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Gravity! - Pierre Binétruy ****

I had to really restrain myself from adopting the approach taken by The Register in referring to Yahoo! by putting an exclamation mark after every word in the text when faced with reviewing Gravity! One thing to be said about the punctuation, though, is it makes it easier to search for amongst a whole lot of books on gravity and gravitational waves (the subtitle is 'the quest for gravitational waves') since their discovery in 2015.

Despite the subtitle, Pierre Binétruy gives us far more - in fact, gravitational waves don't come into it until page 160, which makes it really more of a book about gravity with a bit on gravitational waves tacked on than a true exploration of the quest. 

However, those early pages aren't wasted - Binétruy gives us plenty of detail on all kinds of background, for example plunging in to tell us about element synthesis, something you wouldn't expect in a book on gravitational waves. I also really liked a little section on experiments you can do, though the topic overall meant this could only be done once early on and it can't be continued through the book, which is a shame. The only criticism I have of the general gravity material is that the chapters on the early universe and dark energy could have been made easier to read.

Both because of the late arrival in the text of gravitational waves and the way it is covered, Gravity! works better as a title on gravity that happens to include gravitational waves that a book that will help the reader grasp the story of the discovery of gravitational waves. There is relatively little on the 50 years of attempts before LIGO succeeded and there's almost as much on LIGO's potential successor, LISA as there is on the successful observatory and the details of the discovery.

Generally, the writing and content is approachable and gives rather more depth than many popular science books on the topic, without getting too technical. While I think the Gravitational Waves book in the Icon Hot Science series gives a better overview for the beginner and far more of the story of gravitational waves (ahem, admittedly, I'm biased), this is impressive for someone who wants more depth to the science coverage of the nature of gravity itself.



Review by Brian Clegg


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