Sunday, January 13, 2008

A tale of two theories

I've often wished that I did something really important, rather than being a lawyer. Don't get me wrong; the affairs of my clients are extremely important to them, and it is important to me that I do a good job for them. However, matters of law are of course of no consequence whatsoever in the grand scheme of things. Which brings me to a book I've just read. Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown explains, in language understandable by (almost) anyone, two of the most important and least understood concepts in physics: quantum theory and the general theory of relativity.

"I think that I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics", the great physicist Richard Feynman famously said. I'm sure he was right, and I certainly don't claim now to understand it, but at least after reading this book I feel for the first time that I have a basic grasp of some of the abstruse concepts involved, aided by the many incredible facts Chown sprinkles through the book, such as that the entire human race would fit in the volume of a sugar cube.

The second half of the book deals with Einstein's theory of relativity. The concepts here are far more familiar to me, but again Chown describes them in an elegant and accessible way, once again illustrating them with simple but memorable analogies and facts, such as that you age faster at the top of a building than the bottom.

If you have an interest in these subjects (and, as they are central to everything in the universe, I think you should), then I thoroughly recommend this extremely readable book (even if it has a completely naff cover!).

6 comments:

  1. John... I'll have a look at this book..... thanks for the tip.

    Thanks also for your contribution this morning.

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  2. Thank you for inviting me. Enjoyed it.

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  3. I read the book after buying it for our son and thought it was excellent.

    As one family lawyer (who recently relinquished chartered engineer status) told me;
    lawyer = 3 constraints - time, money and laws of the land
    engineer = 3 constraints time, money and laws of physics

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  4. Hi Fiona,

    That's very good. I've just had a read of your blog. Looks interesting - particularly good to have a Scottish perspective. I've added it to my blogroll.

    Regards,

    John.

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  5. Thanks, John. I'll do likewise.

    As you may have noticed blogging is quite new to me, but I think it may become addictive!

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  6. Thanks. It can be addictive - should come with a health warning!

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