Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown

I started reading “Kelvin” halfway through January, and it feels like it’s taken me almost that long to compose this review.  The problem is that I want to rave, and I’m having to restrain my enthusiasm so I can compose some intelligent arguments as to why you should read this book.

So let me get the raving out of the way first.  I really enjoyed this book.  I expected to be educated and enlightened, but I never expected to be entertained as well.  I laughed more than once, and enjoyed sharing quotes and tidbits with my geeky husband, who is now nose-deep in the book himself.

Author Marcus Chown is the cosmology consultant to New Scientist, and this is the latest in a string of books about the universe. In “Kelvin”, Chown promises to show us what everyday things tell us about the universe, and that promise is fulfilled.  Each chapter looks at a single feature of the world that we know, and uses that to explain the bizarro world of quantum physics in simple, straightforward language.

And it’s brilliant.  Chown leads the reader gradually from simple daily observations to the insane theories of how the universe works, so that by the time you finish a section you’re ready for the next mind-boggling revelation.

It’s a book worth putting down and thinking about at regular intervals, because there is a lot to absorb.  But while the book is intense reading, it escapes being dull and heavy.  Chown has a talent for exposing not just the science, but the people behind it.  I never knew physicists were such interesting creatures.  The anecdotes and histories scattered throughout the text are fascinating and give a welcome human touch.

This is a book best served in a big comfy chair with a glass of something fortifying.  It’s a book for anyone who looks at the world and asks “why?”  And if you’re a speculative fiction writer, this book is 200 pages of ideas.  The star crucibles, for example, just blew me away completely.  Wonderful stuff.   Science has never been so entertaining.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown

  1. Wow…okay, thank you for mentioning this writer. I’ve been looking for more non-fiction to read. Precisely for this reason: “if you’re a speculative fiction writer, this book is 200 pages of ideas”, and this looks like a great start.

    Plus- I love the cover! I’m a sucker for great cover art.

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