The Hunt for Vulcan by Thomas Levenson


I thought this was either going to be a new age snooze about how Mars is in the ascendant therefore I shouldn’t trust strangers or Star Trek fan fiction.

Actually it’s a book about how people thought there used to be a mysterious planet called Vulcan, according to Newtonian theory, and how this was debunked by the one and only Albert Einstein. This is the scientific history of the birth of astrophysics. Much more interesting than it sounds, I promise.

From Newton to Einstein and all the scientists in between, the book examines what it means to be right and wrong. It looks at proof, belief, the principles of science and how politics and ego can make these fallible. It’s the history of scientific thought.

Some of the physics was light years away from me. I understood about 60% of the science at best. No disrespect to Levenson though. It is, after all, astrophysics and I’m not sure my physics GCSE ten years ago cuts it. Instead, the book’s true cleverness is using the Vulcan story as a great hook to make complex scientific concepts more accessible for idiots like me.

Read: To understand how thinking evolves. And when you’re very sure you’re right and everyone else is wrong.

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