Title: The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond
Author: Christophe Galfard
Narrator: Anton Körberg, Swedish
Length: 11 hours 32 minutes
Published: 2016, Volante
My Grade: 5 out of 5
Quantum physics, black holes, string theory, the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy, parallel universes: even if we are interested in these fundamental concepts of our world, their language is the language of math. Which means that despite our best intentions of finally grasping, say, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, most of us are quickly brought up short by a snarl of nasty equations or an incomprehensible graph.
Christophe Galfard’s mission in life is to spread modern scientific ideas to the general public in entertaining ways. Using his considerable skills as a brilliant theoretical physicist and successful young adult author, The Universe in Your Hand employs the immediacy of simple, direct language to show us, not explain to us, the theories that underpin everything we know about our universe. To understand what happens to a dying star, we are asked to picture ourselves floating in space in front of it. To get acquainted with the quantum world, we are shrunk to the size of an atom and then taken on a journey. Employing everyday similes and metaphors, addressing the reader directly, and writing stories rather than equations renders these astoundingly complex ideas in an immediate and visceral way.
First, I want to say that I listened to this in Swedish, narrated by Anton Körberg, and he did it absolutely brilliantly. Second, this book was brilliant. An excellent combination and I do recommend everyone to read it. Yes, everyone! Even people who think they don’t “know physics”. You get a deeper understanding of our universe and the theories of today that explain our world, what it consists of and how it works. It does so in an easy and very entertaining way with only one formula presented and I bet a big majority of this world’s population have at least heard it, I would like to think so at least: E=m*c².
The most special thing about this book that separates it from all the other books on astrophysics I’ve listened to lately is the perspective it’s written in. It’s written in a second person perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever even read a book written in that way before. The super cool thing about that, is that the author puts you in the center and describes the universe from your perspective. You get to see planets and galaxies and the ridiculous size of our expanding universe just to be shrunk to your “mini you” to enable you to look at atoms and quarks and strings and everything.
I think Galfard’s intention of writing in second person perspective is to make it easy for everyone to understand when you picture yourself in the middle of it all. He succeeds. I loved being on that beach in the beginning of the book, only to fly out in the universe and observe everything. But I have to admit that I once again zoned out a bit when he started describing quantum physics. No, zoned out is the wrong word. It was harder for me to imagine what was going on. I couldn’t visualize it as easily because I don’t have any understanding of quantum physics. And it seems like no one does. Was it Einstein who said that if you said you understood it, you really didn’t?
To sum it up, it is a visualizing book about astrophysics and Galfard explains it… No, shows it to you in a simple way. I absolutely loved it! There’s also humor and it’s easy to relate to the things he uses as examples, like the old aunt in Australia who always gives you vases.
I highly recommend you to read it. Or if you’re Swedish, listen to it with Anton Körberg narrating. It’s only available on Storytel in Swedish unfortunately. But it was worth signing up for a month listening to it, haha! Easily the highest grade: 5!