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

Manjit Kumar
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)

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Book Description

For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. In this magisterial book, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its core. Quantum theory looks at the very building blocks of our world, the particles and processes without which it could not exist. Yet for 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existence of reality itself.


In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar shows how the golden age of physics ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century. Quantum theory is weird.In 1905, Albert Einstein suggested that light was a particle, not a wave, defying a century of experiments. Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Erwin Schrodinger's famous dead-and-alive cat are similarly strange. As Niels Bohr said, if you weren't shocked by quantum theory, you didn't really understand it.


While "Quantum" sets the science in the context of the great upheavals of the modern age, Kumar's centrepiece is the conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of reality and the soul of science. 'Bohr brainwashed a whole generation of physicists into believing that the problem had been solved', lamented the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. But in "Quantum", Kumar brings Einstein back to the centre of the quantum debate. "Quantum" is the essential read for anyone fascinated by this complex and thrilling story and by the band of brilliant men at its heart.


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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

'Kumar is an accomplished writer who knows how to separate the excitement of the chase from the sometimes impenetrable mathematics. 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.'

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  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,673 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
130 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant account of a fundamental subject 9 Jun. 2009
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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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The human story of quantum mechanics 21 Aug. 2011
By D. Jones #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On what comes first 5 May 2010
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent & enjoyable read
Published 5 days ago by colin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
Concise overview for the layman with some science/maths background. Great book.
Published 1 month ago by peter kenny
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Like previous reviewers have said, the book is a page turner and centres on the extraordinary minds involved in the revolution of our understanding of physics at the turns of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book.
Excellent book. I found this book most enlightening. I had a sense of almost being there as developments unfolded. A great read.
Published 1 month ago by K D Connelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Whel what can you say, a well written book ...
Whel what can you say,a well written book by well known author.
Published 2 months ago by James John Rafferty
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a worth reading book
If you like physics and philosophy, don't hesitate to read this book. The author writes in a very fluid way that links science with history from the last XIX Century until... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. B. Espinosa
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good read
Published 5 months ago by Rik Dent
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable 20th century Physics.
Well written and authorative summary of most of the important Physics of the twentieth century. as near a page turner as Physics writing gets. Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. Frost
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius(es) at work !
A surprisingly gripping read.
More about the people than the theory (which is just as well for me, really! Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ghoti666
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic
Published 6 months ago by Robert Ian Rodgers
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