The Ascent of Gravity: The Quest to Understand the Force that Explains Everything

Author(s): Marcus Chown


The Sunday Times Science Book of the Year 2017

'Entertaining and at times mind-boggling guide to the weakest of nature's fundamental forces, which also controls the fate of the universe' Manjit Kumar, The Times

Gravity is the weakest force in the everyday world yet it is the strongest force in the universe. It was the first force to be recognised and described yet it is the least understood. It is a 'force' that keeps your feet on the ground yet no such force actually exists.

Gravity, to steal the words of Winston Churchill, is 'a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma'. And penetrating that enigma promises to answer the biggest questions in science: what is space? What is time? What is the universe? And where did it all come from?

Award-winning writer Marcus Chown takes us on an unforgettable journey from the recognition of the 'force' of gravity in 1666 to the discovery of gravitational waves in 2015. And, as we stand on the brink of a seismic revolution in our worldview, he brings us up to speed on the greatest challenge ever to confront physics.


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Timely, accessible and peppered with quotes from Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, this history ofsomething we all feel but still cannot quite grasp has an admirably light touch * THE SUNDAY TIMES 'Science Book of the Year' * A helter-skelter tour through the lives and discoveries of people who helped us understand gravity .. fascinating facts ... he gives us the clearest explanation I have yet read of Einstein's principle of relativity ... this book taught me science and science history in an engaging fashion ... Chown's style carries the reader along in the quest to understand gravity and I recommend it ... entertaining science history -- John Davies * ASTRONOMY NOW * The "detective mystery" aspect of the subject [is] certainly something Chown captures to perfection * FORTEAN TIMES * '[Chown's] chapter on the tides, from the water in the River Severn to the squeezing and stretching of Jupiter's moon Io, is lovely . . . One of the nicest explanations I've read of the fact that objects of different mass fall at the same rate . . . We end with the current attempt to reconcile gravity and quantum theory, and a surprisingly accessible and enjoyable discussion of string theory and multidimensional space . . . Enjoyably, Chown's book doesn't give the sense that "physics is broken" I've come across elsewhere; it's more that we're on the cusp of an exciting step change in our understanding' -- Cait MacPhee, professor of biological physics, University of Edinburgh * THES * 'Mind-bogglingly brilliant' * * 'An accessible history of the most well known but least understood force' * Big Issue North * 'A readable romp through the history of cosmology and its possible future, all tied together through the story of how we have understood gravity . . . Chown is excellent on bringing out the temporary nature of theories, as well as the messy business of refining them' * * 'Compact and accessible while remaining comprehensive. A welcome addition to anyone's popular science library, written in a relaxed style and full of relevant quotations' * BBC Sky at Night Magazine * '"Everyone thinks it sucks but in most of the Universe it blows." That aphoristic introduction hints at the genial wit and scientific flair that await in Marcus Chown's primer on gravity, which traces the historic arc of our understanding of the force. He shows how Isaac Newton's 1687 Principia - which distilled fundamental laws from the complexity of the cosmos - helps to explain phenomena such as tides. He analyses Albert Einstein's reformulation of gravity as warped space-time. And he gazes into the weird realm of quantum theory - and the "undiscovered country" of the next big questions' -- Barbara Kiser * Nature * 'Marcus Chown is one of the UK's best writers on physics and astronomy - it's excellent to see him back on what he does best . . . no one has covered the topic with such a light touch and joie de vivre as Chown . . . It gives what I think is the best introduction to string theory at this basic descriptive level I've ever seen . . . a very readable exploration of humanity's gradual realisation of what gravity was about with all of Chown's usual sparkle . . . a delight' -- Brian Clegg * * 'Chown is good company. He tells his story clearly and sets out the key ideas without recourse to jargon and intimidating mathematics . . . "There has never been a better time to study gravity," Arkani-Hamed insists, and Chown's eminently readable book helps us understand why' -- Graham Farmelo * Guardian * 'Entertaining and at times mind-boggling guide to the weakest of nature's fundamental forces, which also controls the fate of the universe' -- Manjit Kumar * The Times *

Marcus Chown is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. Formerly a radio astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, he is cosmology consultant for NEW SCIENTIST. His books include WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD, QUANTUM THEORY CANNOT HURT YOU and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KELVIN, which was shortlisted for the 2010 Royal Society Book Prize. He is also the author of the app SOLAR SYSTEM FOR iPAD, which won THE BOOKSELLER Digital Innovation of the Year award. Marcus was a regular guest on the BBC4 comedy-science show, IT'S ONLY A THEORY, and Channel 4's SUNDAY BRUNCH. He has spoken at a variety of events, including the Cheltenham Literary Festival, Sydney Writers Festival, the National Theatre and Wilderness Festival. And he has also performed stand-up comedy at a variety of venues from an upturned inflatable cow on London's South Bank to a glass-bottomed boat in a shark tank at the Brighton Sealife Centre.

General Fields

  • : 9781474601887
  • : Orion Publishing Group, Limited
  • : Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • : 0.222
  • : March 2018
  • : 198mm X 129mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : April 2018
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Marcus Chown
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : 521.1
  • : 288