I'm delighted to announced that my new book Gravity - How the weakest force in the universe shaped our lives is now available in the US. (UK readers, the proper UK version is out on 25 October, but if you can't wait that long, there are some copies of the US version on Amazon, and the UK link from my website will point to that until the official US version is out.)
I have recently done a few relatively light topic books, which is hugely enjoyable to do (and, I hope, to read), but it's nice to get your teeth into something meaty, and it's interesting that my best selling physics-based book remains The God Effect on quantum entanglement, one of my more challenging titles. The great thing about doing the book on gravity is that it's a subject that is very obvious - you can avoid the effects of gravity in everyday life - and yet for most of human existence it has been quite mysterious.
Then, when you get onto general relativity it becomes even more fascinating, and if you don't try to do the maths (which you'll be pleased to know I don't), it is still surprisingly approachable. I've gone into more depth in general relativity than I've seen before in a popular science title, but I really think its worth it, as it gives you a chance to explore, for instance, why frame dragging, the effect that is used in conceptual general relativity time machines, exists.
For light relief there is the whole anti-gravity business. There's a hilarious mid-20th century article on how the world will be transformed by anti-gravity (quite serious), there are the real scientific attempts to counter gravity... and the sometimes delightful amateurs. Not to mention the conspiracy theories.
All in all, I think this is a book that should go down well - and I think it's the best cover St. Martin's Press has ever done for me (the blue one at the top of the page). I've also included here the UK cover from Duckworth, which I think is great fun, though I'm not so sure about the subtitle, which no one consulted me about.
If you are on Goodreads, I've a free copy on offer - see the link at the bottom of the page. To finish off, here's a few fun factoids from Gravity:
- The gravitational attraction of the midwife is a stronger effect than that of the planets – so basing astrology on gravity is problematic
- Thanks to a project sponsored by KFC we know that birds eggs don’t develop in zero gravity, as the yolk needs to be kept near the shell
- Originally gravity was paired with levity, the tendency light things have to move upwards
- Surprisingly, Galileo’s famous observation that pendulums swing with the same frequency however far they swing is wrong. It only applies for small swings
- Newton’s ideas on gravity were called ‘occult’ by his contemporaries because he referred to ‘attraction, and the only meaning for the word was the attraction between people – he seemed to be saying the Moon orbits the Earth because they fancy each other
- If you fire a bullet horizontally and drop a bullet from the same height at the same time they will both land at the same time
- If there was water on the Moon the tides would be dramatic – 80 times the size of those on the Earth
- If you fall through a hole dug from point to point on the Earth (e.g. from one side to the other) it takes 42 minutes to fall through
- The gravity on the International Space Station is around 90 percent Earth normal – but they don’t feel it because they are constantly falling and accelerating towards the Earth
- The famous experiment that ‘proved’ general relativity right by measuring the deflection of starlight round the Sun in a total eclipse in 1919 was fudged to get the right results (though it has since been proved)
- Relativity made Einstein such a media star he was asked to appear for a season at the London Palladium, explaining his theories. He politely declined
- For five decades, millions of dollars have been spent on a whole range of experiments to detect gravity waves but as yet not a single one has been detected
- There is no evidence to support conspiracy theories about antigravity technology – we know all about stealth technology, which doesn’t have commercial applications – antigravity would inevitably ‘escape’ from the military sphere it if it existed
- It is possible that antimatter is repelled by gravity rather than attracted – we have never had enough of it to measure the effect