A mind-bending exploration of gravity, the universe's greatest mystery.
What is gravity? Nobody knows—and just about nobody knows that nobody knows. How something so pervasive can also be so mysterious, and how that mystery can be so wholly unrecognized outside the field of physics, is one of the greatest conundrums in modern science. But as award-winning author Richard Panek shows in this groundbreaking book, gravity is a cold case that we are closer to cracking than ever—and whose very investigation has yielded untold truths about the cosmos and humanity itself.
Part scientific detective story, part metaphysical romp, The Trouble with Gravity is a revelation: the first in-depth, accessible study of this ubiquitous, elusive force. Gravity and our efforts to understand it, Panek reveals, have shaped not only the world we inhabit, but also our bodies, minds, and culture. Its influence can be seen in everything from ancient fables to modern furniture, Dante’s Inferno to the pratfalls of Laurel and Hardy, bipedalism to black holes. As we approach the truth about gravity, we should also be prepared to know both our universe and ourselves as never before.
About the Author
RICHARD PANEK, a Guggenheim Fellow in science writing, is the author of The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality, which won the American Institute of Physics communication award in 2012, and the co-author with Temple Grandin of The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, a New York Times bestseller. He lives in New York City.
"[Panek] has made a career out of explaining things scientists themselves may barely understand... [he] takes evident pleasure in the whirl of new ideas."
—The Washington Post
"With a sustained sense of wonder, Panek finds the roots of science in our myths and poetry, uncovering the provocative side of something we only think we know. His rigorous-but-readable book won’t reveal what gravity is, but will challenge your view of the universe and our place in it."
“Thought-provoking . . . Panek’s inquisitive, fine-tuned narrative is full of character and, unlike many other books on physics, imbued with the friendly casualness of a coffee-shop chat. As such, it will delight both lay readers and serious students.”
“One of the best of the postgravitational-waves-discovery physics books for fans of popular science . . . highly recommended.”
“Fine popular primer...expert description of the spectacular things that gravity does.”
“I've long been a big fan of Richard Panek's writing. He is eloquent, smart, and a fascinating thinker, someone who is able to get me excited about topics that would have never even occurred to me. I respect and trust him—and am always eager to see what he will write next.”
—Maria Konnikova, New York Times best-selling author of Mastermind and The Confidence Game
“Richard Panek moves with startling grace and economy through the intersecting realms of philosophy and physics, always asking the unexpected question. He has forced me to rethink my fundamental assumptions about gravity—and shown me how much we can gain by doing so.”
—Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe and Archangel
"In The Trouble with Gravity, Richard Panek acts as a guide, both amiable and erudite, through one of the most puzzling mysteries of the natural world. In explaining the various ‘explanations’ of gravity from classical to post-modern times, Panek draws us into a thoughtful meditation on the mythic, cultural, philosophical and, yes, scientific implications of what happens when a wet potato or a crystal vase slips from your hand."
“Gravity is a mystery—one of the greatest. It has baffled and teased humans since the dawn of history and perplexes us still. Richard Panek takes us on a journey that is original, brave, and ultimately very beautiful: a reminder that sometimes science isn’t a solution but a search.”
—James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History
“Without gravity, there would be no earth, no humans and no non-fiction books. Which would be a shame, because we’d miss out on Richard Panek’s wonderful, entertaining work. Richard takes us on a vivid journey from the arctic to the tropics, from the human skeleton to the edges of the universe, filling our imagination with counter-intuitive modern science and ancient philosophy. And all of this is delivered in buoyant, almost poetic, writing. So thank you gravity and Richard.”
—A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
“A thoroughly researched tour of humanity’s investigations of gravity through the ages, including the very exciting—but still unfinished—ones happening today.”
—Professor Lisa Randall, author of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs