Author: Paul Halpern
Blurb: For millennia, scientists have puzzled over a simple question: Does the universe have a speed limit? If not, some effects could happen at the same instant as the actions that caused them — and some effects, ludicrously, might even happen before their causes. By one hundred years ago, it seemed clear that the speed of light was the fastest possible speed. Causality was safe. And then quantum mechanics happened, introducing spooky connections that seemed to circumvent the law of cause and effect. Inspired by the new physics, psychologist Carl Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli explored a concept called synchronicity, a weird phenomenon they thought could link events without causes. Synchronicity tells that sprawling tale of insight and creativity, and asks where these ideas — some plain crazy, and others crazy powerful — are taking the human story next.
Every now and again, I have an itch to read a science book to learn more about the scientific concepts that I only touched on in school (I majored in finance and English, so I only ever scraped the surface of science classes). Having had one of those itches recently, I decided to give Synchronicity a try.
Synchronicity provides a fairly in-depth look into the evolution of physics across the ages, starting all the way back with the ancient Greek philosophers. The book discusses the gradual development of human understanding of the major forces at play in the universe—such as gravity and electromagnetism—and their relationship to the complex concept we call “light.”
The book touches on many of the contributions of the “big names” in physics throughout the generations, as well as some of the lesser-known people who contributed important discoveries and theories that were gradually folded into our modern understanding of physics. Galileo, Kepler, Pauli, Einstein, and many more are mentioned thorough the text, and the author takes the time to examine how some of their complicated personal lives influenced the outcomes of their professional work.
Overall, I thought the author thoroughly explored the main topic in a sufficiently organized manner and constructed a solid timeline that clearly shows exactly how drastically human understanding of physics has evolved and how that understanding has impacted the development of society. While I did find the text a little dense in places—for my taste, of course—I can’t deny that it’s a very well researched and well structured reference text that anyone with a serious interest in the history of physics should add to their bookshelf.
Thanks to NetGalley and Basic Books for providing me with an eARC of Synchronicity.