Conjuring the Universe:
The Origins of the Laws of Nature
Oxford University Press, 2018, 216 pp., Hardcover, $19.95. global.oup.com
The marvelous complexity of the universe emerges from several deep laws and a handful of fundamental constants that fix its shape, scale, and destiny. There is a deep structure to the world that at the same time is simple, elegant, and beautiful. Where did these laws and these constants come from? And why are the laws so fruitful when written in the language of mathematics? Peter Atkins considers the minimum effort needed to equip the universe with its laws and its constants. He explores the origin of the conservation of energy, of electromagnetism, of classical and quantum mechanics, and of thermodynamics, showing how all these laws spring from deep symmetries. The revolutionary result is a short but immensely rich weaving together of the fundamental ideas of physics. With his characteristic wit, erudition, and economy, Atkins sketches out how the laws of nature can spring from very little, or arguably from nothing at all.