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Publisher's Summary

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 the greatest scientific minds have grappled with this experiment. Thomas Young devised it in the early 1800s to show that light behaves like a wave, and in doing so opposed Isaac Newton's view that light is made of particles. But then Albert Einstein showed that light comes in quanta, or particles. Quantum mechanics was born. This led to a fierce debate between Einstein and Niels Bohr over the nature of reality - subatomic bits of matter and its interaction with light - again as revealed by the double-slit experiment. Richard Feynman held that it 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, or indeed reality, exist before we look at it, or does looking create reality, as the textbook "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics seems to suggest? How can particles influence each other faster than the speed of light? 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?

Through Two Doors at Once celebrates the elegant simplicity of an iconic experiment and its profound reach. With his extraordinarily gifted eloquence, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world, through history and down to the smallest scales of physical reality we have yet fathomed. It is the most fantastic voyage you can take.

©2018 Anil Ananthaswamy (P)2018 Penguin Audio

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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.

4 of 4 people found this review 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!