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Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality | [Manjit Kumar]

Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality

Quantum theory is weird. As Niels Bohr said, if you aren’t shocked by quantum theory, you don’t really understand it. For most people, quantum theory is synonymous with mysterious, impenetrable science. And in fact for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly written account of this fundamental scientific revolution.
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Publisher's Summary

Quantum theory is weird. As Niels Bohr said, if you aren’t shocked by quantum theory, you don’t really understand it. For most people, quantum theory is synonymous with mysterious, impenetrable science. And in fact for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves.

In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly written account of this fundamental scientific revolution, focusing on the central conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of reality and the soul of science. This revelatory book takes a close look at the golden age of physics, the brilliant young minds at its core, and how an idea ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the 20th century.

Manjit Kumar was the founding editor of Prometheus, an arts-and-sciences journal. He has written and reviewed for various publications, including the Guardian, and is a consulting science editor at Wired UK. He lives in London.

©2008 Manjit Kumar (P)2010 Blackstone Audio

What the Critics Say

“Lively…A wide-ranging account, written for readers who are curious about the theory but want to sidestep its mathematical complexities….Fascinating.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“With vigor and elegance, Kumar…recounts this meaty, dense, exciting story, filled with vivid characters and sharp insights. With physics undergoing another revolution today, Kumar reminds us of a time when science turned the universe upside down.” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Augusto Belo Horizonte, Brazil 03-11-13
    Augusto Belo Horizonte, Brazil 03-11-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book to the lovers of science"
    If you could sum up Quantum in three words, what would they be?

    Reading this book allow you an broad overview about the history of physics in its golden age. This is a really worth reading book even if you don't have advanced previous background knowledge on physics.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12 Member Since 2001

    Letting the rest of the world go by

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    "Personality to explain quantum physics"

    Uses the personal interaction of the main discovers of quantum physics to understand physics. The book reads very excitingly due to the personalities involved. Even someone who is not fully interested in the quantum physics would enjoy the story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nelson Alexander New York, NY, United States 08-01-10
    Nelson Alexander New York, NY, United States 08-01-10 Member Since 2006
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    "Signifying Darkly"

    I am sorry to have to send in such a bad review. Blame should rest largely with the producer and publisher, I believe. Having given up after about 20 minutes, I really cannot judge the content of the book itself. Like any book about physics it requires some concentration, and, for me at least, the reading makes this all but impossible. The reader might be a good choice for a noir detective novel, but is a dreadful mismatch for this material. The producer apparently believes that because physics is inherently dull, the reading should be doubly dramatic. The narrator seems to have little idea of what the text is about, but dutifully places a heavy dramatic inflection on every tenth word or any word that suggests significance. Hence a word like "enormous" will receive an awestruck intonation, though it occurs in a minor descriptive aside about someone's house with an "enormous garden." The reader seems to be looking for words, any words, that can be rendered ominous, emotive, or darkly significant. To me, this utter mismatch between style and content makes it nearly impossible to concentrate or absorb any information. Nor is the text captivating enough to rescue itself. By contrast, I found the audio book "Uncertainty" to be quite good, covering roughy the same terrain. Caveat: this is, of course, one man's opinion. If others react differently I hope they will write in. I don't like to criticize unduly, but I have a limited budget and am annoyed when I spend on a dud I simply can't finish. Again, I believe this is not so much the fault of the author or even the reader, but of a producer who badly mismatched the two.

    20 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darnell Arford 06-26-14
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    "Awesome stories of pioneering phantum physicists"
    What made the experience of listening to Quantum the most enjoyable?

    It was great to hear of the lives, discoveries, and disputes of the men who founded the field of quantum physics. Einstein and Bohr play major roles in the story, but many other scientists and mathematicians are introduced along with their discoveries.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes. Though, I did take breaks to research the different theories and discoveries as I listened.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Hurt San Diego, CA United States 05-31-14
    K. Hurt San Diego, CA United States 05-31-14 Listener Since 2002
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    "Reveals men behind curtain, like wizards in Oz"
    If you could sum up Quantum in three words, what would they be?

    Magic tricks revealed


    What did you like best about this story?

