Physics is fascinating: It is simple yet complex, it is comprehensive but incomplete. It’s the science of how things move, and the science of our past, our present, and our future. But as interesting as it is, physics can also be intimidating. Here are three books and three podcasts that will allow you to dip into the discipline, all created with the non-physicist in mind.
To be clear: There are a lot of fantastic “starter” books and podcasts on physics that aren’t listed here, and those will be covered at a later date. In the meantime: Enjoy!
PS: While this article links back to Amazon pages, no compensation was received in exchange for making these recommendations. In other words, this is not an ad.
1. COSMOS BY CARL SAGAN
Cosmos is one of the best-selling English science books ever published. The book — and the TV series it inspired — is credited for making science accessible and exciting for a generation of scientists, both young and old.
Written by celebrated astrophysicist Carl Sagan, Cosmos showcases the work of prominent scientists and philosophers along with the theories and inventions that helped shape modern civilization.
It covers 15 billion years of cosmic evolution with easy-to-understand language and complemented with illustrations, excerpts, and diagrams.
2. SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS BY CARLO ROVELLI
Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli covers some big ideas in this compact book on modern physics.
Complex topics — like general relativity, quantum mechanics and gravity — are presented in concise and digestible “lessons”. While the contents of the book may be old news to seasoned physicists, this is a great overview for people interested in learning more about the universe.
3. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING: THE ORIGIN AND FATE OF THE UNIVERSE BY STEPHEN HAWKING
The Theory of Everything sheds light on the most complex problems in modern physics, including string theory and Hawking’s own work on black holes.
Using thoughtful and humorous language, Hawking repeatedly discusses the concept of a “Theory of Everything”, i.e., an ultimate theoretical framework of physics that completely and elegantly explains the entire physical universe.
While the book may be a more technical read than Cosmos, it’s still a fairly accessible read.
- DANIEL AND JORGE EXPLAIN THE UNIVERSE
CERN physicist Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham tackle big ideas in an easy-to-understand manner in this popular physics podcast.
Seemingly simple ideas, like how a bicycle stays balanced, are used to deepen our understanding of the universe. Daniel and Jorge also cover areas of physics that are often considered “too complex” for non-physicists, like quantum theory and dark matter.
2. THE TITANIUM PHYSICISTS
This podcast, led by Dr. Ben Tippett and his team of experts, was created with the belief that anybody can understand physics. Each episode covers an advanced physics topic using everyday metaphors. While the topics may sound intimidating, the content is not.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is arguably one of the most famous faces of physics today, and he uses his star power to attract high-profile guests from several areas of expertise, including actors, scientists, and journalists. The self-described “space, science, and popular culture” podcast gives a scientific spin to a wide variety of topics. Listeners are encouraged to write in with their questions, which are often featured.
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