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
“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)
Quantum will appeal to anyone interested in how Quantum Theory evolved in a historical sense. It portrays the many players involved in its development but focusses on Einstein and Bohr's decades-long disagreement on what constitutes reality.
There is a moment when it appears that Einstein has finally conjured up the experiment that will prove his side of the argument once and for all. And it did...at least for a while.
As this is a historical biography, Ray Porter was not required to get into character as in a novel. But his narration is excellent and he is able to bring the many figures involved to life.
I am not a physicist nor, for that matter, even much of a science geek. Still, I found this book peeked my curiosity and answered many questions I had about the mind-bending topic of Quantum Mechanics.
I really enjoyed the tale of the history of the revolutions and micro revolutions of thought that make up the path to our understanding of the quantum world. It shows that no dogma or accepted system of thought is sacred, and our understanding of the universe is an evolutionary process of ideas. SPOILER: The essential theme I got from this is that it comes back to the philosophical thought experiment of the tree falling in the woods with no one to observe it in any way. For Einstein, reality is independently real, and the tree actually did fall, whether or not someone directly observed it or indirectly observed its effects. For Bohr, the tree did not actually fall unless it was observed. For science, Einstein's belief could never be proven, because to prove it, something would have to be observed/measured. Bohr goes farther than just saying that objective reality cannot be proved, and says it doesn't exist in fact. This belief is just as unprovable as Einstein's and for the same reason.
Fantastic book on Quantum Theory from 30,000 feet. Mostly big picture science with a touch of philosophy and fascinating biography. Really enjoyed the
Einstein, because I still can't accept a world that requires observation to be real and deterministic.
Bohr, because I didn't realize the enormous contribution he made to 20th century science until reading this book.
This is a book I have been searching for some time: it explains quantum physics in laymen’s terms. All these mysterious phenomenon (photons, entanglement, Heizenberg’s uncertainty principle) are described in a very understandable way, as long as you pay close attention to what is being said. Suddenly, everything I had learned during my six years of physics classes in high school started to come together: the atom models, the states electrons could be in, and most of all, what the meaning is of these silly tests with screens with slits in it.
Kumar has taken a very interesting approach to his 100+ year overview of quantum physics. He takes the reader on a more or less chronological, social tour of the physics community in the 20th century, where we intimately get to know both the researchers themselves, their scientific views and the way they interact with each other. It is a well written story of how the scientific world works, an exciting discovery tour and, strange tough it may sound, it is an absolute page turner.
For me, this could have been a life changing book. Had I read this book as a high school student, it might have encouraged me to study theoretical physics.
The English narration was impeccable. A very pleasant, unobtrusive voice. Well directed and well cut: there was not a single audio editing mistake in the entire book. The pronunciation of German, Dutch and French words and names was way off, but nonetheless cute.
This book is an absolute must listen for everyone who is even mildly interested in knowing something about quantum physics or the scientific community (Einstein, Bohr, Heizenberg, Planck, just to mention a few names) behind its concepts.
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.
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.
The information presented was quite interesting and the author has a knack for presenting the events of the time and the people involved with a dramatic tension that captures your attention. Unfortunately, I found that I could not finish listening to even the first part due to the unremitting negativity and bleakness. Perhaps it lightens up later on, I shall never know..it was such a relief to call it quits that I can't imagine taking it up again. The subject matter is fascinating and well worth exploring, but this particular book might well put you off the topic and people involved...unless you're enjoy the works of Samuel Beckett, of whom this author reminds me.
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