Reality Is Not What It Seems Book Summary - Reality Is Not What It Seems Book explained in key points
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Reality Is Not What It Seems summary

Carlo Rovelli

The Journey to Quantum Gravity

4.5 (246 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

"Reality Is Not What It Seems" by Carlo Rovelli explores the history and concepts of modern physics, including Einstein's theories and the nature of space and time, in a way that is both accessible and thought-provoking.

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    Reality Is Not What It Seems
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    Modern science began with the scholars of ancient Greece and the experiments of the late Middle Ages.

    For thousands of years following the first human civilizations, our ancestors explained everyday natural occurrences by invoking things like supernatural spirits and deities. That finally began to change around 500 BCE, thanks to the scholars of ancient Greece. They understood that reason, observation and mathematics could be used as tools to explain the world around them.

    One such scholar was Anaximander, a philosopher who used those rational methods to explain how rain fell from the sky. It wasn’t the work of a benevolent god, he explained. Rather, evaporation caused water to accumulate in the sky and then fall back to earth.

    Not long afterward, another scholar named Democritus theorized that everything in the world was made up of tiny building blocks called atoms. Democritus also reasoned that there must be a finite size to atoms – a point where you can no longer divide these tiny grains of matter. This theory was rooted in the idea of spatial extension: that matter must have size and occupy space. Therefore, atoms must also have a certain indivisible size.

    More advancements came in the third century BCE, prompted by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, who both contributed to the idea that mathematics could be used as a tool for understanding our universe.

    Then there was Ptolemy, born in 100 CE. He created formulas to calculate the movements of planets, thereby allowing us to predict their future positions.

    Over a thousand years later, during the Middle Ages, Renaissance scholars such as Copernicus and Galileo returned to the ancient tools of mathematics and reason. This allowed Copernicus to revolutionize astronomy by proving that the orbits of celestial bodies could be better calculated once the sun, not the Earth, was considered the center of the solar system.

    Likewise, in the sixteenth century, Galileo was the first to gaze upon the mountains of Earth’s moon, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter, thanks to the newly invented telescope. Galileo also tested his hypotheses with rigorous and repeatable experiments, thereby helping to create what came to be known as the scientific method.

    One such hypothesis was the belief that all objects fall at a constant speed. However, what Galileo’s tests revealed was that it wasn’t speed, but rather acceleration, or the rate of increased speed, that was constant among falling objects.

    This discovery marked the very first mathematical law for earthly bodies: that every second, the speed of any falling object on Earth will increase by 9.8 meters per second.

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    What is Reality Is Not What It Seems about?

    Reality Is Not What It Seems (2014) offers a quick overview of the long journey modern science has taken from the cosmic observations of ancient Greece to the heady theories of quantum mechanics. These blinks offer an easily digestible take on the many twists and turns that have occurred in the history of modern physics, as well as an overview of the tricky questions physicists continue to grapple with today.

    Reality Is Not What It Seems Review

    Reality Is Not What It Seems (2014) by Carlo Rovelli reveals mind-bending insights into the nature of reality and the universe. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Explores mind-blowing concepts like quantum gravity and the architecture of the cosmos, giving readers a deeper understanding of the world we live in.
    • Blends scientific knowledge with philosophical reflections to offer a holistic perspective on the nature of reality, making this book intellectually stimulating.
    • The author's clarity, passion, and enthusiasm for the subject captivate readers, making complex scientific ideas accessible and never boring.

    Best quote from Reality Is Not What It Seems

    The present is like the flatness of the Earth: an illusion.

    —Carlo Rovelli
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    Who should read Reality Is Not What It Seems?

    • Science geeks and curious minds
    • Students and practitioners in the field of physics
    • Anyone who wants to know the secrets of the universe

    About the Author

    Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who has made significant contributions to the field of physics and our understanding of space and time. He currently directs the quantum gravity research group of the Centre de Physique Théorique in Marseille, France. His other books include Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and The Order of Time.

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    Reality Is Not What It Seems FAQs 

    What is the main message of Reality Is Not What It Seems?

    Reality Is Not What It Seems challenges our understanding of the universe and reveals the true nature of reality.

    How long does it take to read Reality Is Not What It Seems?

    Reading time varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Reality Is Not What It Seems a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Reality Is Not What It Seems is a mind-expanding book that offers a fresh perspective on the universe. Definitely worth reading!

    Who is the author of Reality Is Not What It Seems?

    Carlo Rovelli is the author of Reality Is Not What It Seems.

    What to read after Reality Is Not What It Seems?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Reality Is Not What It Seems, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
    • The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
    • Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli
    • The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra
    • Quantum Supremacy by Michio Kaku
    • Gravity by Nicholas Mee
    • The God Equation by Michio Kaku
    • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
    • Relativity by Albert Einstein
    • Slow Productivity by Cal Newport