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The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet

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"A thoughtful meditation on the mythic, cultural, philosophical and, yes, scientific implications of what happens when a wet potato or a crystal vase slips from your hand."—Billy Collins A mind-bending exploration of gravity, the universe's greatest mystery. What is gravity? Nobody knows—and just about nobody knows that nobody knows. How something so pervasive can also be "A thoughtful meditation on the mythic, cultural, philosophical and, yes, scientific implications of what happens when a wet potato or a crystal vase slips from your hand."—Billy Collins A mind-bending exploration of gravity, the universe's greatest mystery. What is gravity? Nobody knows—and just about nobody knows that nobody knows. How something so pervasive can also be so mysterious, and how that mystery can be so wholly unrecognized outside the field of physics, is one of the greatest conundrums in modern science. But as award-winning author Richard Panek shows in this groundbreaking book, gravity is a cold case that we are closer to cracking than ever—and whose very investigation has yielded untold truths about the cosmos and humanity itself. Part scientific detective story, part meta­physical romp, The Trouble with Gravity is a revelation: the first in-depth, accessible study of this ubiquitous, elusive force. Gravity and our efforts to understand it, Panek reveals, have shaped not only the world we inhabit, but also our bodies, minds, and culture. Its influence can be seen in everything from ancient fables to modern furniture, Dante’s Inferno to the pratfalls of Laurel and Hardy, bipedalism to black holes. As we approach the truth about gravity, we should also be prepared to know both our universe and our­selves as never before.  


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"A thoughtful meditation on the mythic, cultural, philosophical and, yes, scientific implications of what happens when a wet potato or a crystal vase slips from your hand."—Billy Collins A mind-bending exploration of gravity, the universe's greatest mystery. What is gravity? Nobody knows—and just about nobody knows that nobody knows. How something so pervasive can also be "A thoughtful meditation on the mythic, cultural, philosophical and, yes, scientific implications of what happens when a wet potato or a crystal vase slips from your hand."—Billy Collins A mind-bending exploration of gravity, the universe's greatest mystery. What is gravity? Nobody knows—and just about nobody knows that nobody knows. How something so pervasive can also be so mysterious, and how that mystery can be so wholly unrecognized outside the field of physics, is one of the greatest conundrums in modern science. But as award-winning author Richard Panek shows in this groundbreaking book, gravity is a cold case that we are closer to cracking than ever—and whose very investigation has yielded untold truths about the cosmos and humanity itself. Part scientific detective story, part meta­physical romp, The Trouble with Gravity is a revelation: the first in-depth, accessible study of this ubiquitous, elusive force. Gravity and our efforts to understand it, Panek reveals, have shaped not only the world we inhabit, but also our bodies, minds, and culture. Its influence can be seen in everything from ancient fables to modern furniture, Dante’s Inferno to the pratfalls of Laurel and Hardy, bipedalism to black holes. As we approach the truth about gravity, we should also be prepared to know both our universe and our­selves as never before.  