    Taking discoveries out of the context of the current events of their day and ignoring those men whose shoulders lifted the individual discoverer high enough to get a good glimpse of an undiscovered truth, makes that individual seems magical. Some of the mystique of their individual contributions in light of that context provided within this book, becomes more understandable and we see that, although no less brilliant, they appear to be a little more human. Time and again, we are permitted to observe throughout this book how frequently the implications of their own contributions and discoveries are used by others to leap frog a little bit further. Einstein and Bohr are the main contenders who, like poles of a magnet pull other physicists one way or the other. This book focuses on the men in a time that Quantum Mechanics was just an infant; arguably, one that grew too heavy for its father to bear. This story is stranger than fiction. Unlike that old adage however, I still don't know if the focus subject is truth, but it does work as well or better than Ptolemy's strange orbits to predict what we observe. Now you know that I am not a physicist. I am just a mathematician with an interest in science.


    What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

    Very good presentation that did not tire me. The fact that I enjoyed the presentation and do not ever remember thinking about poor narration means that he did not interfere with the story. I think that he had a pleasant, unaffected accent for me as an American listener, and he presented the material with enthusiasm.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The material was interesting throughout. The incident where Heisenberg personally requested that Hitler allow some Jews to stay in German universities since they were making significant contributions to science and were a great value to Germany was a standout. Hitler's response caused me a visceral reaction.


    Any additional comments?

    Part of science is knowing where to go for further information. Several papers are available to review on the internet. I stopped a few times to do some ciphering on my own. The book is inspiring. It will help me as I continue to pursue further developments as a layman, interested in physics and cosmology.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nemen M. Terc usa 10-27-13
    Nemen M. Terc usa 10-27-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Thrilling and historical"
    What did you love best about Quantum?

    This books was delightful! I was familiar with the main characters of this story and read books written by them as well as biographical materials.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This is not a novel and this question is irrelevant.


    Have you listened to any of Ray Porter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    I would like to read more from the authors.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    john west seneca, NY, United States 06-08-13
    john west seneca, NY, United States 06-08-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Much better than I had expected"

    I wasn't sure what exactly what I was in for but the book provides an excellent history of the emergence of modern physics. I'm an engineer with general physics knowledge and this puts much into perspective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric 05-23-13
    Eric 05-23-13
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    "An absolute must read/ listen, highly engaging"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I have, it's great.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The writing, the information, the way the story is woven, and the performance are all superb


    Have you listened to any of Ray Porter’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I'm not sure that I have, but he did a great job with this one.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    "The great debate about the nature of reality" is pretty spot on!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 05-13-13
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 05-13-13 Member Since 2006

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "The most important story of the 20th century"

    Is science about being able to understand the physical world, or is it merely what we are able to say about the physical world? This is one way of framing the great question explored in this book. It's always a challenge in this kind of book to strike the right balance for the intended audience. Kumar does a fairly good job of that in terms of understandable analogies vs. mathematical formulas. Translating his formulas and tables into the audio format poses additional difficulties. I think Ray Porter does about as good a job as he could have, though I think he could have used a little more coaching on some of the mathematical phrasing. In the first half of the book, I felt Kumar paid too much attention to the human interest side of things. There's a certain style that reporters have when they are self-consciously describing people and their clothing and inferring thoughts and feelings they have no justification for. That's what it felt like. Kumar is at his best when he is talking about the questions that paved the way for further exploration, and how the various physicists challenged each other to address unexplained loopholes and paradoxes in their theorems. This really was the single most important question of the 20th century: whether there is or is not an objective reality independent of the observer. To borrow from Einstein, the rest is merely details.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Whalen Willowick, OH 04-01-13
    S. Whalen Willowick, OH 04-01-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Fascinating story about Science Icons!"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, it was a great story about some of the biggest names in Physics.


    What other book might you compare Quantum to and why?

    None that I can think of. It is like a historical non-fiction with scientific explanation.


    Any additional comments?

    I always wondered how some of the greatest Physicists of all time were all born and working in the same age. Also, how did they work together, was there competition? This book explains the science of early physics, what drew these men to the field of study and how they worked together. Definitely want to be science minded as the book does explore and try to explain their work.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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