Back in my day, I was a certified stargazing renegade. I was obsessed with the nature of the cosmos. I remember, I would lock myself in my room and read all the books I could find to understand the universe and its tricks. Every Friday, I’d roll up to the local Observatory and get lost in the endless night sky. Jupiter and its moons, the Pleiades, you name it.
As a kid, I dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist. Who doesn’t, right? Later, I even checked out the universities in Trieste and Bologna taking in the rich history of legends like Galileo, the man who pointed a telescope at the stars and invented astronomy. But, as it often goes, life had different plans for me. I ended up becoming a quantum chemist, which is still pretty freaking cool, but not quite as celestial.
Time marched on, and I lost touch with the sciences of the universe. The grandeur of space-time, the deeper secrets of quantum fields – they all started to fade. That was until I realized it was time to snap out of it and catch up. So, I hit the books hard. Big bang, dark energy, string theory – I read it all. And let me tell you, these books have blown my mind and reminded me of that little kid who used to look up at the stars and say, “Mamma, where’s my pizza?”
Here we go, folks, a careful selection of…
5 books to understand the universe
Massive: the higgs Boson and the Greatest Hunt in Science
Einstein described Planck as being driven by a “hunger of the soul.” He was said to have the passion of a man in love
“Massive: The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science” by Ian Sample is a starry tale through the past, present, and future of particle physics. Get ready to follow the steps of Peter Higgs, the elusive dude behind the infamous boson and the intense race to find it.
With Ian providing us with a unique insight into the minds and culture of those on the hunt, this book is for anyone wanting to understand the excitement and the drama surrounding the phenomenal discovery of the Higgs boson.
The Elegant Universe
The wonders of life and the universe are mere reflections of microscopic particles engaged in a pointless dance fully choreographed by the laws of physics
Brian Greene needs no introduction. Brian is the badass string theorist that you’ve seen in Instagram videos, documentaries, and even in “The Big Bang Theory” – Bazinga!
In this book, he tackles the two most successful theories in physics – quantum mechanics and relativity, offering a precious glimpse into the underlying forces that govern our lives. String theory, eleven dimensions, tearing of space fabric – the Mountain of Abstraction becomes harder to climb as you progress through the book. But If you’re looking for a captivating read that’ll make you question everything you thought you knew about reality – you’ve found it.
The Order of Time
We understand the world in its becoming, not in its being
My fellow Italian Carlo Rovelli is a genius when it comes to quantum gravity, philosophy, and writing style. I was blown away by every word in “The Order of Time.” Carlo skillfully narrates centuries of scientific discoveries transforming complex concepts into vivid metaphors.
But this book isn’t just the usual carousel between relativity and quantum mechanics. It is about embracing the wonders of our existence and the choices we make in our everyday life. It gives you a deeper appreciation for the world around us and leaves you with a newfound sense of awe, no matter how much of the science you grasp.
From Eternity to Here
If our lives are brief and undirected, at least we can take pride in our mutual courage as we struggle to understand things much greater than ourselves
Sean M. Carroll
This book holds a special place in my heart. I’ve listened to all episodes of Sean Carroll‘s podcast, Mindscape – Sean, I’m such a fan! So, when I was reading “From Eternity to Here” last summer in Berlin, sipping coffee at my favorite corner bar, Sean was there with me, sharing his quest to understand why the early universe had such a low entropy.
Why should you care? Well, the eggs in your fridge and the arrow of time depend on it.
Throughout the book, Sean covers everything from entropy to inflation to decoherence, and dwells on both established concepts and cutting-edge (read bonkers) theories. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his unique perspective on key topics in cosmology makes “From Eternity to Here” a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the universe we experience everyday.
Black Holes & Time Warps
Everything is drawn inexorably toward the future
Kip S. Thorne
All right, our last title is a universe of its own, and Kip is a legendary theoretical physicist. He has made some groundbreaking contributions – think Nobel Prize for the detection of gravitational waves – and has collaborated, among others, with 21st centuries protagonists of the calibre of Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan.
In his “Black Holes and Time Warps,” Kip takes you in deep into Einstein’s theory of relativity to reveal the most pressing secrets of the most puzzling objects in the universe. His greatest accomplishment, though, is to show you – not tell – the wild side of theoretical physics. Don’t expect an easy read, but if you’re willing to roll up your nerdy sleeves, you won’t regret it.
A Final Personal Touch
While reading these books, I’ve been indulging in daydreams of cosmic proportions, from the perplexing intricacies of time and entropy, to the theories of the Past Hypothesis and the uncharted frontiers of black holes.
The universe existed before us and will endure long after. Our time is just a brief moment in the timeless existence of spacetime.
This thought brings me a sense of peace. I hope it will for you too.