The Order of Time Book Summary - The Order of Time Book explained in key points
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The Order of Time summary

Carlo Rovelli

A trip through time with a leading theoretical physicist

4.6 (194 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

"The Order of Time" by Carlo Rovelli explores the fascinating and complex nature of time - its illusions, physics, and implications.

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    The Order of Time
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    Time doesn’t move uniformly and it is fundamentally related to heat.

    Appearances can be deceptive. That’s one of the first lessons of the sciences. After all, if you trust your eyes alone, you’re likely to end up believing the world is flat. The same goes for time. In everyday life, we see time as a uniform forward movement – something that just happens, like the ticking of an eternal clock entirely beyond our control. But that’s a false assumption.

    In reality, time passes at different speeds in different places. Compare two clocks, where one is placed at sea level and the other high up in the mountains, and you’ll find the latter runs faster. Placing one clock on the floor and another on a table has the same effect: the differences are minuscule, and you’d need a precision timepiece to prove it, but the second timepiece will always run faster.

    It’s not just time that slows down when measured at a lower level – all processes do. Take a simple thought experiment – two friends of the same age part company. One of them goes to live on a beach and the other at the top of a mountain. Years later, they meet. The result? The mountain-dweller will have aged more and lived longer than his pal from the flatlands. Even his houseplants will have grown more!

    It sounds impossible, but there’s no such thing as one objective or “true” measure of time that can be applied both in the mountains and at sea level. That’s because times are relative to one another. Each point on a map has its own time. That, to put it in simple terms, was the central insight of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

    As if that weren’t baffling enough, heat also plays a part in this dynamic. In fact, heat and time share a fundamental similarity – they can both only travel in one direction. Time moves from past to future, while heat always moves from hotter to colder objects.

    In both cases, reversing that movement is impossible. But here’s where things get really interesting – we can only tell the past and future apart because of heat.

    Let’s break that down. The past is distinguished from the future by change. But change is only possible if there’s motion. And if you really get down to it, motion is simply heat – the movement of molecules at a microscopic level. Without heat, in other words, nothing would move, and past, present and future would be little more than an indistinguishable mass!

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    What is The Order of Time about?

    The Order of Time (2017) unpacks the latest research in physics to turn our everyday concept of time on its head. What we perceive and experience as a linear movement, from past to present and into the future, is little more than a trick of the mind. The reality, Carlo Rovelli shows, is a whole lot more interesting and bizarre.

    The Order of Time Review

    The Order of Time (2018) by Carlo Rovelli offers a captivating exploration of time and its role in our understanding of the universe. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through accessible language and thought-provoking concepts, Rovelli brings abstract scientific ideas to life, making them relatable and intriguing.
    • Interweaving physics, philosophy, and personal reflections, the book presents a holistic view of time that challenges traditional notions and invites deep contemplation.
    • With its beautiful prose and poetic descriptions, the book blends scientific rigor and literary beauty, effortlessly engaging readers in a fascinating journey of exploration.

    Best quote from The Order of Time

    The good Lord has not drawn the world with continuous lines: with a light hand, he has sketched it in dots, like Seurat.

    —Carlo Rovelli
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    Who should read The Order of Time?

    • Science lovers, physicists and philosophers
    • Anyone curious about the world
    • Those seeking to understand what time is and what it isn’t

    About the Author

    Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who specializes in the physics of space and time. He currently directs the quantum gravity research group at the Centre de physique théorique in Marseille, France. Rovelli is also the author of Reality is Not What It Seems and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.

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    The Order of Time FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Order of Time?

    The main message of The Order of Time is a mind-bending exploration of the nature of time and the way it shapes our perception of reality.

    How long does it take to read The Order of Time?

    The reading time for The Order of Time varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Order of Time a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Order of Time is a thought-provoking and fascinating book, offering profound insights into the concept of time. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of The Order of Time?

    Carlo Rovelli is the author of The Order of Time.

    What to read after The Order of Time?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Order of Time, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli
    • Until the End of Time by Brian Greene
    • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
    • Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli
    • The Emperor's New Mind by Roger Penrose
    • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
    • Relativity by Albert Einstein
    • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
    • Mindset by Carol Dweck
    • What If? by Randall Munroe