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The Trouble with Gravity

Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet



Nobody knows what gravity is, and almost nobody knows that nobody knows what gravity is. The exception is scientists. They know that nobody knows what gravity is, because they know that they don't know what gravity is.




"Panek takes evident pleasure in the whirl of new ideas. He has made a career out of explaining things that scientists themselves may barely understand."

Washington Post


"Gravity is fundamentally a mystery, writer Panek reveals in this beautiful and philosophical investigation of nature's weakest force…Readers will not emerge from this book with the answer to the question 'What is gravity?'—a so far unanswerable quandary—but they will gain many and varied insights from the asking."

Scientific American


"By confessing his own amazement, he invites the reader to share in the adventure. He does so with humility and humor."



"Highly recommended. Both accessible and enjoyable."

Library Journal


"Panek's inquisitive, fine-tuned narrative is full of character and, unlike many other books on physics, imbued with the friendly casualness of a coffee-shop chat. As such, it will delight both lay readers and serious students."

Publishers Weekly


"Expert description of the spectacular things that gravity does."

Kirkus Reviews


"With a sustained sense of wonder, Panek finds the roots of science in our myths and poetry, uncovering the provocative side of something we only think we know. His rigorous-but-readable book won't reveal what gravity is, but will challenge your view of the universe and our place in it."

—Apple Books, "Best Book of the Month"

"In The Trouble with Gravity, Richard Panek acts as a guide, both amiable and erudite, through one of the most puzzling mysteries of the natural world.  In explaining the various 'explanations' of gravity from classical to post-modern times, Panek draws us into a thoughtful meditation on the mythic, cultural, philosophical and, yes, scientific implications of what happens when a wet potato or a crystal vase slips from your hand."

—Billy Collins


"I've long been a big fan of Richard Panek's writing. He is eloquent, smart, and a fascinating thinker, someone who is able to get me excited about topics that would have never even occurred to me. I respect and trust him—and am always eager to see what he will write next."

—Maria Konnikova, author of The Biggest Bluff

"Richard Panek moves with startling grace and economy through the intersecting realms of philosophy and physics, always asking the unexpected question. He has forced me to rethink my fundamental assumptions about gravity—and shown me how much we can gain by doing so."


—Andrea Barrett, author of The Air We Breathe and Archangel

"Without gravity, there would be no earth, no humans, and no nonfiction books. Which would be a shame, because we'd miss out on Richard Panek's wonderful, entertaining work. Richard takes us on a vivid journey from the arctic to the tropics, from the human skeleton to the edges of the universe, filling our imagination with counterintuitive modern science and ancient philosophy. And all of this is delivered in buoyant, almost poetic, writing. So thank you, gravity and Richard."

—A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically

"Gravity is a mystery—one of the greatest. It has baffled and teased humans since the dawn of history and perplexes us still. Richard Panek takes us on a journey that is original, brave, and ultimately very beautiful: a reminder that sometimes science isn't a solution but a search."

—James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History


"A thoroughly researched tour of humanity's investigations of gravity through the ages, including the very exciting—but still unfinished—ones happening today."

—Professor Lisa Randall, author of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs