Book Review: ‘Reality is Not What It Seems’ by Carlo Rovelli

reality is not what it seems

Weird World of the Small:

In case you did not know, reality starts to do some majorly weird shit when we look at it closely. There is a reason our eyes do not function like microscopes, because if they did, our ancestors would have taken one look at things on the subatomic level, and they would have noped themselves out of here. Just a guess.

Reality is weiiirrrrrd. Like, the kind of weird that leaves me on a tightrope between blistering anxiety and euphoric wonder. And for that I love it, and am grateful what Carlo Rovelli has done in this book. In less than 400 pages he traces most of the major developments in how we understand what comprises the world around us, bringing up the big names in this journey through the past, from Democritus, to Faraday and Maxwell, to Einstein, and beyond.

The Passion…

Rovelli’s enthusiasm is utterly contagious, and the wonder he seems to feel in describing the major revelations of the past few millennia is tangible. Even for ideas that have now been demonstrated to be incomplete or wrong, there is yet an excitement that there was at least a momentum, a step toward better understanding our universe and how it works. That our species never gave up its inquest. That we might be getting closer to uncovering still deeper mysteries.

Even if you have never delved into theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc. you can pick this book up and walk away with a grasp on…well, not necessarily on how things are, but how they very well might be.

The Book Itself:

The topic of the book concerns the current developments in quantum theories, namely the research being conducted on quantum loop gravity. And toward the end it becomes progressively more cerebral, requiring the reader to release previous conceptions of reality for the esoteric world of the very small, where the rules have yet to be fully understood, and are quite different from how things look and work on the macro scale.

You’ll find that our high school descriptions of atoms were woefully incomplete, that time is not as reliable as one might think, and that light is a bunch of tricky little things that seem to be both particle and wave simultaneously. A case of A=B, A=C, BC…more or less.

I found myself often rereading entire pages in an effort to comprehend what he was dishing out, but the extra work was worth it. I came away from the book with an entirely different view of how gravity works. Gravity. A concept we are familiar with since childhood, and I only now have found a description (very different from an explanation) of how to properly conceptualize this tricky force.

Whether you are down for a nerdy read, or just need a refreshing look at how beautifully complex and bizarre the world we live in is, read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Charm Quarks