Through Two Doors at Once

The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality
Narrated by: René Ruiz
Length: 7 hrs and 36 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (155 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

One of Smithsonian's favorite books of 2018.

One of Forbes' 2018 best books about astronomy, physics, and mathematics.

One of Kirkus' best books of 2018.

The intellectual adventure story of the "double-slit" experiment, showing how a sunbeam split into two paths first challenged our understanding of light and then the nature of reality itself - and continues to almost 200 years later.

Many of science's greatest minds have grappled with the simple yet elusive "double-slit" experiment. Thomas Young devised it in the early 1800s to show that light behaves like a wave, and in doing so opposed Isaac Newton. Nearly a century later, Albert Einstein showed that light comes in quanta, or particles, and the experiment became key to a fierce debate between Einstein and Niels Bohr over the nature of reality. Richard Feynman held that the double slit embodies the central mystery of the quantum world. Decade after decade, hypothesis after hypothesis, scientists have returned to this ingenious experiment to help them answer deeper and deeper questions about the fabric of the universe.

How can a single particle behave both like a particle and a wave? Does a particle exist before we look at it, or does the very act of looking create reality? Are there hidden aspects to reality missing from the orthodox view of quantum physics? Is there a place where the quantum world ends and the familiar classical world of our daily lives begins, and if so, can we find it? And if there's no such place, then does the universe split into two each time a particle goes through the double slit?

With his extraordinarily gifted eloquence, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world and through history, down to the smallest scales of physical reality we have yet fathomed. Through Two Doors at Once is the most fantastic voyage you can take.

©2018 Anil Ananthaswamy (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Through Two Doors at Once is a challenging and rewarding survey of how scientists…are grappling with nature’s deepest, strangest secrets.” (Wall Street Journal)

“A fascinating tour through the cutting-edge physics the experiment keeps on spawning.” (Scientific American)

"Through Two Doors at Once offers beginners the tools they need to seriously engage with the philosophical questions that likely drew them to quantum mechanics." (Science)

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent exposition of the conundrum

It helps if you've had some (OK a lot) of quantum mechanics background. You might start with Jim Al-Khalili's guide. This book gives credence to the possibility that Copenhagen is mainstream more by force of personality than objective assessment. No final judgment is made but the idea that determinism can be retained is not outright dismissed in principle - which is welcoming. We're back to "If I don't look is something still there" is answered satisfactorily - "Yes it is" whilst still embracing quantum weirdness most specifically non-locality. It's worth the debate. Reviews of weak measurements were interesting.

I'm in admiration of Anil's writing. He does not have to be the originator of all the ideas discussed to be applauded - his communication of state of play is brilliantly clear. I'm not buying the smart idea that "the interpretation doesn't matter". Saying that measurement brings reality in to being has uncomfortably little to say about what is there when you're not looking.

This is an entertaining and informative book.

14 people found this helpful

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Great explanations, far exceeded my expectations..

Though it touches on only a small subset of physical phenomena, this book has surprising depth and breadth, and can be used both as an experimental lab manual for each of the experiments explained, as well as a book on the philosophy of physics.

The author refers to the same basic experimental setup for each new story (interference of wave-particle paths), and makes it into somewhat of a joke for repeating the same thing for each new story; but really this book has much more breadth than its title suggests. He gives great explanations for just about all types of interference relevant to quantum mechanics, and weaves into each story a lot of great background info on the philosophy of the physics and the physicists involved.

I was literally in tears by the end of this audible (not literally), that's how good it was!

7 people found this helpful

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Good critical review of QM Theories

This book does a few things really well.

It uses the double-slit-experiment (and a few related experiments) to critically review the most important interpretations of QM. This includes pointing out the problems with each theory. This is actually rather tricky to do in a book for non-scientists, and this is one of the only books that I have read that does this well. This is refreshingly straightforward without the bombastic exaggeration, mysticism, or fringe theories common in such books.

It covers the double slit experiment and a few others without making numerous mistakes (which is rare for this sub-genre) while keeping the descriptions remarkably clear. This must have been edited very carefully.

It would have helped to have a pdf to provide diagrams of the experiments and complex cases. Instead you can google the author to find good diagrams of each experiment (particularly the Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester).

Usually Bohmian Mechanics gets faint praise and the worst criticisms, but here its importance was highlighted and is was criticized less than it should have been. Although Bohmian Mechanics is very *important*, its focus on Position is a critical issue...not that position is problematic, but Bohmian Mechanics could be reformulated to focus on Momentum (instead of position). Having complementary theories like this leads one to doubts about which (or either) can be real.

Another nit is that the author seems to go out of his way to avoid discussing Action (which leaves a layman reader thinking energy is quantized). He briefly discusses Feynman's multipath method without mentioning Action. I understand the desire to avoid the topic, but books that ignore it leave the reader with a critical misunderstanding.

The narration was completely excellent.

8 people found this helpful

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Excellent overview of interpreting QM

This was my favorite book on interpretations of QM I have read. I really enjoyed it. I really appreciated that unlike some books on the topic which are overwhelmingly theoretical, this book grounds its math and philosophy in real, tangible experiments. It returns to experiments again and again, reminding us why physicists have been forced by the results of these experiments to question some of our most basic ideas about the world... realism, locality, even the idea that the world has a single past, present and future.

2 people found this helpful

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A must for anyone interested in quantum mechanics

Along with the Michelson–Morley experiment, the double-slit experiment is one of the most ground breaking experiments in the history of modern physics. For many years I've seen references to the double-slit experiment in books on quantum mechanics, but there was never enough detail about the experiment; especially about the photon detection methods used. The more I read about the double-slit experiment, the more questions I had. Finally, I discovered Through Two Doors at Once, which gave a complete history of the experiment and answered most of my questions. I learned that the experiment has evolved over time in ways that I never expected. Don't be fooled by the title, this is a profound subject that touches on philosophy and on the nature of existence. This book is essential for anyone who is interested in quantum mechanics. Also, the narrator has a pleasant voice that is unusually clear and easy to understand for those of us with some degree of hearing loss.

2 people found this helpful

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Great Review of Quantum Theory

An interesting book written in an understandable way for those not well versed in quantum theories.

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science for the citizen it is not

I had hoped for something about halfway between (1) a book intended to describe the behavior of subatomic particles to general readers and (2) one for those with considerable background in quantum physics. But to me it seemed that "Through Two Doors At Once" is aimed at an audience very much closer to (2) than to (1) -- so much so that much of the book was either incomprehensible to me or delved into distinctions relevant only to specialists.

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Clearer than “Beyond Weird”

I enjoyed “Beyond Weird”, but that book seemed more philosophical. At first this book came off as a little dry compared to that one, but in the end I found it much clearer, given that it kept tying everything back to the double slit experiment. I also like how it compared and contrasted the many interpretations of QM, whereas, if I recall correctly, “Beyond Weird” focused on the Copenhagen interpretation. I like them both, but I’d recommend starting with this one before “Beyond Weird”.

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Fantastic read, I commend this book most highly

Beautifully written, very well narrated.

If you don't understand the many world's theory this book will knock your socks off.

Love this book.

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Perfectly done

This book is, by far, the best breakdown of the history and the mechanics of the two slit experiment. I couldn't recommend it highly enough.