Theoretical Physics and Quantum Theories do not exactly make for engrossing bed time stories. Or do they? Christophe Galfard’s avowed objective in penning this work seems to be to make a complicated, convoluted and challenging subject simple, succinct and serendipitous. And in this task, succeeds significantly.
From the time Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for positing (and perfectly so) about the earth not being at the core of the cosmological scheme of things (and even before), man’s burning inquisitiveness to grasp the mysteries contained within the all-enveloping universe has been insatiable. It is this quest that has produced stalwarts of the likes of Issac Newton, Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Stephen Hawking et al. It is also the same curiosity that has led man to make exponential progress in understanding our universe thereby spawning unbelievably esoteric and hard core theoretical concepts such as String Theories etc.
Christophe Galfard in this significant book handholds us through the myths and mysteries, miracles and monstrosities that led to the evolution of not just the universe, but space and time itself. We are introduced to gaping black holes (and surprised like hell to note that they don’t just suck the living daylights out of anything in close proximity to them, but also spit their victim’s mass out!) inexplicable dark matter (so dark and dubious that explanations to justify their presence makes one think that theoretical physicists are certified lunatics!) and the Big Bang that occured a staggering 13.8 billion years ago leading to the creation of our Universe. Galfard works around the complexities by taking recourse to fundamental examples that are easy to comprehend and recollect, even though it is a phenomenal challenge to convince a bemused, befuddled and bewildered reader that a cat used in a thought experiment, is after the completion of such an experiment neither dead nor alive, but BOTH! The more curious and daring ones may please proceed to look for “Shrodinger’s Cat” in Wikipedia. But I accept no responsibility whatsoever for confirmed instances of insanity!
Even though Galfard tries his best to make Quantum Physics an endearing companion, there are many instances and passages which are beyond the comprehension of the uninitiated. For example the Chapter dealing with String Theories behooves more than just a fundamental knowledge of Physics on the part of the reader, lacking which the entire read becomes an exercise in incomprehensibility
On the whole “The Universe In Your Hands” is an extremely engaging book which keeps you awake at night for more reasons than just curiosity!