Who are you?
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, a tiny physics primer from Carlos Rovelli, is a treasure. Not only does it make mind-bending science accessible to the novice, but it does so with precise and lovely language that invites contemplation.
Throughout the book, the author conveys a particular appreciation for Albert Einstein. Certainly, Rovelli is not the first to extol the virtues of Einstein's brilliance in his field. However, his attention to Einstein's (and other scientists’) process also unearths lessons about adversity, creative genius, and the long reach of legacy.
For example, Rovelli's explanation of relativity considers this excerpt from Einstein:
It seems to me that the observations associated with blackbody radiation, fluorescence, the production of cathode rays by ultraviolet light, and other related phenomena connected with the emission or transformation of light are more readily understood if one assumes that the energy of light is discontinuously distributed in space. In accordance with the assumption to be considered here, the energy of a light ray spreading out from a point source is not continuously distributed over an increasing space but consists of a finite number of "energy quanta" which are localized at points in space, which move without dividing, and which can only be produced and absorbed as complete units. [-Albert Einstein]
Not only does this passage convey the scientific weight of Rovelli's project, but the analysis that follows is also a delight. Rovelli writes:
These simple and clear lines are the real birth certificate of quantum theory. Note the wonderful initial "It seems to me...," which recalls the "I think..." with which Darwin introduces in his notebooks the great idea that species evolve, or the "hesitation" spoken of by Faraday when introducing for the first time the revolutionary idea of magnetic fields. Genius hesitates.
Think for a moment about what this means for your own discipline. Read more…