The Ascent of Gravity

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474601887

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 5th April 2018

Genre: Mathematics & Science

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The Sunday Times Science Book of the Year 2017

‘Does Einstein proud . . . Eminently readable’ Guardian

‘No one has covered the topic with such a light touch and joie de vivre . . . a delight’ Brian Clegg

Gravity was the first force to be recognised and described yet it is still the least understood. If we can unlock its secrets, the force that keeps our feet on the ground holds the key to understanding the biggest questions in science: what is space? What is time? What is the universe? And where did it all come from?

Award-winning writer Marcus Chown takes us on an unforgettable journey from the recognition of the ‘force’ of gravity in 1666 to the discovery of gravitational waves in the twenty-first century. And, as we stand on the brink of a seismic revolution in our worldview, he brings us up to speed on the greatest challenge ever to confront physics.


'"Everyone thinks it sucks but in most of the Universe it blows." That aphoristic introduction hints at the genial wit and scientific flair that await in Marcus Chown's primer on gravity, which traces the historic arc of our understanding of the force. He shows how Isaac Newton's 1687 Principia - which distilled fundamental laws from the complexity of the cosmos - helps to explain phenomena such as tides. He analyses Albert Einstein's reformulation of gravity as warped space-time. And he gazes into the weird realm of quantum theory - and the "undiscovered country" of the next big questions'
Barbara Kiser, Nature
'Marcus Chown is one of the UK's best writers on physics and astronomy - it's excellent to see him back on what he does best . . . no one has covered the topic with such a light touch and joie de vivre as Chown . . . It gives what I think is the best introduction to string theory at this basic descriptive level I've ever seen . . . a very readable exploration of humanity's gradual realisation of what gravity was about with all of Chown's usual sparkle . . . a delight'
Brian Clegg,
'Entertaining and at times mind-boggling guide to the weakest of nature's fundamental forces, which also controls the fate of the universe'
Manjit Kumar, The Times
'Compact and accessible while remaining comprehensive. A welcome addition to anyone's popular science library, written in a relaxed style and full of relevant quotations'
BBC Sky at Night Magazine
'A readable romp through the history of cosmology and its possible future, all tied together through the story of how we have understood gravity . . . Chown is excellent on bringing out the temporary nature of theories, as well as the messy business of refining them'
'An accessible history of the most well known but least understood force'
Big Issue North
'Chown is good company. He tells his story clearly and sets out the key ideas without recourse to jargon and intimidating mathematics . . . "There has never been a better time to study gravity," Arkani-Hamed insists, and Chown's eminently readable book helps us understand why'
Graham Farmelo, Guardian
'Mind-bogglingly brilliant'
'[Chown's] chapter on the tides, from the water in the River Severn to the squeezing and stretching of Jupiter's moon Io, is lovely . . . One of the nicest explanations I've read of the fact that objects of different mass fall at the same rate . . . We end with the current attempt to reconcile gravity and quantum theory, and a surprisingly accessible and enjoyable discussion of string theory and multidimensional space . . . Enjoyably, Chown's book doesn't give the sense that "physics is broken" I've come across elsewhere; it's more that we're on the cusp of an exciting step change in our understanding'
Cait MacPhee, professor of biological physics, University of Edinburgh, THES
The "detective mystery" aspect of the subject [is] certainly something Chown captures to perfection
A helter-skelter tour through the lives and discoveries of people who helped us understand gravity .. fascinating facts ... he gives us the clearest explanation I have yet read of Einstein's principle of relativity ... this book taught me science and science history in an engaging fashion ... Chown's style carries the reader along in the quest to understand gravity and I recommend it ... entertaining science history
Timely, accessible and peppered with quotes from Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, this history of something we all feel but still cannot quite grasp has an admirably light touch
THE SUNDAY TIMES 'Science Book of the Year'
Timely and accessible, this history of something we all feel but still cannot quite grasp has an admirably light touch.
Rob Kingston, The Sunday Times (Culture)
Chown's fascinating guide to the force of gravity follows its story from Newton to the as yet undiscovered quantum theory of gravity - the holy grail of 21st-century physics. He concludes that the greatest questions in science (Where did the universe come from? What are space and time?) are tantalisingly close to being answered
Jane Shilling, DAILY MAIL 'Must Read'