I am an avid eclectic reader.
The authors, one a philosopher the other a physicist draw on their training and six years of co-teaching to dramatize the quantum’s rocky path from scientific theory to public understanding. The book explores the quantum’s manifestation in everything from art and sculpture to the prose of John Updike. Understanding and appreciation the quantum language and imagery, and recognizing its misuse, is part of what is means to be an educated person today according to the authors.
The authors recount a series of historical moments that occurred during the development of quantum mechanics in order to demonstrate how quickly scientific language worked its way into the artistic world. The author’s vivid storytelling of Einstein’s theories of relativity to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to modern conception of causality. Crease and Goldhaber keep the discussion of these complex topics clear and fun to read. Pop culture took to the quantum cause with far more gusto than most physicists. Experimentalist Robert Milliken tried to kill the idea, but his lab results kept confirming it. It is fascinating that concepts imagined 100 years ago will influence the physical and intellectual spaces we inhabit in the future. Sean Runnette narrated the book.
This is one of the best books in terms of detail and insight into the brilliant character of Paul Dirac 1902-1984. Graham Farmelo, a British Physicist, has obviously done in-depth research, and I understand he had access to many of Dirac’s personal papers. The book won the 2009 Costa book award. The book is less a scientific biography than other books on Dirac, it emphasizes more the development of Dirac’s personality and the story of his relationship with his relations and colleagues. I learned a lot about Dirac, including his work on the atomic bomb during World War II. Dirac is responsible for several of the great breakthrough in 20th century physics and mathematics. He found the fundamental insight into quantum mechanics and remains the basic understanding even today. His textbook on Quantum Mechanics remains a rigorously clear explanation of the fundamental idea of quantum theory. He also developed the Dirac equation which is the basis of particle physics. He is known for developing quantum field theory, quantum electrodynamics and the understanding the role of magnetic monopoles in electromagnetism. Dirac was the youngest theoretician to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics (1933). He also won the Max Planck Medal and the Copley Medal. He was the Lucasian Professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. The chair is now held by Stephen Hawking. Dirac’s work was so advanced we are only just beginning to prove and use his work. B. J. Harrison did an excellent job narrating this long book.