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Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality? (Canto) Paperback – 25 Mar 1994


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  • Paperback: 135 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New edition edition (25 Mar. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521467160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521467162
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 310,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Slim, lively, informal and immensely readable.' Paul Davies, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Book Description

One of the prime fascinations of quantum physics is the great conceptual leap it requires us to make from our conventional ways of thinking about the physical world. Alastair Rae's introductory exploration offers an engaging guide to the theories on offer.

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'God', said Albert Einstein, 'does not play dice'. Read the first page
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Cornelius Driessen on 22 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
An exceptional book which in just over 100 pages tackles one of Quantum Physics' fundaments in a remarkably easy to absorb way. Popular science books all too often appear to be maximizing the 'Wow' factor and tend to be condescending and/or superficial. Not this book which actually succeeds in casting light on the measurement problem. While this may not sound all that exciting, you'll be gripped by it. I for one found it to be one of the most rewarding books I've come across for a long time. [ It actually containing a few (simple) equations, bless the author, but you can skip them without missing the main points.]
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By "marrucci" on 14 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
This book deals with the fascinating problem of finding a realistic philosophical interpretation for quantum mechanics. It presents the several existing approaches to this problem, both the older ones and the newer. Whoever is interested in this topic, be she/he a physicist or a general reader, will find this book very readable, clear, and extremely interesting.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Aug. 2001
Format: Paperback
Easy to read, informative, interesting and well laid out. In my opion Rae is the author on quantum physics, both this book and "Quantum Mechanics", also by Rae make a very tricky subject suprisingly easy to follow.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gert Hamacher on 30 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
The first edition was good, but often explanations were over simplified so much, that they became wrong.
This has been corrected to a great extent in the new edition.
It is very informative to compare the two editions.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
Quantum Physics 21 May 2000
By Atheen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a math physics person, but I enjoy learning what I can about them, which is why I purchased this book. I almost put it aside as I felt some of the first few pages were over my head, but I decided to look upon it as stretching exercises for the mind, and managed to reach a tolerable comprehension of the material. Thereafter the book was both understandable and thoroughly readible. I found intriguing the philosophical implications of quantum physics. Particularly interesting was the author's discussion of Popper and Eccles's concepts of the 3 worlds of reality: the world of objects, of the human mind and of the products of the human mind. The implication of human consciousness in cetain physical interactions and the possiblity that consciousness actually creates reality itself was the topic of several pages. The author also briefly touches upon artificial intelligence, multiple-world hypothesis, the effect of size on expected theoretical outcomes, and time and its direction. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book.
85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
Long review for a good short book 31 Mar. 2002
By David J. Kreiter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since the formulation of quantum theory in the 1920s the Copenhagen Interpretation of reality has been the mainstream view among physicists. But this interpretation has been uncomfortable for many, because it raises a number of paradoxes. The lack of cause and effect, (indeterminism), the so called "observer effect (quantum measurement problem), and non-locality, are among them.
Waisting no time in this 118 page book, Alastair Rae grabs the reader in the very first sentence of the book by quoting Albert Einstein's famous pronouncement: "Does God play dice [with the universe]?"
Using impeccable logic and only a bit of mathematical jargon, which can be circumvented by the reader, Rae sets out to solve many of these paradoxes. Citing experiments with polarized photons of light, he asks: What exactly constitutes a measurement? Does a measurement occur when a record is made? Or does it take consciousness to collapse the wave into a definitive particle? Is there a resolution to the Schrodinger's Cat paradox? How can we explain nonlocality?
Rae systematically entertains and rebuts in a convincing and objective way many different philosophies put forward to make sense of quantum reality. Some have claimed, most notably Niels Bohr, that it's the interaction of the partilce with a macor-measuring device that instigates the collapse. Others believe that it takes a consciousness to create reality. Still others, looking for a way to save determinism, and circumvent the measurement problem latch on to Hugh Everett's many-world interpetation.
Ironically as Rae points out most scientists claim to be "positivists", believing that it is meaningless to speculate on unobservable quantities. yet, they apparently have no problem believing in a myriad of unobservable and unmeasureable universes, completely and irreversibly cut off from our own.
