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)
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.
Yes, I have, it's great.
The writing, the information, the way the story is woven, and the performance are all superb
I'm not sure that I have, but he did a great job with this one.
"The great debate about the nature of reality" is pretty spot on!
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.
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.
Yes, it was a great story about some of the biggest names in Physics.
None that I can think of. It is like a historical non-fiction with scientific explanation.
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.
Yes, I would recommend this Book to anyone interested in the ongoing Quantum research. it's a very good look/ perspective of the way and the why things came about in quantum science and still are. Really Cool
Finally, after too many years many of the gaps in my understanding of quantum physics, albeit it not great, has been fillled in. And the story line on the great Physicists of the that time is well presented.
Description of a meeting in the 1920's in which 19 of the 26 attendees did or would have a nobel prize.
Descriptions of electons leaping fromone level to another
The True Quantum of Solice
The personal lives and work of Bohr and Einstein is very good but the context of what Quantum Mechanics as compared an "observer - independent reality" is still very confusing.
Far to technical for an audio book. Complicated non-fiction requires charts, lists, graphics to aid in comprehension.
Quantum really does not require Ray to read "in character". Ray's reading is one of the main reasons for listening to this book.
No. Its about the lives of two great scientists.
Good book. I especially enjoyed the first half…this is the part of the history of physics that I would think peole are most familiar with…the development of the quantum theory from the late 1800s to early 1900s. At that point I was ready to give the book a 5, as it entertainingly weaves biographies of the key players with their contributions to physics in a very engaging way. Amazingly, every contributor except one (Schroedinger) made their biggest and most profound earth changing contributions when they were in their young 20s. Truly amazing history.
Unfortunately, the book takes a turn for the worse. The 3rd of the 4 quarters of the book I found boring..it is several hours of incredibly nuanced discussion of differences of opinion between Bohr and Einstein. While this may be of interest to a theoretical physicist, as a medical scientists with an MD PhD I could not follow this. The last quarter of the book picked up a little and put some things into broader perspective, but again by this time physics is so ethereal, mathematical, and without any way to conceptualize what is being described, that I found it difficulty to follow and understand. The denouement is good as it describes the fading into the background of all these great scientists.
On other thing that bugged me is that some stuff is completely over stated. For instance at one point the author claims that the most striking scientific discovery from 1964 is (I cannot remember the specifics now) a finding that validated Bohr’s quantum approach. I bet if you talked to anyone who is not a theoretical physicist, they would think that one of the other discoveries from the year which he lists as examples have had more impact on our lives.
I am a 27 year old nurse pursuing a nurse practitioner degree. My favorite book genres are: fantasy, science fiction, medicine and sociology
This was a fantastic book, revealing many fantastic insights into the lives of the physicists that shaped quantum physics, as well as explaining quantum physics in and of itself. We see the development of the periodic table, development of the understanding of atomic structure, and details about the borderline philosophical debates that Bohr and Einstein had regarding the quantum.
What really made it an amazing listen is, of course, the great narration and the fact it is written very well, with not too much physics, so it never feels like a dry recitation of a textbook. It wows you and makes you realize how much you're learning as it unveils physics concepts, then mixes it up entirely by going into the private lives and personalities of the physicists. You find yourself liking some more than others, or even surprised by how wild some of their lives were - like Schrodinger's sexual exploits, hehe.
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