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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

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  •  
    Augusto Belo Horizonte, Brazil 03-11-13
    Augusto Belo Horizonte, Brazil 03-11-13 Member Since 2013
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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
  •  
    Richard Carolina Beach, NC, United States 03-01-13
    Richard Carolina Beach, NC, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2007

    I'm a voracious reader who unfortunately spends a lot of time on the road. Audiobooks make my life a lot better.

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    "Quantum this!"

    I agree with other reviewers who said this is not a lecture on Quantum mechanics -- thank God! It is a fascinating biographical story of things that happened, for the most part, almost a hundred years ago (or more) and are still very poorly understand and agreed upon by the brightest minds of our time. There is, in my opinion, just about the right amount of science to mix with the story. These people were amazing at the turn of the last century. There was one relatively small character in the book who had ELEVEN of his students later win a Nobel prize. You can't make this stuff up. A good read especially if you really like the history of science even more than the science itself.

    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 2015

    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
  •  
    Lifesavr 599 Spruce Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95407 10-19-10
    Lifesavr 599 Spruce Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95407 10-19-10 Member Since 2015

    lifesavr

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    "Wonderful"

    Love the subject matter and love the reader. What a great story and so well told. I have listen to this one already several times.

    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 2007
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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.

    21 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim TEMECULA, CA, United States 02-08-11
    Tim TEMECULA, CA, United States 02-08-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Not a quantum leap in understanding"

    I got this book fundamentally because I find the whole “Quantum Thing” as fascinating as I find it opaque. I find myself agreeing with Einstein (even as I look at it I agree that is an absurd thing to type” that a universe where my viewing of an event materially impacts that universe makes no sense. I have survived other physics and cosmology books, even those by the inscrutable Brian Greene and was looking forwards to maybe coming to terms with the “Quantum Thing” more closely and just maybe even figuring a tiny bit of it out.
    As it turns out I could have saved the time. This book gives a pretty detailed history to the evolution of the Quantum debate but ultimately it throws no more light on it than many other books without “Quantum” in their title. It’s interesting to read paragraphs where Bohr, Einstein and Geiger (yes him of the Geiger Counter) are in fierce conflict over the math, it’s always fun to watch great minds clash. Ultimately the book filled in lots of science history but left me as bemused as always. It may well just be that I’m just not smart enough to grasp the concepts so it’s perhaps not a surprise that this book left me cold, but the rather stilted historic style and lack of manageable analogies didn’t pass muster for my cat like brain.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Baton Rouge, LA, United States 04-18-15
    William Baton Rouge, LA, United States 04-18-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Interesting. Well-written for print, not audio."

    This is a very well-written account of the development of quantum theory and, to some extent, the theory of relativity. Getting a full grasp of what the author conveys, however, often requires reference to figures that are, I hope, included in the print version.

    If you primarily listen to audiobooks while driving or doing similar tasks, my advice is to skip this audiobook, and instead read the print version.

    The only general area thatI wished the author would have converted was an overview of why a quantum interpretation of the universe is important. What would not have come about had quantum theory not been developed? What do scientists now expect to develop from it?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    shu texas 03-21-15
    shu texas 03-21-15 Member Since 2013
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    "History, biography, science - an excellent mix"
    Where does Quantum rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    "Quantum" will have a lengthy residence in our 8Gb player. It is worth several listens. Narration is well paced and even-toned. Much of the story is brief biographical or personality sketches of the twenty or so personalities involved in developing quantum physics. These details provide a framework against which to pin the scientific details of the story.


    Any additional comments?

    Without need of deep mathematical or physical knowledge, the book covers the emergence of quantum physics in the 1920's, and what was so revolutionary about it. In a way that classical physics, even the relativity physics of Einstein, did not envision, the world according to quantum does not exist except in the presence of the observer.

    0 of 0 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 Member Since 2015
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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

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