1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $21.00

Buy for $21.00

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Named a Best Book of 2021 by the Financial Times and a Best Science Book of 2021 by The Guardian

“Rovelli is a genius and an amazing communicator.... This is the place where science comes to life.” (Neil Gaiman)

“One of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline...[a] momentous book.” (John Banville, The Wall Street Journal)

A startling new look at quantum theory, from the New York Times best-selling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and The Order of Time.

One of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists, Carlo Rovelli has entranced millions of readers with his singular perspective on the cosmos. In Helgoland, he examines the enduring enigma of quantum theory. The quantum world Rovelli describes is as beautiful as it is unnerving.

Helgoland is a treeless island in the North Sea where the 23-year-old Werner Heisenberg made the crucial breakthrough for the creation of quantum mechanics, setting off a century of scientific revolution. Full of alarming ideas (ghost waves, distant objects that seem to be magically connected, cats that appear both dead and alive), quantum physics has led to countless discoveries and technological advancements. Today our understanding of the world is based on this theory, yet it is still profoundly mysterious.

As scientists and philosophers continue to fiercely debate the meaning of the theory, Rovelli argues that its most unsettling contradictions can be explained by seeing the world as fundamentally made of relationships rather than substances. We and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another. This bold idea suggests new directions for thinking about the structure of reality and even the nature of consciousness.

Rovelli makes learning about quantum mechanics an almost psychedelic experience. Shifting our perspective once again, he takes us on a riveting journey through the universe so we can better comprehend our place in it.

©2020 Carlo Rovelli; translation 2021 Erica Segre and Simon Carnell (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“This entertaining and legible guide paints the history of quantum theory and lays out its possible meanings.” (Scientific American)

“Physicist Rovelli (The Order of Time) dazzles with this look at the 'almost psychedelic experience’ of understanding quantum theory.... These are big ideas, but Rovelli easily leads readers through the knotty logic, often with lyricism.... Readers who follow along will be left in awe.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“Bracing and refreshing…Rovelli is offering a new way to understand not just the world but our place in it, too.” (NPR)

“Rovelli tackles both the quantum realm and the ways it helps us make sense of the mind with refreshing clarity.” (Anil Ananthaswamy, The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about Helgoland

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    306
  • 4 Stars
    68
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    312
  • 4 Stars
    44
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    268
  • 4 Stars
    65
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    4

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

The cat is not sleeping

Mr. Rovelli’s book, Hegoland, is a review of the current account of the quantum world. The book is okay, but I am always puzzled when a scientist writes yet another book “revealing” what we have known about QM for the last 100 years. If you are at the layman’s level of familiarity with QM, there is no need to add this book to your playlist.

The 1 part of this book that is annoying beyond measure is when Mr. Rovelli re-writes Erwin Schrödinger’s cat. For those unfamiliar; in Erwin Schrödinger’s “cat experiment” a cat is placed in a “super-position “ box with a cyanide ampule subject to quantum uncertainty.

The result is that we will discover that the cat is either dead or alive.

However, Mr. Rovelli finds Schrödinger’s experiment exceeding his delicate feline sensibilities.

So, he re-writes it.

In Mr. Rovelli’s alternate world the cat is either sleeping or awake.

Mr. Rovelli’s condescendingly introduces Schrödinger’s cat metaphor as “the original”
version...to suggest that he has improved it.

Mr. Rovelli, you have “improved” nothing.

Mr. Rovelli speaks extensively about this thought
experiment, and the constant referral to the cat either being awake or asleep further confuses an already difficult concept.

Mr. Rovelli owns a cat, which explains a lot. I am wondering if Mr. Rovelli is aware that Schrödinger’s cat was a THOUGHT experiment.

Science has become increasingly politicized, frequently twisting “facts” to comport with
an outcome that supports a desired position.

I am deeply suspicious of an author who carelessly and willfully rewrites ANYTHING
to align with a reality that is more pleasing.

Mr. Rovelli should have invented his own metaphor rather than pirate Schrodinger
and proceed to mangle it into a furball.

It makes me wonder what other areas of science Mr. Rovelli might have adjusted to sit more comfortably with his version of the world.





25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Phenomenal

Like with his other books, Carlo Rovelli is amazing at explaining physics concepts in an engaging and succinct way, weaving in stories of the physicists, mathematicians, philosophers and others who participated in the intellectual history of quantum mechanics.

I particularly love that unlike many other physicists, Rovelli recognizes the mutual debt that philosophy and physics ("natural philosophy") owe to each other, rather than that philosophy is irrelevant or to be dismissed.

