An award-winning science writer plumbs the depths of the greatest mystery in physics, showing how gravity has shaped our universe, minds, and cultures, and tracing our millennia-long efforts to unravel its secrets—from Aristotelian philosophy to Newton’s apple to the recent, groundbreaking observation of ripples in the fabric of space-time.
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, mind-bending book, gravity is a cold case that’s beginning to heat up.
InThe Trouble with Gravity, Panek invites the reader to experience this ubiquitous yet elusive force in a breathtakingly new way. In the process, he opens up untold vistas onto the universe and humanity’s place in it. Gravity, Panek explains, structures not only our bodies and our physical world, but also our minds and culture. From our very beginnings, humans’ conceptions of gravity have been inextricably bound to our understanding of existence itself. Thus as we get closer and closerto solving the riddle of gravity, it is not only physics that is becoming clearer. We are also getting to know ourselves as never before.
A Guggenheim Fellow in science writing, RICHARD PANEK is the author of The 4% Universe, which won the American Institute of Physics communication award. He is also the coauthor, with Temple Grandin, of the New York Times bestseller The Autistic Brain.
"Fine popular primer...expert description of the spectacular things that gravity does."
“I've long been a big fan of Richard Panek's writing. He is eloquent, smart, and a fascinating thinker, someone who is able to get me excited about topics that would have never even occurred to me. I respect and trust him—and am always eager to see what he will write next.”
—Maria Konnikova,New York Times best-selling author ofMastermind andThe Confidence Game
“Richard Panek moves with startling grace and economy through the intersecting realms of philosophy and physics, always asking the unexpected question. He has forced me to rethink my fundamental assumptions about gravity—and shown me how much we can gain by doing so.”
—Andrea Barrett, author ofThe Air We Breathe andArchangel
"InThe Trouble with Gravity,Richard Panek acts as a guide, both amiable and erudite, through one of the most puzzling mysteries of the natural world. In explaining the various ‘explanations’ of gravity from classical to post-modern times, Panek draws us into 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."
“Gravity is a mystery—one of the greatest. It has baffled and teased humans since the dawn of history and perplexes us still. Richard Panek takes us on a journey that is original, brave, and ultimately very beautiful: a reminder that sometimes science isn’t a solution but a search.”
—James Gleick, author ofTime Travel: A History
“Without gravity, there would be no earth, no humans and no non-fiction books. Which would be a shame, because we’d miss out on Richard Panek’s wonderful, entertaining work. Richard takes us on a vivid journey from the arctic to the tropics, from the human skeleton to the edges of the universe, filling our imagination with counter-intuitive modern science and ancient philosophy. And all of this is delivered in buoyant, almost poetic, writing. So thank you gravity and Richard.”
—A.J. Jacobs, author ofThe Year of Living Biblically