Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger were friends and comrades-in-arms against what they considered the most preposterous aspects of quantum physics: its indeterminacy. Einstein famously quipped that God does not play dice with the universe, and Schrödinger is equally well known for his thought experiment about the cat in the box who ends up "spread out" in a probabilistic state, neither wholly alive nor wholly dead. Both of these famous images arose from these two men's dissatisfaction with quantum weirdness and with their assertion that underneath it all, there must be some essentially deterministic world. Even though it was Einstein's own theories that made quantum mechanics possible, both he and Schrödinger could not bear the idea that the universe was, at its most fundamental level, random.
As the Second World War raged, both men struggled to produce a theory that would describe in full the universe's ultimate design, first as collaborators, then as competitors. They both ultimately failed in their search for a grand unified theory - not only because quantum mechanics is true but because Einstein and Schrödinger were also missing a key component: of the four forces we recognize today (gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong force), only gravity and electromagnetism were known at the time.
Despite their failures, much of modern physics remains focused on the search for a grand unified theory. As Halpern explains, the recent discovery of the Higgs boson makes the standard model - the closest thing we have to a unified theory - nearly complete. And while Einstein and Schrödinger tried and failed to explain everything in the cosmos through pure geometry, the development of string theory has, in its own quantum way, brought this idea back into vogue. As in so many things, even when he was wrong, Einstein couldn't help but be right.
©2015 Paul Halpern (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This was probably the 2nd best book on physics I've listened to. Quantum by Manjit Kumar is still the best. Overall engaging story. Some complicated physics but more about the men, their ideas, and their mistakes.
Half of the audiobook is devoted to the foundations of quantum theory up through EPR, then the other half is devoted to the two physicists' searches for a unified theory of everything, which goes nowhere, so while it's an interesting history, it's of limited use if trying to gain insight into quantum theory. The first half on quantum theory is well put together though and offers some useful explanations for relativity and the equations of quantum theory without going that much into the math. The relationships of the two physicists with their lovers are also a focus of the book.
I initially thought that I was about to be mired in just another historical retelling Einstein's march to wards unification. However I was greatly delighted to find much more detail about the series that both he and Schrodinger wrestled with throughout their lives. This is a very worthwhile read for anyone who is really serious about the fundamental elements of early physics.
Stuff you would have never guessed about these almost mythical figures is talked about in this book and brings them crashing back down to human being status. They were just like us, flaws and all, so perhaps there is greatness in us all.
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