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How Does the Quantum Help Us Understand the World? Carlo Rovelli

Festival of Ideas
Carlo Rovelli

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Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli guides us through the extraordinary story of quantum physics, its key ideas, the debates it raises and his own contribution to making sense of the quantum.

Rovelli’s new book Helogoland opens a century ago on a treeless windswept island in the North Sea, where the young Werner Heisenberg, aged just 23, had retreated to think. This is the story of the bright young men who together with Heisenberg completed the theory of quantum mechanics and were to become some of science’s most famous Nobel-Prize winners. Their science has given us modern technology, yet it remains enigmatic, swarming with startling ideas such as ghostly waves, distant objects seemly magically connected to each other, and cats that are both asleep and awake.

Drawing on a lifetime of reading across the sciences and the arts, philosophy and neuroscience, Rovelli guides us through the far-reaching general implications of thinking of reality as a vast network of relations, of which we ourselves are just a component. The great scientific discoveries have remade the structure of the world in our imagination. Now, a century on from the discovery of quantum theory, Rovelli helps us to truly understand the world we live in.

In conversation with James Ladyman, University of Bristol.

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Book cover Carlo Rovelli

Carlo Rovelli’s Helgoland is published by Allen Lane. Buy a copy from Waterstones, our bookselling partners.

Carlo Rovelli

Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist who has made significant contributions to the physics of space and time. His books Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, Reality is Not What it Seems and The Order of Time are international bestsellers which have been translated into 43 languages and have sold over 2 million copies worldwide in all formats. Rovelli is currently working in Canada and also directing the quantum gravity research group of the Centre de Physique Théorique in Marseille, France.


Image credit: Christopher Wahl

James Ladyman is professor of philosophy at the University of Bristol and co-editor in chief of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. He has been assistant, deputy and co-editor of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and honorary secretary of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science. He founded and is director of the University of Bristol’s Centre for Science and Philosophy. He regularly speaks at public philosophy events and festivals, and writes for popular philosophy magazines. He is on the executive committee of the Council for the Defence of British Universities. His latest book (with Karoline Wiesner) is What is a Complex System?

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