Seven Brief Lessons in Physics: a thing of beauty is a joy forever

Now and then I stumble upon a book that completely blows my mind. The latest of such lucky encounters has been with Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli.

Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist with a solid, international academic career, presently teaching at the University of Aix-Marseille in France. In 2013 he was among the sophisticated minds who were asked the famous Edge.com annual question. The question that year was "What *should* we be worried about?" His reply: "I worry that free imagination is overvalued, and I think this carries risks."

Published in 2014, Seven Brief Lessons in Physics has been an immediate smash hit. In less than 80 pages, Rovelli takes the reader on a friendly trip from the far edges of the cosmos to the edges of the quantum world, addressing some of the hottest ideas revolutionizing our present understanding of the world. And he does so with unassuming innocence, and his enchanting prose makes complex subjects a piece of cake.

In one of his most rhapsodic fragments Rovelli writes:

"There are absolute masterpieces which move us intensely, Mozart’s Requiem; the Odyssey; the Sistine Chapel; King Lear. To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty."

To this list of timeless masterpieces of human ingenuity, Rovelli appends Einstein's celebrated theory of general relativity, which he calls "the most beautiful of all theories".

Now, here's the deal: modern physics is an unbelievably complex, impenetrable and obscure "thing," well beyond the comprehension of any layperson, however well-read. Read the rest

Happy 40th Birthday to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"

This month marks the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. It's a good time to celebrate that moment, when the portals opened and a stream of cosmic creative force spilled into our reality.

Pink Floyd need no introduction, being one of the most influential superstar bands of the 20th century. Their sound concoctions, played and aired for millions of hours all around the globe, generated a sonic morphic field of unparalleled beauty. These guys hit their musical nail heavy on our collective subconscious' head.

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd's ninth studio album, strikes a balance between commercial craftsmanship and inspired artistry. Ironically more shining than their previous album's lunar success, this work remains a remarkable exemplar of the prog rock and psychedelic era. The band conjured up a melancholic soundscape, weaving kaleidoscopic interstellar jams carrying emotional weight, grief, loss, disillusionment, yet leaving the door open to the manifold possibilities of love and mystic enchantment.

Forty years after the release of Wish You Were Here we live in a world where the experience of consuming music is peculiarly fragmented: we listen to tunes on YouTube, impatiently skipping from to song to song, or randomly accessing tracks on iTunes and mp3 players. In our hectic and disenchanted times, the electro-mechanical reproduction of musical artworks contributed to the loss of aura in artworks in general. Devoting our full and undivided attention to listening a whole album - from the beginning till the very end - is a sporadic experience and a rare luxury. Read the rest

Use playing cards to remind yourself that you are going to die

A lifehack for dying

Magic Books - the secret art of book hacking

What is a book? The commonly held notion is pretty simple: it is an object made of pieces of paper, glued or bounded together, with stuff written in it. Indisputable. But, maybe, there is more than meets the eye. Read the rest

Our Magic: Documentary about magic, by magicians

Our Magic is a feature documentary that pays homage to an ancient and mostly underground performing art, piercing through the thick layer of commonly held stereotypes. By Ferdinando Buscema

The magic of hacking reality

As humans, we search for ways to escape reality. For centuries, magicians have fucked our minds in the blink of an eye. Magic experience designer Ferdinando Buscema tells us how.