In the final two chapters Rae objectively entertains what he believes is the most likely resolution of the quantum measurement problem. His idea was first proposed by Ilya Prigonine who won the Nobel Prize for his work in the field of irreversible chemical thermodynamics. The classical idea put forward by Prigonine states that there is an irreversible arrow of time and the second law of thermodynamics is never violated. Citing Prigonine's work, Rae explains: If no measurement is made of a quantum system no impression has been made on the universe, and the information which could have been obtained can be reversed and destroyed. If, however, a measurement is made, a change of some sort has occurred, either in the measuring device or our brain. The measurement has impacted the universe in some manner, and as a result the macro system must now follow the second law of thermodynamics, which has and arrow of time and hence is irreversible.
Rae states that "if we follow Prigogine's approach, indeterminism becomes an implicit part of classical physics.
Has Alastair Rae accomplished what he set out to do in this Book? Not quite. At the beginning of the book he states that he will tackle the problem of indeterminism, yet he spends most of his time attempting to explain the quantum measurement problem which is something quite different. And when he does address determinsim it falls short on several points.
First, a Prigogine macro system is indeed unpredictable, but it is not indeterminate as Rae seems to imply. Rather, it is a determinate and irreversible system having and arrow of time and an initial cause, no matter how subtle.
Secondly, he fails to address the process of nuclear decay, and the jump of the electron from one orbit to another--both of which are "real" and indeterminate.
Finally, in regard to the quantum measurement problem. Rae does not take into account recent experiments done with photons as cited in Scientific American (November 1991). In this particular experimental set-up at the Universtity of Rochester, researchers demonstrated that "The mere possibility that the paths can be distinguished is enough to wipe out the interference pattern." There is no measurement made, no record made, and no interaction with a macro system. Yet, the collapse of the wave happens without interacting with a macro sytem. Therefore, it seems that Ray's explanation of a resolution to the problem by creating a record in a classical Prigogine system is invalid.
This is still a very well written, concise, and provacative book and I would recommend it for those who want to understand the basic principles and paradoxes of quantum reality. This review written by: Quantum Reality1, author of "Quantum Reality: A New Philosophical Perspective."
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Step by step, clearly: how introduction books should be ! 14 Nov. 1998
By C/O JF Burguet - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Bringing complex topics to a level where they can be understood by beginners is an art. Alastair Rae does just that, and should be congratulated for it. His chronological explanations of the basic Quantum Physics notions make you feel welcome in a field of Science otherwise perceived as closed to most novices.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Thank you, Alastair Rae 12 April 2001
By Kary Mullis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It has only been once in a great while that a thin little tome has taught me so much, and been so much fun. Before Quantum Physics by Alastair Rae, the last one I remember was Richard Feynmann's QED. I now feel like I have at least a near understanding of Bell's Theorem, EPR, SQUIDS, and an assortment of things and concepts that were tantalizing but vague until now. Thank you, Alastair, you're a good teacher. And, the little surprise at the end, Prigogine's possible answer. I'd always found him intriguing. Now I know why.
29 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Don't tell God what to do 31 May 2004
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A. Rae struggles with the conceptual and philosophical implications of quantum physics (qf).
His book contains excellent explanations of the destruction of determinism, because uncertainty and indeteterminism are built into qf's very foundations. He also rejects the 'hidden variables' solution to solve qf's apparent contradictions. He shows also the fundamental opposition between Einstein and Bohr.
Unfortunately, this book contains a comment on the out-of-date Popper-Eccles discussion on the body/mind problem and their statement that the mind is not subject to the laws of physics. This problem has been resolved (see V. Ramachandran's linguistic solution in 'Phantoms in the brain', or G. Edelman's 'A universe of consciousness').
But I found certain flaws in the author's reasoning due mainly to the choice of bad examples.
Firstly, let me state one fundamental specification: reality is a process, not a fact (L. Smolin).
That is the reason why his ultimate question 'If reality is only what is observed ...' is not a good one.
A qf measurement does not create the 'only' reality. Protons, electrons, dead or alive cats, DNA mutations exist, even if they are not observed. A qf measurement is part of the universal process. In qf we only measure complementarities (properties) as Bohr stated.
Secondly, A. Rae states that macroscopic processes are irreversible (the second law of thermodynamics) and microscopic ones reversible.
For reversibility he chooses as example the collision of two molecules. I doubt firmly that in our universe after the collision the molecules can (without an exterior intervention) go back to their initial states. Those interactions are 'theoretically' reversible.
On the other hand, the life or death of a cat is a macroscopic event. The cat example is a good 'figure' to explain the qf theory, but it is a bad one to build a conceptual or philosophical theory on it. Nobody will calculate the outcome of a certain event based on a dead/alive scenario if a simple look at the cat's condition can eliminate 50% of the possibilities. The same goes for the DNA mutations.
The theory of I. Prigogyne (his books are difficult) is certainly a step in the good direction. As reality is a process, indeterminism should also be the fundamental cornerstone for classical physics, but naturally not in our daily Euclidian life.
In the case of the 'many worlds' question, I prefer Rudolf Peierls's solution where he proposes to speak of many world 'possibilities' (see P. Davies' 'The ghost in the atom').
This is a thought-provoking book. Not to be missed.
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