A tour-de-force by a talented young author who makes a difficult subject accessible.



Fast-paced history from debut author Gilder, who employs invented but historically accurate dialogue to surprisingly good effect, revealing the personalities as well as the ideas of quantum physicists.

Though generally viewed as a gigantic achievement of human genius, quantum physics, which describes the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles, is also a troubling field. Its predictions have proven dazzlingly accurate, but they predict minuscule objects behaving in ways that everyone, physicists included, finds bizarre. In the subatomic world, observers can never locate an object precisely, only determine the probability that it will be in one place instead of another. Energy and matter behave as either solid particles or waves depending on the experiment performed. Most physicists were happy that quantum physics worked so well, but Einstein insisted that this relentless indeterminacy could not be true. In 1935, he and two co-workers devised the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky “thought experiment” (“thought” because it was considered technically impossible). If two subatomic particles are “entangled,” a state that obeys quantum laws, and then separated, changing one affects the other even if it’s very far away. Since this is clearly impossible, Einstein concluded that quantum theory was defective. Gilder, remarkably well-informed, delivers a comprehensive history that begins with early 20th-century giants Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger and Pauli. However, she differs from the authors of similar books in devoting even more space to less celebrated but equally brilliant physicists from the century’s latter half, including David Bohm, Anton Zeilinger and John Bell. Her inspiration is Bell, who died in 1990 before getting the Nobel Prize everyone agrees he deserved. His 1964 paper, showing that the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky experiment did not disprove quantum theory, inspired a generation of researchers who have clarified quantum physics without rendering it less bizarre. Although aimed at general readers, this work is less simplified than other popular accounts, but those who pay attention will find it highly rewarding.

A tour-de-force by a talented young author who makes a difficult subject accessible.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4417-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

Did you like this book?

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.


Undeterred by a subject difficult to pin down, Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, 2017, etc.) explains his thoughts on time.

Other scientists have written primers on the concept of time for a general audience, but Rovelli, who also wrote the bestseller Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, adds his personal musings, which are astute and rewarding but do not make for an easy read. “We conventionally think of time,” he writes, “as something simple and fundamental that flows uniformly, independently from everything else, uniformly from the past to the future, measured by clocks and watches. In the course of time, the events of the universe succeed each other in an orderly way: pasts, presents, futures. The past is fixed, the future open….And yet all of this has turned out to be false.” Rovelli returns again and again to the ideas of three legendary men. Aristotle wrote that things change continually. What we call “time” is the measurement of that change. If nothing changed, time would not exist. Newton disagreed. While admitting the existence of a time that measures events, he insisted that there is an absolute “true time” that passes relentlessly. If the universe froze, time would roll on. To laymen, this may seem like common sense, but most philosophers are not convinced. Einstein asserted that both are right. Aristotle correctly explained that time flows in relation to something else. Educated laymen know that clocks register different times when they move or experience gravity. Newton’s absolute exists, but as a special case in Einstein’s curved space-time. According to Rovelli, our notion of time dissolves as our knowledge grows; complex features swell and then retreat and perhaps vanish entirely. Furthermore, equations describing many fundamental physical phenomena don’t require time.

As much a work of philosophy as of physics and full of insights for readers willing to work hard.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1610-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet