How to Love the Universe

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

In How to Love the Universe: A Scientist’s Odes to the Hidden Beauty Behind the Visible World, Stefan Klein concisely introduces nearly a dozen major physics concepts in brief, engaging chapters that clearly inform even as they often entertain.  Due to their brevity, the explanations are relatively simplified, but thanks to Klein’s economy of language and knack for analogy/metaphor, not overly so. Which makes the collection of essays a good primer to modern physics and an excellent stepping stone into longer, more substantive works on the subject.

The theme of the book is conveyed directly in the introduction, where Klein discusses how modern physics “changes our thinking, the way we see the world . . . [allows us] to look behind the veil of that which still seems self-evident to use today.”  In that vein, many of his subjects involve discoveries and theories that overturned conventional scientific belief or seem to subvert common sense. Some of these topics include the Big Bang, entropy and time’s arrow, cosmic inflation, the multiverse, dark matter, and dark energy.

Klein doesn’t delve too deeply into the weeds on these; the book is divided into ten chapters which total only about 200 words (a Notes section takes up another 30 pages), and each chapter covers more topics than the singular major focus.  It’s not that he shies away from any detail — he covers many a specific experiment, throws out lots of concrete numbers, such as the math on the odds of there being another planet like ours out there. But he mostly conveys the overarching fullness of the concepts in terms of the big picture—what they mean and how they fit into the world as we know it.

Better yet, he does so in wholly lucid fashion, with language and narrative form that is always clear, engaging, sometimes lyrical, sometimes playful, as when he employs a detective trying to solve a baffling series of heists in order to explain quantum entanglement (trust me, it works).  Sometimes you read a popular book of science and feel you “got” what the author was saying so easily but also feel it’s because it was too dumbed down, too much was left out. Here you feel you “get” it because you trust Klein’s talent for transparently conveying what’s important and necessary to know. His voice is personal — he makes use of his own experiences multiple times — and conversational without a forced intimacy or humor that can sometimes infect such works.

If you read a lot of popular physics, you won’t find much new here — maybe an experiment or two, a name or three — but it’s a good refresher and one can’t help but take pleasure in the clarity and success.  If you don’t read a lot of physics, then it’s hard to imagine a more welcoming introduction.
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A warm, friendly, book about the universe

I loved this book. There is a lot of great science writing around and this book fits the bill. Author Stefan Klein tells an excellent, poetic story about the universe in a way that shows that he really loves science and that he wants to share that love with the public. He is one of those rare authors that I would like to talk to over a cup of coffee or a beer. This is a science book but it is communicated very clearly and conversationally. There was nothing in the book I hadn’t read before, but Klein is such a good story-teller that he made everything new. Due credit must also be given to translator Mike Mitchell. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in science.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.
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Poets often accuse science of taking the magic out of the world but physicist and writer Stefan Klein thinks they are wrong:

Poets are rightly afraid of a world that has lost its magic, but anyone who harbours that fear is confusing research into our world with an Easter egg hunt, in the course of which all the hiding places are eventually plundered. Genuine insight, however, throws up more questions than it can answer.

In his book, How to Love the Universe, he looks at questions like why did roses develop their beautiful colour; why is the sky dark at night; how big is the universe; how many coincidences, accidents, and seeming impossibilities had to occur to produce us; and what is the likelihood of life on other planets, even perhaps people who are our exact doubles. He tells it all with enthusiasm and excitement and in language that we non-scientific types can easily understand - he even explains the odd behaviour of quarks by telling a detective story - and his clear passion for his subject is infectious. I dare anyone to read this book and not come away with a greater sense of the beauty, the mystery, and the magic of the universe and our very very small corner of it.

Thanks to Netgalley and The Experiment for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
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What a mind-expanding book!  The secrets and beauty of the universe unfolds on its pages, yet doesn't get too bogged down in academia.  You'll definitely become a smarter person after reading.
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I can't read this book in the format provided - very disappointed. It looks wonderful. If a Kindle-friendly format becomes available please let me know and I would happy to read and review.
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