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Carlo Rovelli has written a lovely, thoughtful, and poetic book about the nature of time. A topic as old as thought itself, it is occasionally consigned to the category of “too philosophical for serious physicists.” But, as Rovelli so lucidly explains, a fundamental change in the understanding of time was both an ingredient and a result first of special relativity and then of general relativity, and further rethinking may be required to understand quantum gravity and fundamental open questions in cosmology. His book also highlights how central time, along with the closely related quantities of energy and entropy, is to essentially every aspect of our experience and understanding of the physical world.

Rovelli, a professor at the Center for Theoretical Physics in Marseille, France, has thought long, hard, and unusually deeply about time—not just in the context of his central field, quantum gravity, but also in statistical mechanics, quantum foundations, and even evolutionary theory. That lifetime of thinking comes through in The Order of Time. Although compact, approachable, and clear, the book is dense with ideas and insights. It’s appropriate for a broad readership, from those who want just a taste of what could (or should) reconfigure their intuitions about time to researchers who will enjoy Rovelli’s framing of important issues, the links to questions outside of physics, and his provocative theses.

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