More than anything this feels like a Pragmatic or Constructivist account of Quantum Mechanics. Remarkable to come full circle like this.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Quantum Physics, Metaphysics and Philosophy-

This is a good book, comprehensible, thoughtful and far ranging. It is about much more than the "quantum revolution." It is Rovelli's approach to life including how he came to believe what he does and quantum physics connection to metaphysics and philosophy.

Definitely worth a read/listen.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brief, dense and riveting

I think Carlo Rovelli writes absolutely lyrical books about very technical topics in physics. To me, this book makes the most sense of what quantum physics may be “telling us” about the nature of the universe and consciousness. And he does so in a friendly, happy and accessible way. Just great.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Sc
  • 06-11-21

Too much of a history lesson

If you are interested in a long diatribe about a physicist musing on an island, then you might enjoy the book. I got fed up partway through and returned it. I love books on the quantum world, but this one isn't really about it—more of a history lesson.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

New to Quanta

I was entranced by David’s voice, and I love the way Carlo writes. Similar to his first book, I enjoyed reading, it leaves me with more questions than answers. Brilliantly worded, though sometimes I got lost in the actual point of what was being said. While I didn’t mind, I will relisten and reread to further my understanding.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Relational QM (RQM)

Relational QM (RQM)

This is a bit of an odd book...The first part is a very brief, and very shallow introduction the how QM came about. Then just as briefly and shallowly discusses why QM is considered weird. Then he covers briefly the most important interpretations of QM, Multi-World (MW), Bohmian Mechanics (BM), and Quantum-Bayesianism (QBism).

Rovelli's critique of the MWI is: "is it really worth giving credence to the real and concrete existence of infinite copies of ourselves, unknown and unobservable to us, hidden behind a gigantic universal ψ?"

Finally Rovelli gets to the real point of this book, briefly describing the Relational interpretation of QM (RQM). RQM takes a QBism perspective and holds that the state of a system only has meaning relative to another system. Thus in MWI there is no meaning to the state of the universal wave function as there is no other system the state could be described relative to. In RQM two observers (that are just two systems) could have different interpretations of some other system. If those two observers then interact, they would then become consistently correlated (from each others' perspective).

Unfortunately, RQM mathematically seems to have the same "copies of ourselves, unknown and unobservable" to any finite extreme (just not infinite copies as in MWI), but this does not seem to bother Rovelli due to the QBism perspective. This seems to be a bit of a unsatisfying "shut up and calculate" perspective.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not what I was expecting but still worth reading

Based on the title I was expecting something more along the lines of Jim Baggott's "The Quantum Story" or Art Hobson's "Tales of the Quantum." This is, instead, more of a collection of philosophical musings on the meaning of quantum physics. I suppose that other ground had already been plowed. In particular, Rovelli argues for the relational interpretation of quantum mechanics, a view with which I was unfamiliar. The more common interpretations of quantum mechanics are the "observer" and the "probability wave" interpretations. Remember Schrodinger's cat? If I believe the quantum wave function doesn't collapse until it is observed, then the cat is both alive and dead until an observer opens its box. If I believe the wave is just a calculational tool, then the cat is either dead or alive, and the wave function just gives me the probabilities of each. In the relational view, the cat is either awake or asleep (Rovelli prefers asleep instead of dead) from the cat's perspective, but is neither awake nor asleep from the observer's perspective, until someone makes the observation. Rovelli posits that the best interpretation of quantum mechanics is that objects have no independent existence, but exist only in relation to other objects. I was not convinced that the relational view solves any of the problems of making sense of quantum mechanics in the real world. He then goes on to speculate that the relational view somehow helps resolve the mind/body problem; but his ideas, here, are not well developed and he simply refuses to even consider any resolution that is not purely materialistic. He dismisses, for example, Nagel's "Mind and Cosmos" as unscientific or at least scientifically ignorant. He also, in a few places, almost hints that the relational view supports a Marxist interpretation of society, suggesting that the value I place on myself as an individual, as opposed to merely an element of the web of society, is an unscientific way of thinking. I have no individual value. My value exists only as part of my relationships with society. One would think that the horrors unleashed by this philosophy would have inoculated us against it, but apparently it is still able to hypnotize those who stare into it too deeply. So, while interesting and still worth reading, I was disappointed and ultimately unimpressed. Rovelli is a lyrical writer, almost self-consciously so; this can be both enchanting and annoying, sometimes simultaneously!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fabulous!

As a retired engineer, I found this most insightful. I am rethinking my understanding of physics (quantum) as it was taught to me at university. Bravo!!!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

No technical explanations but not needed.

This is a "why" study quantum physics and an attempt to connect meaning to its findings. Great book!

1 person found this helpful