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Quantum Audiobook

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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  •  
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 03-10-13
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 03-10-13 Member Since 2013
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    "part good, part bad"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maggie McMeekin Arlington Heights, IL, US 02-28-13
    Maggie McMeekin Arlington Heights, IL, US 02-28-13 Member Since 2012

    I am a 27 year old nurse pursuing a nurse practitioner degree. My favorite book genres are: fantasy, science fiction, medicine and sociology

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    "Fascinating look at the physicists behind quantum"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David M. Kruger West Hartford, CT USA 01-12-13
    David M. Kruger West Hartford, CT USA 01-12-13 Member Since 2011

    DoctorKilljoy

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    "It started well...."
    What did you like best about Quantum? What did you like least?

    The beginning was interesting and grabbed my attention


    Has Quantum turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Zombie book. It wouldn't stop. The author repeated the philosophical differences between Einstein and Bohr to the point painful boredom. OK, we got it.


    What about Ray Porter’s performance did you like?

    The performance was generally OK. At times the tone and recording settings noticeably changed. His French accent is comically bad.


    Was Quantum worth the listening time?

    The first half.. quit while you're ahead.


    Any additional comments?

    Enough already.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    xteeve Toronto 11-15-12
    xteeve Toronto 11-15-12

    xteeve

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    "Wonderful"

    I had owned the Kindle version for a while, without really having the time, when I decided to buy the audio book. Best use of my credits since I signed up for Audible, as 3 days later, I had listened to every syllable, and was spurred to learn more about the subject.

    If you like reading about physics and are curious about Quantum theory or the state and evolution of the science of physics during that time, I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a better listen. I know because after finishing this, I bought Uncertainty by David Lindley, and The Age of Entanglement by Louisa Gilder and they are still sitting in my Library unfinished after 2 months.

    I know too little to give a worthy analysis of the scientific content. Suffice it to say, my ignorance was certainly diminished. What I can say however, is that the writer exposed the science and ideas with a masterful touch, and as far as I could ascertain, managed to communicate the gist of the concepts, and the historical context from which they arose.

    Last, but certainly not least, the narrator is excellent, at least to my ears. His voice, tone, inflection and delivery were the right combination of pleasing, expressive, and effacing. if that makes any sense.

    A wonderful book.





    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary 11-07-12
    Gary 11-07-12
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    "Interesting History of Modern Physics"

    Good quality audio and well written. Interesting if you enjoy this topic. You don't need to be a physics major to understand it although it can get technical.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly Calgary, Alberta, Canada 08-17-12
    Kelly Calgary, Alberta, Canada 08-17-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Great Blend of Story and Pure Quantum Theory"
    What did you love best about Quantum?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Quantum?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Ray Porter – was your favorite?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barret Fayetteville, AR, United States 07-30-12
    Barret Fayetteville, AR, United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Great Synthesis of Science and History"
    What made the experience of listening to Quantum the most enjoyable?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 03-18-12
    William 03-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Mind Expanding"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Fantastic book on Quantum Theory from 30,000 feet. Mostly big picture science with a touch of philosophy and fascinating biography. Really enjoyed the


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Einstein, because I still can't accept a world that requires observation to be real and deterministic.


    Which character – as performed by Ray Porter – was your favorite?

    Bohr, because I didn't realize the enormous contribution he made to 20th century science until reading this book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Esmeralda Landsmeer, Netherlands 02-09-11
    Esmeralda Landsmeer, Netherlands 02-09-11 Member Since 2009
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    "Brilliant history of science on quantum physics"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Seale, AL, United States 10-10-10
    Andy Seale, AL, United States 10-10-10
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    "The Drama of Physics"

    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.

    0 of 3 people found this review helpful

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