An absolute masterpiece.

Andy Heath (The Bookbag)

Brian Clegg

Weaving together the great ideas of science, The Reality Frame takes us on a thrilling journey from empty space all the way to the human mind.

In his most wide-ranging book, Brian Clegg builds up reality piece by piece, from space, to time, to matter, movement, the fundamental forces, life, and the massive transformation that life itself has wrought on the natural world. He reveals that underlying it all is not, as we might believe, a system of immovable absolutes, but the ever-shifting, amorphous world of relativity.

From religion to philosophy, humanity has traditionally sought out absolutes to explain the world around us, but as science has developed, relativity has swept away many of these certainties, leaving only a handful of unchangeable essentials – such as absolute zero, nothingness, light – leading to better science and a new understanding of the essence of being human.

This is an Ascent of Man for the 21st century, the gripping story of modern science that will fill you with wonder and give you a new insight into our place in the universe.

Listen to an interview on The Reality Frame with Professor James Stein on New Books Network:

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Enter the name for this tabbed section: Reviews


There are fantastic vignettes from the history of science and a huge field of knowledge is covered. The Independent

For many people the scientific concepts that build and shape our universe are impenetrable and abstract. The big bang and Einstein's theories on relativity seem so complex that an understanding of them, for the general reader, appears impossible. The acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg, in his new book 'The Reality Frame', tackles the problem head on and what emerges is a triumph in the General Science genre. Starting from basic principles, he builds a theoretical universe that captures and illuminates the forces and dynamics that shape space, time and matter. The subject is arguably one of the most difficult for a general reader to grasp and understand but this book achieves the impossible with remarkable clarity.

As an author, Brian Clegg has the magical gift of reducing highly complex principles into simple and easy to understand concepts. Starting from solid foundations, he builds his universe one block at a time, in a clear and lucid manner. Using analogies and metaphors, he has an engaging and highly conversational style of writing that draws the reader into his narrative and arguments. The genius in 'The Reality Frame' is the way he uses and explains the reference frame. A fundamental requirement in any understanding of relativity and ultimately astrophysics it is used as the central core of his book. Every block he builds is based around this central theme and by the time, you turn the final page its use has almost become a part of your DNA.

General Science writing can have a tendency to become condescending and patronising to its audience. In other cases, through no fault of the author it can pitch itself over the head of the reader or fail to satisfy the curiosity and interest that they have. Science is a complicated subject for the majority and while scientists themselves are celebrated and respected, they are often viewed as belonging to a small private club where membership is for the chosen few. The triumph of 'The Reality Frame' is that it throws the door open wide and invites you in. The wonder and marvel of the universe is maintained but the fun and curiosity at understanding its inner workings are also retained. There is much within the pages for all readers regardless of their understanding of science as learned within the classroom and for this reason, the book is to be treasured and celebrated. What Brian Clegg has achieved here is an astounding work that I cannot recommend to highly. An absolute masterpiece. Andy Heath, The Bookbag

Prolific science writer Brian Clegg’s new book looks to answer the not-so-simple question of how our sense of reality is formed. He argues that reality is an amorphous, shifting sense of perception that is, in equal parts, shaped by philosophy and science. Clegg argues that embracing the fact that reality is uncertain allows for a better sense of what it means to be human. With a very uncertain new year at its start right now, Clegg’s poetic mix of hard facts and thoughtful musings could be exactly what we need. Sarah Sloat, Inverse

The author is a friendly and supportive guide. There are fascinating vignettes from the history of science and a huge field of knowledge is covered. Graeme Smith, The Herald

Enter the name for this tabbed section: Addendum


Two errors have crept into the 'Special Theory of Relativity for Beginners' appendix.

At the start of working out what happens with the light clock on page 283, the text says:

So the distance the light travels, h, will be tShip / c where tShip is the time that has elapsed on the ship.

That should, of course, read

So the distance the light travels, h, will be tShip c where tShip is the time that has elapsed on the ship.

Similarly, further down the page, this value is substituted for h.

Finally, on page 284, where the text reads:

Finally, we take the square root:
t2 Earth = t Ship /(1 – v2 /c2)1⁄2

… which should have read

t Earth = t Ship /(1 – v2 /c2)1⁄2

without the squared sign remaining on the first t Earth

Thanks to Don Golfen for pointing out these slips, which will be corrected in future editions.

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