We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe by Marcus Chown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“We Need To Talk About Kelvin” has a unique storytelling approach to covering some of the deepest concepts of the universe. It starts with an everyday observation - taking it to its logical conclusion with step by step reasoning.
A very good example is the view from the window out into the street during the night. You can see into the lighted shop opposite the window; and you can also see your own reflection partially in the window. This leads to the discussion of the quantum theory of light. The unpredictability associated with the probability of reflection. There are then deeper discussions on quantum theory, atoms and the universe.
There is a very interesting discussion on why the night sky is black (Oblers paradox). In a universe with millions of stars, why do we not see a more lighted sky? Marcus Chown mentions that as many as over 90% of astronomers get the reasoning wrong for this. This relates to the observable universe, speed of light, the finite age of the universe and its expansion. The reasoning leading up to the conclusion is very good. There is an easy, fast paced and fun style of narration which keeps you hooked till you read all of it.
Another starting point for a discussion is the amount of iron we find on Earth, ultimately leading to the conclusion of where and how it was condensed on Earth from. The discussion on how the sun is as hot as it is, is also fascinating. There were various theories and considerable work done on this before an acceptable reasoning was arrived. The section dealing with spin of sub-atomic particles like photons is an engrossing read as well.
In fairly simple language the book certainly simulates interest, prompting you to read more about the universe! Well worth a read and recommended. Marcus Chown’s enthusiasm about discussing the universe will carry you through the book very quickly.
Interestingly the other book of Marcus Chown which I read The Universe Next Door is unique in detailing very different non-mainstream theories (some make the head swim) about the universe (all put forward by scientists!).
View all my reviews