Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity

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“The man who makes physics sexy . . . the scientist they’re calling the next Stephen Hawking.” The Times Magazine

From the New York Times–bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and The Order of Time, a closer look at the mind-bending nature of the universe.

What are the elementary ingredients of the world? Do time and space exist? And what exactly is reality? Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has spent his life exploring these questions. He tells us how our understanding of reality has changed over the centuries and how physicists think about the structure of the universe today.

In elegant and accessible prose, Rovelli takes us on a wondrous journey from Democritus to Albert Einstein, from Michael Faraday to gravitational waves, and from classical physics to his own work in quantum gravity. As he shows us how the idea of reality has evolved over time, Rovelli offers deeper explanations of the theories he introduced so concisely in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.

This book culminates in a lucid overview of quantum gravity, the field of research that explores the quantum nature of space and time, seeking to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity. Rovelli invites us to imagine a marvelous world where space breaks up into tiny grains, time disappears at the smallest scales, and black holes are waiting to explode—a vast universe still largely undiscovered.
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About the author

Carlo Rovelli, an Italian theoretical physicist, is the head of the Quantum Gravity group at the Centre de Physique Théorique of Aix-Marseille University. He is one of the founders of the loop quantum gravity theory and the author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, an international bestseller translated into over forty languages, and the forthcoming The Order of Time. Rovelli lives in Marseille, France.
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Published on
Jan 24, 2017
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Science / Gravity
Science / Physics / General
Science / Physics / Quantum Theory
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'This is about gob-smacking science at the far end of reason ... Take it nice and easy and savour the experience of your mind being blown without recourse to hallucinogens' Nicholas Lezard, Guardian
For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves.

In this magisterial book, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its core. Quantum theory looks at the very building blocks of our world, the particles and processes without which it could not exist.

Yet for 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existence of reality itself. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar shows how the golden age of physics ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century.

Quantum theory is weird. In 1905, Albert Einstein suggested that light was a particle, not a wave, defying a century of experiments. Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Erwin Schrodinger's famous dead-and-alive cat are similarly strange. As Niels Bohr said, if you weren't shocked by quantum theory, you didn't really understand it.

While "Quantum" sets the science in the context of the great upheavals of the modern age, Kumar's centrepiece is the conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of reality and the soul of science. 'Bohr brainwashed a whole generation of physicists into believing that the problem had been solved', lamented the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. But in "Quantum", Kumar brings Einstein back to the centre of the quantum debate. "Quantum" is the essential read for anyone fascinated by this complex and thrilling story and by the band of brilliant men at its heart.
Today we are blessed with two extraordinarily successful theories of physics. The first is Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which describes the large-scale behaviour of matter in a curved spacetime. This theory is the basis for the standard model of big bang cosmology. The discovery of gravitational waves at the LIGO observatory in the US (and then Virgo, in Italy) is only the most recent of this theory's many triumphs. The second is quantum mechanics. This theory describes the properties and behaviour of matter and radiation at their smallest scales. It is the basis for the standard model of particle physics, which builds up all the visible constituents of the universe out of collections of quarks, electrons and force-carrying particles such as photons. The discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN in Geneva is only the most recent of this theory's many triumphs. But, while they are both highly successful, these two structures leave a lot of important questions unanswered. They are also based on two different interpretations of space and time, and are therefore fundamentally incompatible. We have two descriptions but, as far as we know, we've only ever had one universe. What we need is a quantum theory of gravity. Approaches to formulating such a theory have primarily followed two paths. One leads to String Theory, which has for long been fashionable, and about which much has been written. But String Theory has become mired in problems. In this book, Jim Baggott describes ": an approach which takes relativity as its starting point, and leads to a structure called Loop Quantum Gravity. Baggott tells the story through the careers and pioneering work of two of the theory's most prominent contributors, Lee Smolin and Carlo Rovelli. Combining clear discussions of both quantum theory and general relativity, this book offers one of the first efforts to explain the new quantum theory of space and time.
This book aims to present a pedagogical and self-consistent treatment of the canonical approach to Quantum Gravity, starting from its original formulation to the most recent developments in the field.We start with an innovative and enlightening introduction to the formalism and concepts on which General Relativity has been built, giving all the information necessary in the later analysis. A brief sketch of the Standard Cosmological Model describing the Universe evolution is also given alongside the analysis of the inflationary mechanism. After deepening the fundamental properties of constrained dynamic systems, the Lagrangian approach to the Einsteinian Theory is presented in some detail, underlining the parallelism with non-Abelian gauge theories. Then, the basic concepts of the canonical approach to Quantum Mechanics are provided, focusing on all those formulations which are relevant for the Canonical Quantum Gravity problem. The Hamiltonian formulation of General Relativity and its constrained structure is then analyzed by comparing different formulations. The resulting quantum dynamics, described by the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, is fully discussed in order to outline its merits and limits. Afterwards, the reformulation of Canonical Quantum Gravity in terms of the Ashtekar-Barbero-Immirzi variables is faced by a detailed discussion of the resulting Loop Quantum Gravity Theory. Finally, we provide a consistent picture of canonical Quantum Cosmology by facing the main features of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation for the homogeneous Bianchi models and then by a detailed treatment of Loop Quantum Cosmology, including very recent developments.
A Science News favorite science book of 2019

