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Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Length: 480 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Product Description

Review

Lively....a wide-ranging account, written for readers who are curious about the theory but what to sidestep its mathematical complexities....fascinating. "

Review

'A super-collider of a book'. (Independent)

‘…the most important popular science book of the year.’ (Bookseller)

'This is about gob-smacking science at the far end of reason… Take it nice and easy and savour the experience of your mind being blown without recourse to hallucinogens' (Nicholas Lezard, Guardian)

‘Kumar is an accomplished writer… In Quantum he tells the story of the conflict between two of the most powerful intellects of their day: the hugely famous Einstein and the less well-known but just as brilliant Dane, Niels Bohr.’ (Financial Times)

An exhaustive and brilliant account of decades of emotionally charged discovery and argument, friendship and rivalry spanning two world wars.’ (Steven Poole, Guardian)

‘…it does provide a fresh perspective on the debate.’ (Press Association)

‘A dramatic, powerful and superbly written history.’ (Publishing News)

‘This is not an easy read. There are many concepts that… I could not come to terms with, but this is the biography on an idea and as such read much like a thriller.’ (Ham & High)

‘Quantum is a fascinating, powerful and brilliantly written book that shows one of the most important theories of modern science in the making and discusses its implications for our ideas about the fundamental nature of the world and human knowledge, while presenting intimate and insightful portraits of people who made the science. Highly recommended.’ (Bookbag)

‘‘Quantum’ is an interesting and informative read.’ (Physics World)

‘That science is a many-splendored, sexy thing is the radiating message that comes out of this fabulous book…a pulsating narrative’. (Hindustan Times)

‘Probably the most lucid and detailed intellectual history ever written of a body of theory that makes other scientific revolutions look limp-wristed by comparison’. (Independent)

‘One of the best guides yet to the central conundrums of modern physics.’ (John Banville, The Age, Australia)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 950 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (2 Oct. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9ZRC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,758 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The development of quantum physics through the 20th century is one of the great adventures of science, and here at last is a book aimed at the layperson which clearly explains its key concepts, while situating the scientific development in its broader setting. The result is a challenging and enthralling read.

Quantum is appropriately sub-titled, Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality. The long theoretical duel between these two giants of modern physics is a recurring theme of the book, but the story starts before them with the build-up to the discovery of Planck's constant at the turn of the century, and continues beyond their deaths (in 1955 and 1962 respectively) to take in Bell's Theorem and Everett's "many worlds" interpretation. Along the way we meet other great physicists such as Rutherford, Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrödinger, Dirac and Bohm.

One might suspect that a book of such scope would be in danger of being overcrowded with theories and theorists, yet Kumar rises to the challenge, displaying a novelist's sense of pacing allied with an impressive scientific clarity and succinctness. Clearly he has taken to heart the famous injunction attributed to Einstein to "make it as simple as possible, but no simpler!" He also strikes a judicious balance between scientific explanation and human context. This provided for me a welcome alternation between the physics and the lives of the physicists, with each stimulating an interest in the other.

What is so powerful and inspiring about this book is the way it conveys the passion for truth of those great pioneers. No doubt ego played its part as well, they would hardly have been human otherwise, but it is always secondary to the great quest to fathom the nature of sub-atomic reality.
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By D. Jones #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Aug. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful scientific theories ever made. But it is utterly non-intuitive for both the scientist and non-scientist alike.

In our everyday lives, things happen for a reason - you place a fork on a table and unless someone comes along and moves it, you can be certain that it will be still there the next day. Not so in the atomic world of quantum mechanics, an electron might be here... or it might be there ... or over there. In fact it could be anywhere in the universe at any given time. Quantum mechanics predicts this behaviour in the form of a probability wave function. And it works.

But is this the true nature of reality?

This is the theme of the book. We have two great scientists - Einstein and Niels Bohr who have a fundamental difference of opinion about the nature of reality.

From Einstein's' point of view, an electron has a real set of parameters such as location, velocity, spin and so on that is independent of an observer. He admits that quantum mechanics does a good job in predicting atomic behaviour but he is convinced the theory is not complete.

On the other hand, there is Niels Bohr's vision that an electron (or any microscopic entity) has no reality until an observer chooses to measure one of its parameters. He considers quantum mechanics to be complete with no further need for revision or modification.

This argument goes on for decades. The book takes the reader through the panoply of scientists who helped put quantum theory together from its beginnings around 1900 to today. Scientists such as Max Planck, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, Oppenheimer, Von Neumann and many, many others are included.

The appeal of this book is that it brings humanity to the story of quantum mechanics.
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Comment 16 of 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book as a partial response to my 12 year old son's questions: "But what is infinity?" "How do we know that something is real?" He left me stumped and not a little challenged. I needed to get beyond Dr Who and thought the book might sate him.

Curiosity got the better of me and I was soon drawn into a world enriched by well drawn characters. Names that I had heard of but didn't know much about - Planck, Geiger, Rutherford, but others too, more familiar - like Hitler and GB Shaw. Others yet, I was glad to make the acquaintance of, like Wolfgang Pauli, described as a Buddha with a biting tongue. And John Stewart Bell of Belfast and Dr Bertelsmann's socks.

Quantum reads like an epic novel, with Einstein and Bohr cast as the main protagonists, with scientific truth taking the place of elusive love, an obscure object of their desires. Kumar's evocative and fluid prose describes the passion for ideas that is at the centre of the story. I didn't feel that I needed to understand it all, but understood what drove them.

But what of the science? Kumar does not shy away from the science but nor does he make it seem insurmountable to a lay reader. Boyle's law explained in a succinct paragraph is a model of elegant science writing.

There is much to commend Quantum apart from its opening up of this area of science. Kumar deftly weaves in the social and political context in which the characters are brought to life. A fundraising dinner for impoverished East European Jews hosted by Baron Rothschild in October 1930, is attended by Einstein. The septuagenarian GB Shaw toasts him: "Ptolemy made a universe which lasted 1,400 years. Newton, also, made a universe which lasted for 300 years.
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