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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

The number one best-selling author of The Order of Time is back with a stunning book about the enigma of quantum physics.

In June 1925, 23-year-old Werner Heisenberg, suffering from hay fever, retreated to a small, treeless island in the North Sea called Helgoland. It was there that he came up with one of the most transformative scientific concepts: quantum theory.

Almost a century later, quantum physics has given us many startling ideas: ghost waves, distant objects that seem magically connected to each other, cats that are both dead and alive. Countless experiments have led to practical applications that shape our daily lives. Today our understanding of the world around us is based on this theory. And yet it is still profoundly mysterious.

In this enchanting book, Carlo Rovelli, one of our most celebrated scientists, tells the extraordinary story of quantum physics and reveals its deep meaning: a world made of substances is replaced by a world made of relations, each particle responding to another in a never ending game of mirrors.

Shifting our perspective once again, Rovelli takes us on a riveting journey through the universe so we can better understand our place in it.

©2021 Carlo Rovelli (P)2021 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Helgoland

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Extraordinary!

Easy to follow.
Challenging ideas, understandable for non scientists, excellent interconexion between Physics and Philosophy.

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  • papapownall
  • 04-06-21

More clever writing from Carlo Rovelli

I really enjoyed Carlo Rovelli's "There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness" and was keen to read / listen to more from him. Some of the material in this short book was covered in his previous work. Helgoland covers Werner Heisenberg's visits to a German island in the 1920s where his original thinking formed what is now know as quantum physics. I do not mind too much that there is an element of repetition here as the story is told so well. Rovelli does not attempt to explain quantum physics to the reader but he does explain why it is so complex and he writes with the maxim of "never attempt to express yourself more clearly than you can think".
It was interesting to consider that Heisenberg defined objects in the way they interact with others and the amazing concept of entanglement of correlated objects. The certainty of classical physics may have been a comfort to many physicists but it is now found to be merely a probability. And when these concepts are extended to the fields of philosophy and even metaphysics it is not difficult to see why many have lost their minds trying to understand these concepts.
Interestingly, when I came to write this review after having streamed and finished the audio through my smartphone, the Audible account on my laptop told me that I had not listened to sufficient of the audio book to post a review. Maybe this was an example of quantum physics in action? After all, some of these ideas were originally recorded in Buddhist texts of Nāgārjuna four thousand years ago. Or it could just be that I have not updated the software on my phone for a couple of weeks.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Leigh
  • 04-03-21

OMG

My first book from Carlo Rovelli...profound, mind blowing and totally compelling! An easy read with so many insights.

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  • Derek S.
  • 06-17-21

Blew my (admittedly fairly tiny) mind!

This is my first Carlo Rovelli book and I don't think it will be my last. This is a beautifully written book with many poetically phrased and composed statements which serve to illustrate how difficult it is to understand the quantum world that underlies reality as we experience it. I'm educated to A Level and graduate level in the sciences and have always been fascinated by the topics covered in this book, having said that I'm not sure I actually 'understood' but a fraction of the ideas postulated and explored by Carlo (I'm not sure anybody does) but I found the language he uses and the the excellent reading by the very posh David Rintoul more than enough to keep me interested. There were some chapters that I found completely undecipherable (probably because by knowledge of Philosophy is at play school level) but it was still enjoyable to let the ideas and the language wash over me in my ignorance. There were also some turns of phrase that will stay with me for long time. I found myself wanting other (maybe less scientifically inclined) people to listen to certain passages just to get there reaction to it.

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  • Don O'treply
  • 04-25-21

Good but weaker than others of his.

Starts well, but when it starts going on about 'relational interpretations' it gets quite annoying as it doesn't clarify what this means. Surely all theories involve relations. And where there is a relation, are there not 'things' that are related?
Glosses over important issues regarding the existence of atoms and whether Mach's views are compatible with the modern view of atoms.

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  • Avi D Reader
  • 05-25-21

Physics and philosophy in prose

I enjoy every new book Rovelli publishes. Not to learn the physics (only) but for the joy of his prose and his evident humanity. Sheer delight.

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  • D. Cottam
  • 05-11-21

An extraordinary experience

I have been spellbound by this book
I feared quantum mechanics would be an arid and intimidating subject but the beauty of the writing and the superb narration were enthralling.
It is a meditative and philosophical book, not long, but packed with moving and profound insights. Some sections
express challenging ideas with perfect analogies in the most exquisite prose.
I have replayed many sections and will return again.
One of my all time favourite audio
books.
David Rintoul’s narration is pitch perfect: thoughtful, mellifluous, unhurried and clear.

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  • Dave G
  • 05-07-21

Astonishing scientific literature with the skilful hand of a poet.

A little heavy at the beginning (for me at least), but came together beautifully in the end. Rovelli is a scientist, a philosopher, a poet. This is another one of his master works that skilfully articulates all these facets and delivers a mind bending, soul searching, life affirming piece of literate that can be read and appreciated by anyone with a interest in science/philosophy.

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  • Simon
  • 04-29-21

Physics at its most beautiful.

Simply a wonderful book. The author weaves a fascinating story that reveals the origins and future of quantum theory. Just magical.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-24-21

stunning

couldn't put it down, how joyful to be a ripple in a network of networks

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  • Monika
  • 04-12-21

Great insight into the meaning of quantum mechanic

The book is equally philosophical and scientific. It is a great and quite easy read. It makes you think about the nature of the world and our human experience.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-02-21

Best book on quantum theory

best book on quantum theory that I have ever read. Not much about maths but lots about the philosophical implications. Well worth a second read.