overview of “the most fascinating aspects of the revolution that has occurred in physics in the twentieth century”. My formal science studies stopped
Sam Quixote
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I was more interested in reading about science because every time I hear about a science story or read a random article in New Scientist, I’m always impressed – science is great and my knowledge of it is pitifully lacking. But when it comes to tackling even a 200 page science book, I know I’m setting myself up for a fall and I inevitably abandon it. Still, as Carlo Rovelli writes, “It is part of our nature to long to know more, and to continue to learn”, and it’s good to get out of our co ...more
Alice Lippart
Quick, easy and interesting.
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Seven brief sentences on Carlo Rovelli's Seven Brief Lessons On Physics:

1. Trying to understand Physics will melt your brain.

2. Gravity is like a giant snail shell around us that ripples like a sea - it's an omnipresent sea snail, and it's also the sea, and all the currents and my analogy is confusing.

3. A person further from the ground ages faster than one at sea level, so I'm moving my desk to the bottom of a mineshaft.

4. Actually, time isn't really a thing - you only think it is, silly human
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-ish
I adore the ideas of quantum mechanics and particle physics, and I have yet to find an author capable of explaining them to me in a way that sticks in my brain for any length of time. While I'm reading or listening, I'm absolutely entranced, but once the “interaction” is over my understanding flickers out of existence like one of those elusive little Heisenberg particles. I have “quantum understanding.” Still, given this handicap, I found Rovelli's book absolutely delightful. He simplifies diffi ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
At school Physics was a mystery to me and one which I preferred to keep that way. The teachers didn't help. The beginning of my school week was made even more wretched by having a double dose of Physics first thing on a Monday morning.

With the passing of the years the time seemed right to confront this particular demon. How fortunate for me that I was able to do so with the help of Carlo Rovelli. These seven bite sized lessons are clearly and elegantly written. The last one is beautifully writte
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did you know “time” moves faster on top of a mountain? We can all grasp this with a simple exercise and it is immediately self evident. This book was a delightful little piece, reducing over a century of physics to terms that just about anyone can grasp. It helps to have some training in this most wonderful field, but regardless you’ll learn about the simple beauty of general relativity, quantum theory and particle physics. This book will remind you that these are not all abstract theories, but ...more
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r2017, stars-3-5

"It is not against nature to be curious: it is in our nature to be so."

This was an interesting little book. I am not a scientist, far from it, and spend most of the time in Humanities subjects. I was however curious to see what the author could communicate in such a short format. Well, still not entirely sure...

Rovelli goes from the 'macro' perspective of cosmology, gravity and Einstein's famous theory of relativity, to the 'micro' one of quantum mechanics, focusing on particles. The article
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hmm this one was an interesting read. It's basically a rough introduction to Physics told through 7 different mini lessons. The ideas within the book are of course pretty complex, but the author has 'dumbed-down' or simplified it as much as possible to make it as accessible as possible.

First up, let's discuss the fact that the cover of this is plain stunning. I have to say that the cover art was the initial reason I had an interest in reading this book, and once I heard what it was I was intrigu
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely, very short book on the wonders of physics. Intended for the absolute neophyte, so hardly testing - although I did find new perspectives in the mix. Fractionally awkward translation in places, but a really enjoyable and almost poetic journey.
170118 later addition: wondering now if this is a subgenre of brief, nonfiction, summaries of ideas floating about that the average curious reader, the usual postmodern reader, might like to know about but not so much to actually study. if so, this book is very good. perhaps my dissatisfaction with the implicit 'scientism' is not clear, but such is the only caveat and maybe only noticeable if you stop to philosophize...

310516 first review: my father is a scientist (chemical physics) and my fathe
Charlotte Jones
I was really excited about reading this book and unfortunately I was completely disappointed with this one.

The book itself is gorgeous; a jacketless hardback with copper foiling, this intrigued me from the first time I saw it.

This is marketed as a simple starter book of physics, told in seven lessons. However, I felt that this book was extremely superficial, giving too much of the authors own bias despite being extremely simple.

I also found that though every other scientist in the book was desc
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Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and writer who has worked in Italy and the USA, and currently works in France. His work is mainly in the field of quantum gravity, where he is among the founders of the loop quantum gravity theory. He has also worked in the history and philosophy of science. He collaborates regularly with several Italian newspapers, in particular the cultural suppl ...more

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