Monday, May 2, 2011

Gravity's Arc

Book Review : Gravity's Arc
Author : David Darling
My Rating : 4 out of 5

The complete title is "Gravity's Arc: The Story of Gravity from Aristotle to Einstein and Beyond".

Author David Darling has covered a lot of material in this short book that can be read very quickly. Starting from early theories of Gravity to all the way upto current speculation about Dark Energy.

The focus is on gravity, not on relativity theory or quantum mechanics or creation of the universe etc. Darling starts with Aristotle's explanation of how things fall to earth and projectile motion. Then we learn how later scientists found flaws in them and corrected - till Newton's formulation of the theory. And as you can expect, we then learn how Einstein used non-Euclidean geometry to change our understanding of gravity and eventually land into current ideas that still await experimental verification. It's quite a journey in fast forward.

All popular science books face a hard choice.  Without math, the treatment is bound to be superficial - just verbal explanations. But how much depth can be added without overburdening the layman ? In this book, Darling chooses to just scratch the surface. This allowed him to fit a lot of material in few pages, but left me unsatisfied. But that's just me.

If you haven't read a lot of pop-science, then you might enjoy this book a lot. If you have, then you may not find much new stuff here. That's my criticism. Books like "The Big Bang", by Simon Singh and "Fabric of Cosmos" by Brian Greene cover a lot of ground, in much more detail and in a very easy to understand style. So a frequent reader of pop-science books has no strong motivation to read this book.

Apart from the overlap problem, the book has no issues. It's a pleasant read.

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