As you read these words, copies of you are being created.
Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and one of this world’s most celebrated writers on science, rewrites the history of 20th century physics. Already hailed as a masterpiece, Something Deeply Hidden shows for the first time that facing up to the essential puzzle of quantum mechanics utterly transforms how we think about space and time.  His reconciling of quantum mechanics with Einstein’s theory of relativity changes, well, everything.

Most physicists haven’t even recognized the uncomfortable truth: physics has been in crisis since 1927. Quantum mechanics  has always had obvious gaps—which have come to be simply ignored. Science popularizers keep telling us how weird it is,  how impossible it is to understand. Academics discourage students from working on the "dead end" of quantum foundations. Putting his professional reputation on the line with this audacious yet entirely reasonable book, Carroll says that the crisis can now come to an end. We just have to accept that there is more than one of us in the universe. There are many, many Sean Carrolls. Many of every one of us.
Copies of you are generated thousands of times per second. The Many Worlds Theory of quantum behavior says that every time there is a quantum event, a world splits off with everything in it the same, except in that other world the quantum event didn't happen. Step-by-step in Carroll's uniquely lucid way, he tackles the major objections to this otherworldly revelation until his case is inescapably established.
Rarely does a book so fully reorganize how we think about our place in the universe. We are on the threshold of a new understanding—of where we are in the cosmos, and what we are made of.
One of TIME’s Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade

"Meet the new Stephen Hawking . . . The Order of Time is a dazzling book." --The Sunday Times

From the bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, comes a concise, elegant exploration of time.

Why do we remember the past and not the future? What does it mean for time to "flow"? Do we exist in time or does time exist in us? In lyric, accessible prose, Carlo Rovelli invites us to consider questions about the nature of time that continue to puzzle physicists and philosophers alike.

For most readers this is unfamiliar terrain. We all experience time, but the more scientists learn about it, the more mysterious it remains. We think of it as uniform and universal, moving steadily from past to future, measured by clocks. Rovelli tears down these assumptions one by one, revealing a strange universe where at the most fundamental level time disappears. He explains how the theory of quantum gravity attempts to understand and give meaning to the resulting extreme landscape of this timeless world. Weaving together ideas from philosophy, science and literature, he suggests that our perception of the flow of time depends on our perspective, better understood starting from the structure of our brain and emotions than from the physical universe.

Already a bestseller in Italy, and written with the poetic vitality that made Seven Brief Lessons on Physics so appealing, The Order of Time offers a profoundly intelligent, culturally rich, novel appreciation of the mysteries of time.
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