Werner heisenberg

The windswept German island that inspired quantum physics

Helgoland is a craggy German island in the North Sea. Barely bigger than a few fields, it reaches high above the water on precipitous cliffs and is famous for its sweet air. It has a town and a harbour, and the 1,000-odd inhabitants speak a distinct dialect. In the summer of 1925, the 23-year-old physicist Werner Heisenberg went there to sort out his hay fever and solve the problem of reality. Helgoland is a slightly misleading title for Carlo Rovelli’s inspiring, chaotic, delightfully unsatisfactory book of popular quantum physics. It isn’t about Heisenberg’s months there or his mathematical insights; ‘Helgoland’ is Rovelli’s shorthand for Heisenberg’s pellucid state of mind. On Helgoland,

Things mankind was not supposed to know — the dark side of science

One day someone is going to have to write the definitive study of Wikipedia’s influence on letters. What, after all, are we supposed to make of all these wikinovels? I mean novels that leap from subject to subject, anecdote to anecdote, so that the reader feels as though they are toppling like Alice down a particularly erudite Wikipedia rabbit-hole. The trouble with writing such a book, in an age of ready internet access, and particularly Wikipedia, is that, however effortless your erudition, no one is any longer going to be particularly impressed by it. We can all be our own Don DeLillo now; our own W.G. Sebald. The model for