Book Review: When We Cease To Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ผ๐—บ๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜ ๐—›๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฎ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ก๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜ ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฏ๐˜† ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜† ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—น, ๐—ฏ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐—ฏ๐˜† ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฝ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฝ๐—ต๐˜†๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐—ฎ ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ณ๐˜‚๐—น ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฒ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€.

A little over a decade ago, I abhorred learning physics’ laws and formulae. My lack of conceptual clarity only contributed to making the subject tedious. I carried this dislike with me into adulthood and found physics as rather ‘uncreative’. It honestly took me Benjamรญn Labatut’s When We Cease To Understand the World to see it in a whole new light.

Labatut’s ingenious storytelling amalgamates fiction and non-fiction while exploring the Golden Age of Physics. It begins with the invention of cyanide which was consumed by Hitler and, currently, is responsible for countless deaths.

Labatut acknowledges the contributions of the world’s greatest minds under 180 pages. I am awed by how he weaves every invention/ discovery to the next anecdote. He recalls the contributions of Karl Schwarzschild, Shinichi Mochizuki, Fritz Haber, Werner Heisenberg and many more.

While the scientific world (and humanity, in general) remains indebted to these creators, their bouts of insanity are little known. The author muses over the cost most of them paid to unveil their inner genius

Today, we have inferred the workings of everything from a colossal star to an infinitesimal atom. However, at the time, these wondrous yet fundamental equations were devised precisely, without witnessing the particle itself. Labatut fantastically writes not only about discovery but also the cynical environment that led to its creation. For example, Erwin Schrรถdinger in his feverish trance scribbled the speed of subatomic particles. After gaining consciousness, he could barely interpret his theories.

These vivid stories sear in readers’ minds, with imagination bringing them to life. Led by ambition, these men saw things beyond ones visible to the human eye. Can these creations become monstrous to the world which we already inhabit?

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