The trouble with gravity Solving the mystery beneath our feet

Richard Panek

Book - 2019

"An award-winning science writer traces our millennia-long effort to understand the phenomenon of gravity--the greatest mystery in physics, and a force that has shaped our universe and our minds in ways we have never fully understood until now"--

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2nd Floor 531.14/Panek Due Sep 6, 2022
Subjects
Published
Boston ; New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019.
Language
English
Physical Description
244 pages ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 225-231) and index.
ISBN
9780544526747
0544526740
Main Author
Richard Panek (author)
  • Gravity in our myths
  • Gravity in matter
  • Gravity in motion
  • Gravity as a fiction
  • Gravity as a fact
  • Gravity in excelsis
  • Gravity in our bones.
Review by Booklist Reviews

The story Panek tells about falling off a chair in a bookstore will not displace the iconic tale of Newton watching an apple fall in his uncle's orchard. But, like the famous physicist's story, Panek's experience illustrates the power of gravity. But whereas the meaning of Newton's apple is summed up in a tidy inverse-square formula, Panek's bookstore mishap opens onto a mystery. For although scientists have grown astonishingly adept at measuring gravity, Panek compellingly establishes that they still cannot explain it. In probing the riddle of gravity, Panek carries readers from ancient Chinese creation myths through Einstein's relativity. But even with the stunning 2016 verification of Einstein's prediction of gravity waves, physicists still struggle to understand why gravity appears so different from other universe-pervading influences, such as the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force. No wonder some daring theorists are now advancing an audacious interpretation of gravity as the effect of an unseen parallel universe! Whether in orchard or bookstore, readers will never again regard falling objects without amazement! Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The latest from Panek (The 4% Universe) is one of the best of the postgravitational-waves-discovery physics books for fans of popular science. Undeterred by Nobelist Kip Thorne amusedly telling him that the question "What is Gravity?" is meaningless, Panek proceeds to explore attempts to find an answer to the question. Beginning with myths from around the world that all differentiate between "down" here where we live and "up" there where there are stars, Panek progresses through key philosophical and scientific points made by Aristotle, John Philoponus, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, and more. His journey through time is written in a conversational style with clear explanations. For example, he describes Galileo's main experiment with gravity: rolling balls of differing weights down various inclines. Panek makes clear that our understanding of gravity, and of the universe itself, is rapidly accelerating: "Aristotle's universe lasted 2000 years. Newton's…200 years. Einstein's less than a decade." VERDICT Teen and adult readers interested in better understanding the force of gravity and gaining insight into humanity's expanding knowledge of the universe will find this highly recommended book to be both accessible and enjoyable.—Sara R. Tompson, Lawrence, KS Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Science writer Panek (The 4 Percent Universe) examines evolving theories of gravity in this thought-provoking volume, rounding up "the usual suspects—Aristotle, Newton, Einstein" to reconstruct their preconceptions and interrogate their conclusions. From the rigid spheres-only cosmology of Aristotle, which forced mathematicians to try to manipulate "the math down here to match the motions up there," to Copernicus's equations introducing the "possibility that Earth was a planet like any other," to the experiments of Galileo establishing that a rolling ball "sped up at an unvarying rate," Panek demystifies early investigations of gravity with easy humor and a philosophical bent. In contemporary theories, readers learn "the velocity of light is finite in Maxwell's equations, too, but it's also, crucially, something else: constant," which, in the 1860s, shifted the paradigm once again. Ultimately, he observes, Aristotle's view of the universe held sway for two millennia, while "Einstein's lasted less than a decade," thanks to the introduction of quantum mechanics. Panek's inquisitive, fine-tuned narrative is full of character and, unlike many other books on physics, imbued with the friendly casualness of a coffee-shop chat. As such, it will delight both lay readers and serious students. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow & Carlson Literary. (July) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The award-winning physicist and author of The 4% Universe explains how gravity has shaped our galaxy, minds and cultures, sharing insights extending from the work of early intellectuals through today's understandings about the fabric of space-time. 30,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"An award-winning science writer traces our millennia-long effort to understand the phenomenon of gravity--the greatest mystery in physics, and a force that has shaped our universe and our minds in ways we have never fully understood until now"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Traces the history of mankind's efforts to understand the phenomenon of gravity, describing how this force has shaped the universe, our minds, and culture.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Gravity is something, but what? Panek says one takes gravity for granted at their own peril. It turns out that we are all still in the dark about what it is. Panek, himself, has changed his ideas of what gravity is, from nobody knows, to nobody knows what it is and, amazingly, almost nobody knows that nobody knows. Scientists know that nobody knows, because if they don’t know, who could. We do know what gravity does, though. It brings things together like planets and moons, stars and galaxies. Gravity is the reason people make chairs to sit on, for instance. There is light at the end of the tunnel. On February 15, 2016, Einstein was posthumously validated regarding his previous prediction that gravity makes waves, just like a pebble in a pond, and those waves come in many sizes. Panek tackles the subject, approaching it from a number of perspectives. Annotation ©2019 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 5

"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.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

"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.  

Review by Publisher Summary 7

An award-winning science writer traces our millennia-long effort to understand the phenomenon of gravity'the greatest mystery in physics, and a force that has shaped our universe and our minds in ways we have never fully understood until now.

Review by Publisher Summary 8

An award-winning science writer traces our millennia-long effort to understand the phenomenon of gravity—the greatest mystery in physics, and a force that has shaped our universe and our minds in ways we have never fully understood until now.

Review by Publisher Summary 9

"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.