Former Prosecutor, Acting Magistrate (Western Cape) & Head of Training of Prosecutors (Justice College, Pretoria)— Republic of South Africa
“God doesn’t play dice”—Albert Einstein
I enjoyed the biographical aspects of this interesting book. Actually I had little choice. I could hardly fathom some arcane formulae, let alone audibly. But that’s no draw back. There’s the humanness of household name geniuses with adventures à la Greek gods, replete with destructive atomic bolt toys and tabloid fashion sexual escapades: Albert Einstein’s secret love child, Erwin Schrӧdinger’s “open marriage”, both spouses indulging in extra-marital affairs and his keeping notes of his promiscuity.
Einstein (Max Planck notwithstanding) effectively launched the quantum story. Starting with a high school temporary teaching post, he secured an appointment at Switzerland’s Bern Patent Office as a technical expert 3rd class. In 1905, his “Miraculous Year”, age 26, he published inter alia, papers on relativity and the photoelectric effect. He submitted one of these for a Doctoral thesis. His dissertation had initially been rejected—apparently for being too short. He added a single sentence, resubmitted and was awarded the Doctorate that same year. This year he also formulated his E=MC2 equation. In 1906 he was promoted to technical expert 2nd class.
Niel Bohr left Denmark for Cambridge In 1911 aged 25, worked in the laboratory of 1906 Noble Prize laureate J. J. Thompson. March 1912 he joined Rutherford’s team in Manchester, didn’t care much for experimental physics and devoted time to theoretical problems. He investigated the structure of atoms—the hydrogen atoms. In 1913 his theories appeared in “Philosophical Magazine”. He proposed a new quantum mechanics to replace the classical theory applied to the internal structure of the atom.
Luis De Broglie postulated that Einstein’s 1905 theory should be generalised by extending it to all material particles, especially electrons. This is known as Luis De Broglie’s dual wave particle hypothesis—relying on his knowledge of chamber music. His theory was dubbed La Comedie France .
Werner Heisenberg publishes his theory which spawned quantum mechanics. The term electron spin is coined, arguably first by Bohr. Wolfgang Pauli presents his exclusion principle in terms of which no electron in an atom can have the same set of 4 quantum numbers. In 1926 from Jan-June, Schrӧdinger produced a series of 6 papers—his “late erotic outburst in his life”— his theory of wave mechanics. This apparently laid the foundation for the theory of quantum mechanics.
In Copenhagen the interpretation of quantum theory is proposed—Max Born’s interpretation on the significance of Schrӧdinger’s wave functions. Bohr, Heisenberg and Schrӧdinger become involved in an intense debate on the reality of quantum jumps. Heisenberg uncertainty principle sees the light of day in 1927. Einstein becomes a stern tailspin critic of quantum theory.
Enter the Einstein-Bohr debates, with Einstein, attempting to discredit quantum physics with ingenious thought experiments, adding that “God doesn’t play dice”. Bohr, proved equal to Einstein’s genius, extricating himself from near chess mate entrapments with protean elusiveness. Schrӧdinger proposed arguably the most famous “Gedankenexperiment”, i.e., the “Cat Paradox”. Paul Dirac’s relativistic electron equation enters the fray. In 1935 Einstein, Nathan Rosen and Boris Podolsky published a short paper seeking to refute quantum mechanics.
Post WWII a series of crisis meetings were held culminating in the development of quantum electro-dynamics (QED) by Julian Schwinger, Richard Feynman, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Freeman Dyson. 1954 the saw the development of quantum field theory, based on local gauge symmetry by Chen Ning Yang and Robert Mills. In 1960 Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg developed an early version of a unified theory of the electro weak force and predicted the existence of heavy photons. In 1963 Murray Gell-Mann identified the ultimate units of matter as the particles he calls “quarks”. At this stage quantum physics become synonymous with the history of particle physics.
In 1968 there were ever larger and more expensive particle accelerators and colliders with the discovery at Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre (SLACK) that the proton possesses an internal structure. Feynmann discovered the hypothetical “charm quark”—protons being bombarded with beams of high-energy electrons, revealing “partons” i.e., hard, point-like charged particles appearing to move freely. GellMann shrugged off Feynmann’s “partons” as “put-ons”—“quaks”.
The 1964 John Bell formulated a mathematical theorem which applied to any hidden-variable theory inequality that satisfied (but which was not valid for) quantum mechanics. It exposed the true nature of Einstein’s challenges, providing a straightforward test of local versus non-local reality. The first experiments were performed by Alan Aspan and his colleagues in 1981 and 1982, showing that the quantum world was determinantly non-local.
Disastrously in 2008 CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, costing 5 billion pounds, all but blew up when switched on for the first time. Perhaps, since God doesn’t play dice, this incident might even have been a vis major (an act of God) as if to prove than Einstein had a point after all!
RELATED INSIGHTFUL AUDIBLE MATERIAL: The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics was Reborn—Louisa Gilder / Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science—David Lindley / American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer—Kai Bird , Martin J. Sherwin / A Brief History of Time—Stephen Hawking / Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction—John Polkinghorne / The Tao of Physics—Frijof Capra
The chronological development of Quantum Theory is explained "beautifully" and in great detail. This book pulled together many desparate elements that I had previously encountered into one very cohesive and compelling depiction of the development of "the Quantum".
It was able to get me up to date from high school physics to the current state of play. Jim Baggot did a wonderful job of providing very high brow physics in a way that made it make sense. I wanted an update: I got it in spades! I will read more of his books.
none that I know of
He has a good way of reading very difficult and thoughtful material that did not shut me off.
Finally understanding Schroedinger's Cat
A well written story of a complex concept that kept the reader along even if you started to lose some of the concepts.
Chet Yarbrough, an audio book addict, exercises two cocker spaniels twice a day with an Ipod in his pocket and earbuds in his ears. Hope these few reviews seduce the public into a similar obsession but walk safely and be aware of the unaware.
The language of Quantum Theory is as fluid and changeable as gas in an infinite vacuum. Humankind sees the world one way and explains with language they know. Quantum Theory is unseen and humankind struggles to explain with language still in process of creation.
“The Quantum Story” is a roller coaster ride for the uninformed; i.e. one is thrilled by the experience but exhausted by the ride.
The story of the development of science is always best told through the eyes of those who made the discoveries. Jim Baggott has done superb job of telling the subtle and demanding story of the development of quantum mechanics. Not only does he make accessible the concepts of quantum theory, but he brings to life the personalities who drove the work forward. One caveat, you really need a general science background to follow some of the concepts from the audio book format. There were a few times when I wished I could have stopped and replayed what I just herd.
audible fan :o)
This is a great overview of quantum theory and a nice introduction!
Well, I was very interested in it earlier. However, this book really illuminated the subject nicely and so I would say it might have made me even more interested.