Carlo Rovelli: The Poetic Physicist

This essay was originally published on my website.

Who?

I’m not a person who has always liked physics or science. In fact, this book was even recommended by an entrepreneur (Naval Ravikant). I’m becoming more interested in science because science is the engine of both technology and the economy. For example, the internet, the telephone, the tv, among many other inventions came from the field of physics.

There are few writers who are able to explain subjects clearly in a way that inspires you to get involved in that field and keep contributing. This is what I feel with Carlo Rovelli.

Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and head of the Quantum Gravity at the Aix-Marseille University. He is one of the founders of the loop quantum theory and author of one of my favorite books, 7 Brief Lessons On Physics. Through his simple writing and poetic books, he is able to inspire readers as very few authors do. He writes his books for people who know nothing about science and he takes the reader through a marvelous journey.

A journey that emphasizes all of the fascinations about what we know and largely focuses on all of the mysteries that are still yet to be found.

Why Should You Care?

I continue to find fascinating examples of entrepreneurs who combine business and science to create interesting and unique ventures. For instance, Elon Musk who majored in physics and business has been able to innovate with rockets, electric cars, and underground tunnels. Or the hedge fund manager, Jim Simmons, who is known as the “smartest billionaire” contributed to the development of the string theory.

True innovation, development, and growth all come from an interesting yet unusual combination: Science & Entrepreneurship.

Even if you’re not interested in entrepreneurship, being more knowledgeable of scientific principles can help you in your personal life or in developing your ideas in a revolutionary and special way.

Carlo Rovelli takes you with him on an adventurous journey that gives you a tour of the most fascinating ideas in physics. Starting from the very beginning of science until quantum physics and quantum gravity.

What I loved about his books is that he doesn’t tell you what the ideas or concepts are. Rather, he dives into the worlds of Greek philosophers such as Anaximander or Democritus to Nobel Prize physicists such as Einstein and Schrödinger.

He walks you through what they did, what they thought, what their intuitions were, and ultimately how they brilliantly found their ideas and theories such as gravity, general relativity, and quantum physics.

Top Books

Carlo Rovelli has written more than 5 books in the last two decades. All these books share a common trait, which is Rovelli’s brilliant way to tell us a concise story of how the ideas came into being. It not only shows the path of how we’ve gotten there but most importantly shows where to pick up. Here are my favorites:

Seven Brief Lessons On Physics: this is his most popular book and it’s only 80 pages. He talks about the beauty of modern physics and most importantly the joy of discovery. This book sparked my interest in the mystery of time and that is why I decided to read the next one on this list.

The Order Of Time: after reading his most popular book, I was fascinated by the unconventional nature of time so I looked to see if Rovelli had written a book about the topic and he thankfully had. This book talks about the unbelievable yet mind-bending reality of time and eventually our perspective and us (humans).

Reality Is Not What It Seems: if you read Seven Brief Lessons of Physics, you will get hooked and will have to this book, which is an expanded version of it. Rovelli takes on an adventure that tells us how our understanding of reality has changed over the last centuries and how physicists think about the structure of reality and the universe.

Favorite Quotes

On almost every page and in almost every line, there are beautiful words that make you want to read them and ponder about them. I chose the three most important and meaningful quotes that highlight wonder, curiosity, and our human desire to know more.

  • “You don’t get to new places by following established tracks.” ― Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems.

As a person who always is trying to innovate, this quote resonates with me so much. Most of us think that we need to follow certain tracks to get x such as be happy or be successful but in reality the more different and the more unique, the more interesting the places you will discover.

  • “Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking.” ― Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.

Read this again, at least once. This quote left me pondering for days. I began to understand what it means to discover and explore new frontiers. We can only get to the unknown after we acknowledge we’re on the edge and that we might fall. It is only by recognizing that we get to solve the mysteries and that as Mr. Rovelli said, “it’s breathtaking.”

  • “This is time for us. Memory. A nostalgia. The pain of absence. But it isn’t absence that causes sorrow. It is affection and love. Without affection, without love, such absences would cause us no pain. For this reason, even the pain caused by absence is in the end something good and even beautiful. Because it feeds on that which gives meaning to life.” ― Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time.

Carlo Rovelli said this after telling a story about two of his mentors and the timing could not be more perfect. Up to this point, he had explained what time is, how time changes, and how time is very different from what we think it is. In this section, he tries to portray what time is for us and its relation to the very meaning of life.

The Journey Now Begins

There are very few books that I read again right after I finish them. Not because I didn’t understand them but because I want to feel and experience the sense of discovery and the chance of finding those mysteries. So far, I’ve reread three of Carlo Rovelli’s books and I will continue to keep coming back to them.

You might think you need to be smart or that these books are very boring and impractical. This is what I thought about them too. They are not like that and they are totally super interesting.

Something fundamentally changed within me. I stopped focusing on what seems practical and useful such as business books, self-help books, and so on. I started focusing on understanding the basics of our reality, our world, our universe, and ultimately us (humans). Why? I don’t know. Only time will tell, we’ll have to see.

I truly hope you find Carlo Rovelli’s work as inspiring, interesting, and influential as I have. If you ever want to discuss, send me an email.

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