30 review for The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rama

    Gravity: A tour of a heavy topic Gravity is a fundamental force that creates physical reality we experience and become conscious of. Three major figures of science unlocked the mysteries gravity: Galileo, the first to take a close look at the process of free and restricted fall; Newton, originator of the concept of gravity as a universal force; and Einstein, who proposed that gravity is a curvature of the four-dimensional space-time continuum. But it goes further in quantum physics which describ Gravity: A tour of a heavy topic Gravity is a fundamental force that creates physical reality we experience and become conscious of. Three major figures of science unlocked the mysteries gravity: Galileo, the first to take a close look at the process of free and restricted fall; Newton, originator of the concept of gravity as a universal force; and Einstein, who proposed that gravity is a curvature of the four-dimensional space-time continuum. But it goes further in quantum physics which describes spacetime in discrete quanta, i.e. in bits and pieces at the most fundamental quantum scale. In other words, it contrasts traditional wisdom that spacetime is continuous. Gravity is still a cold case and we are not any closer to solving this, but it is leading into many new avenues about the cosmos. Detection of gravitational waves and black holes have been exciting in physics, and information is emerging as the key player in the operation of matter and energy in spacetime. It is the transformation of matter (nonliving) into a living material (life), and how forces of nature become essential for existence (physical reality). If you are looking for a book to read about the recent advances in gravitation, then I would suggest looking elsewhere. The author does not focus on the concept of gravity to any significant extent that would generate interest. He reports a mishmash of news and physics ideas that looks like a smorgasbord than a navel discussion.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    This is a fairly breezy overview of the topic of gravity - how it was perceived in centuries past, how it was reconceived during the Age of Reason, and how it has come to be measured. The really exciting stuff (Black Holes! Gravitational Lensing! Multiverses!) doesn't come until near the end. I found myself skimming through the early chapters which dealt with a fair amount of mysticism and misunderstanding. The technical parts are explained for a layperson, there's no math to speak of (which is This is a fairly breezy overview of the topic of gravity - how it was perceived in centuries past, how it was reconceived during the Age of Reason, and how it has come to be measured. The really exciting stuff (Black Holes! Gravitational Lensing! Multiverses!) doesn't come until near the end. I found myself skimming through the early chapters which dealt with a fair amount of mysticism and misunderstanding. The technical parts are explained for a layperson, there's no math to speak of (which is good for me), but if you're conversant with physics as a layperson then this book probably doesn't have much to teach you. Unless you want to learn more about creation myths.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This book is mostly a recounting of pre-scientific philosophy and scientific thoughts about the physical world. The majority of the book runs from creation myths to mid-20th century physics. Only the last 20 to 30 pages explores contemporary research on gravity; this is my biggest issue with the book - expectations were subverted and not in a pleasing way. Panek's writing style is also not my favorite. It is often difficult to comprehend his (usually long) sentences without reading them to concl This book is mostly a recounting of pre-scientific philosophy and scientific thoughts about the physical world. The majority of the book runs from creation myths to mid-20th century physics. Only the last 20 to 30 pages explores contemporary research on gravity; this is my biggest issue with the book - expectations were subverted and not in a pleasing way. Panek's writing style is also not my favorite. It is often difficult to comprehend his (usually long) sentences without reading them to conclusion. I would often re-read a phrase multiple times, thinking it was a typo before moving forward to the rest of the sentence. And the gravitas that the author wants to impart by continually invoking the phrases "down here" and "up there" in italics was lost on me. I wanted to enjoy the book more than I did.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    "Just over two hundred pages of main content here includes a solid fifty pages of comparative cosmology. This extended exposition leads into a breezy overview of mankind’s evolving perception of reality from antiquity to today. Gravity is certainly a dominant theme, but it is merely a clothesline to hang upon this chronological history pondering the nature of reality, from the myth maker to the Nobel laureate...." (This is the second time I have been seriously disappointed with a Richard Panek bo "Just over two hundred pages of main content here includes a solid fifty pages of comparative cosmology. This extended exposition leads into a breezy overview of mankind’s evolving perception of reality from antiquity to today. Gravity is certainly a dominant theme, but it is merely a clothesline to hang upon this chronological history pondering the nature of reality, from the myth maker to the Nobel laureate...." (This is the second time I have been seriously disappointed with a Richard Panek book and I doubt I will give him another chance.) [Look for my entire review at MAA Reviews]

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    If you want an in-depth discussion of the modern theories of gravity (which was what I hoped for), this is not the book for you. If you want an overview of the history of mankind's understanding (really, lack thereof) of what gravity is and how it works, from ancient times to modern times, then this is a perfectly fine book for you. Not amazing, just fine.

  6. 5 out of 5

    D. Norman

    Not really what I expected (I thought it would be about gravity). Instead it was a compendium of myths and stories told in a sometimes incomprehensible string of too long and convoluted sentences. Some parts of the last chapter were interesting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leanderq

    Moderately engaging writing, very little time spent on the science.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    This is, without a doubt, the best book about gravity that I have ever read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rick Edwards

    An eminently readable book on a challenging subject. It leaves me as dissatisfied as is the world of science with the lack of answers, and as daunted as ever with the prospect of more frequent falls as I grow older.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  12. 5 out of 5

    J.D.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rem

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ciel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kailee

  16. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Issa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Francisco Niño

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mustafa

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mo

  23. 5 out of 5

    Win Strickland

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beth James

  25. 4 out of 5

    George

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ed Fowler

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hruska

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frank Brasile

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liono81

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