Beyond Weird

Narrated by: Jonathan Cowley
Length: 9 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (121 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."

Since Niels Bohr said this many years ago, quantum mechanics has only been getting more shocking. We now realize that it's not really telling us that "weird" things happen out of sight, on the tiniest level, in the atomic world: Rather, everything is quantum. But if quantum mechanics is correct, what seems obvious and right in our everyday world is built on foundations that don't seem obvious or right at all - or even possible.

An exhilarating tour of the contemporary quantum landscape, Beyond Weird is a book about what quantum physics really means - and what it doesn't. Science writer Philip Ball offers an up-to-date, accessible account of the quest to come to grips with the most fundamental theory of physical reality, and to explain how its counterintuitive principles underpin the world we experience.

©2018 Philip Ball (P)2018 Tantor

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting Insights, Poor Narration At First

I found Ball's take insightful and interesting. I have some formal education on the subject, as well as experience with many popular texts, so I am always on the lookout for a new perspective. The treatment seemed rather apologetic of the Bohr/Copenhagen interpretation at the start, but the approach eventually paid off as he began to delve deeper and explore alternative interpretations. I found the discussion thought-provoking, and the discussion of decoherence was one of the best I've seen in a popular science account. I thought the arguments against Many Worlds were weak, amounting to an aesthetic choice, albeit a complex philosophical one, even as he complained of others rejecting the argument on more base aesthetic grounds. That said, prior to this book, I had gotten the impression both that I and the professional physics community were coming close to an understanding of quantum physics. Ball's treatment shows that there really is much more mystery to be uncovered, and I found that exhilarating.

Through the first half of the book or so, the narration was very poor. I think there is a tendency to dislike a narrator until one gets used to the voice and style. In this case, however, the narrator seemed to me to have little more than 2 inflections he used for each sentence. While I don't expect a narrator to understand topics such as quantum physics, I expect them to sound like they do. A mispronunciation here and there is understandable. However, while the narration was not monotone, the lack of appropriate inflections and flow between sentences led me to believe the narrator was reading words from the page while making no connection to their meaning. Fortunately, the narrator either began making this connection or became more engaged over the course of the book, and the narration improved. This is why I gave the performance 3 stars instead of 1.

7 people found this helpful

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A difficult listen

This is the fifth book I have listened to on the topic of quantum physics. This book is largely a poorly organized conversation that discusses many sides of the story in a verbose and conversational manner leaving the listener with no greater understanding than they started with. The narrator reads with pressured speech and the inflections in his voice leave the listener confused as to when each idea ends. This reading style, combined with the lack of a succinct writing style leave the listener fatigued, asking for the end.

12 people found this helpful

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better questions for quantum mechanics

fascinating perspectives from which to view quantum mechanics - from more understandable and logically consistent viewpoints - than I have ever come across

4 people found this helpful

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Great Book! Listened Straight Through

Covered many unresolved questions I had about Quantum Physics. it covered Its origins, its puzzles, its personalities, and its possible future. it presented a truer and most comprehensive view of what Quantum Physics is , and what it isn't better than any book, paper, or article I have read in the past. it did so with humor and without being condescending.
it flowed quickly, and smoothly with no dead spots. it stayed on topic, and held me interested throughout. Every explanation or description was clear and measured. And every paragraph was informative. It did not need any filler. The book covers the pro's and cons from every thing from Relativity to The Many Worlds Interpretation. This is my ne Goto book for physics!

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Best explanation ever

An amazing and compelling story. Precise but accessible and fascinating. Quantum physics really is beyond weird!

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    3 out of 5 stars

Does not practice what is preached

The author starts by explaining the title is not to imply quantum physics is more than weird, but instead we should see beyond the apparent weirdness to an underlying simplicity. Great! He also points out quantum theory demands that we do not apply it to trajectories or paths and even discussing particles except in relation to a measurement should be avoided. Great again! Unfortunately, the author then proceeds to discuss paths and particle pointing out again and again the weirdness this discussion leads to. He even seems to equate the word “quantum” with “weirdness”. The author continues this until the last few pages, when he returns to the point of the title, that we really do need to see and speak beyond weirdness. It seems the author does not practice what he preaches.

Ball also makes other common blunders that muddy the water. For example, he talks of the chunking of energy instead of action. Energy, in general, is not quantized, but action always is. He claims interference only occurs with waves (continuous) – while interference also happens with many discrete repeating patters like window-screens, spider-webs, or nylon stocking. Artificial limitations like this do not help us see beyond the weirdness.

I had hoped this would be a text that talked beyond the weirdness but that is not the case. Other than the prolog and epilog it is just yet another discussion of quantum weirdness without clear direction.

See instead Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution (especially the last chapters).

The narration was understandable, but tone seemed stilted at times, and other times passages seemed rushed without inflection.

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Great

Once you get used to the distinctly British verbal convolution, the book is exceptional, deep, clear, candid, and eye opening.