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Science writer unveils the art of seeing things differently

Updated: 2016-05-18 07:55
By Yang Yang (China Daily)

Science writer unveils the art of seeing things differently

Carlo Rovelli offers in his new book enlightening lessons about modern science. [Photo by Basso Cannarsa/Provided to China Daily]

Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, one of the founders of a popular theory called loop quantum gravity, reads mostly classic literature.

In an e-mail reply to China Daily, the 60-year-old scientist says he loves the Chinese classics Dream of the Red Chamber and Journey to the West. Besides, he also reads a lot of essays on anthropology, studies of the brain, philosophy and so on. His favorite writer is Joseph Conrad.

Heading the quantum gravity research group at the Centre de Physique Theorique of Aix-Marseille University in Provence, Rovelli is now the author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. The book outsold the erotic best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey in Italy. It's been translated into 34 languages and a Chinese version is coming out.

"Originally, we were very curious about how a physics book of a mere 96 pages can beat a best-selling erotic novel," says Wu Wenjuan, editor in charge of introducing the book at China South Booky Culture Media Co.

"But after reading it, we found such an elegant and concise book full of passion inspiring you to understand the world from a totally different angle and urging you to think about your existence and the limit of your knowledge."

The volume actually contains only six lessons on physics themes, including Albert Einstein's general relativity, quantum mechanics, the structure of the cosmos, elementary particles, grains of space, and black-hole thermodynamics.

The last chapter returns to human beings: How humans understand the world as an impossibly minor player that "will not last long" on Earth, because "We belong to a short-lived genus of species. All of our cousins are already extinct. What's more, we do damage", as he puts in the book.

In graceful language, Rovelli concisely explains the greatest revolution in physics in the 20th century, depicting not only the reach and beauty of science but also "reveal (ing) to us just how vast is the extent of which is still not known", as he writes in the book.

Li Miao, professor at the School of Physics and Astronomy of Sun Yet-Sen University, writes in the preview of the Chinese version: "There is not a single difficult expression that will exclude readers who know little of modern sciences."

Li proofread the book and has also written his own books to popularize physics in China. "Meanwhile, the poetic writing is full of passion."

Inspired by his girlfriend, two years ago Rovelli started writing short articles about quantum, gravity, and his research on quantum gravity for Il Sole 24 Ore, an Italian financial newspaper.

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