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Publisher's Summary

The untold story of the heretical thinkers who dared to question the nature of our quantum universe 

Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity's finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr's students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favored practical experiments over philosophical arguments. As a result, questioning the status quo long meant professional ruin.

And yet, from the 1920s to today, physicists like John Bell, David Bohm, and Hugh Everett persisted in seeking the true meaning of quantum mechanics. What Is Real? is the gripping story of this battle of ideas and the courageous scientists who dared to stand up for truth.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2018 Adam Becker (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Good, "light" "read"... potential caveat below...

Any additional comments?

The thesis of this book is that there still exists an unresolved and embarrassing discrepancy between the Copenhagen interpretation of the measurement problem and alternative, “equally valid” interpretations (i.e. many worlds, pilot waves, decoherence, etc.) for enough physicists to consider it an "interesting" topic still, but not to all.

Written by a philosopher+physicist, the book leans more toward what I would expect from a journalist-philosopher who enjoys “controversial physics porn”. I gave it high marks because I think it is a great book for the general populace; and because, though I thought at first I would have preferred deeper analysis of the physics concepts underlying the main thesis of the book, I was happy to have explored this lighter perspective. In fact, it has inspired me to check out at least one other similarly-titled book.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Where are the figures referred to? PDF please!

Great narration and history, but can be difficult to follow when complicated ideas are discussed without a PDF. Examples are when narrator refers to multiple figures ("see figure such and such") when talking about thought experiments related to Bell's inequality. I searched in vain for a PDF associated with the book, which it certainly SHOULD have.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 04-25-18

The book ends "I don't know"

This book is not really about what is real and the author does not know.
Instead it is yet another, middle of the pack, retelling of a slice of the history of quantum theory.

This book does a few things better than others in this sub-sub-genera:
It disparages the Copenhagen interpretation of QM as not fit to be a theory.
It focuses on Bell, Bohm, and Everett as examples of those that questioned the Copenhagen interpretation.

This was fine as far as it went, but the author either does not understand or does not believe these alternative theories. He goes on about randomness being fundamental to quantum reality while Bell, Bohm, and Everett are trying to say there are alternatives to randomness (deterministic non-locality or multi-world or something else).

I prefer The Trouble with Physics which. I think, makes similar points better and clearer.

The narration is good, clear, and has a pleasant upbeat tone.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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great approach

a really good approach to understanding quantum physics by explaining the context in how the science we have now evolved

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Great Book!

This is one of the best science-focused books I have ever read, marrying science, history, politics philosophy, and human nature into one coherent story. Reading this book is like riding a pilot wave.

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Mixed feelings?

This is a long drawn out retelling of the history of quantum physics. I was, possibly unfairly, hoping for more.

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The Best History of Quantum Mechanics Yet

This book brought me back to my grad school days in the 1960's when I was studying mathematics and philosophy of science, which I briefly taught before making bread on Wall Street. Becker does a wonderful job of developing the struggles of David Bohm (pilot wave theory 1952) and Hugh Everett (many worlds theory 1957) and how the Copenhagen interpretation was used by the physics establishment to essentially black list them for most of their lives. John Stuart Bell faired better, seeing his work experimentally verified before he died. Today the field of foundations of quantum mechanics is wide open for development. Becker has great final chapter looking forward, noting that the larger physics community still clings to Bohr's interpretation. Maybe they will come around faster than the Papacy did for Galileo.

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More history than expected but ended up liking that

There was a lot of background on key figures throughout the growth of physics. At first I was annoyed by this and wanted more physics. As the book progressed, however, I found it fascinating and essential to understanding he progression of physics.

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Absolutely worth your time and money

I learned a lot about probably the most fundamental question of reality. The author mostly gives a historical insight about the measurement problem, but he also explains all the ideas very well without ever overwhelming a casual listener or reader. I'm eager to give it a second listen, not because it was difficult to understand but because it was so enjoyable.

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Good summary

Gives a good summary of the current state of debate over how quantum mechanics work

1 of 2 people found this review helpful