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Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

John Polkinghorne
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Quantum Theory is the most revolutionary discovery in physics since Newton. This book gives a lucid, exciting, and accessible account of the surprising and counterintuitive ideas that shape our understanding of the sub-atomic world. It does not disguise the problems of interpretation that still remain unsettled 75 years after the initial discoveries. The main text makes no use of equations, but there is a Mathematical Appendix for those desiring stronger fare. Uncertainty,
probabilistic physics, complementarity, the problematic character of measurement, and decoherence are among the many topics discussed.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

Product Description


John Polkinghorne has brought to life that most mysterious and perplexing of revolutions in understanding and has made its mysteries accessible. (Peter Atkins, University of Oxford)

John Polkinghorne has produced an excellent piece of work. ... Many authors of "popular" books on modern physics have the regrettable habit of mixing science fact with science fiction. Polkinghorne never does that: he always allows the truth to stand by itself and show its own fascination. ... I think that this is an excellent contribution to the literature on quantum theory for a general audience. (Chris Isham, Imperial College, London)

This splendid book explains both the triumph and the mystery that is quantum theory. It is a triumph because of its towering mathematical structure, and amazing empirical accuracy. It is a mystery because of the conundrums about how to interpret it. John Polkinghorne, himself a distinguished quantum physicist, is a sure guide to all of this: he celebrates the successes of the theory, and shows unfailingly good judgement about the conundrums. (Jeremy Butterfield, University of Oxford)

About the Author

John Polkinghorne was from 1968 to 1979 Professor of Mathematical Physics in the University of Cambridge, and later president of Queen's College. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was knighted in 1997. His many books include The Quantum World (1986), The Faith of a Physicist (1994), and Science and Theology (1998).

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 470 KB
  • Print Length: 132 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0192802526
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; 1st edition (30 May 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003CGNQ50
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,954 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to quantum theory 25 May 2007
There seems to be some mixed reviews regarding J.C. book. Well, personally I feel that it offers a very broad and clear description to the overall structure of quantum physics. The book attempts to arouse the reader's interest through a 'storytelling' of historical facts and explains some of the fundamental problems in quantum theory.

Even as a physicist, I find some aspects of the book quite difficult to comprehend, especially the last part which discusses the philosophical aspects of quantum theory. To non-physicists, this book may seem all the more difficult. But from all the books I have read, this book gives the most simplified description of quantum theory. Highly recommended for readers who want to know what quantum theory is all about and what every physics student has to go through to earn their degree!
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
I have read a quite few 'pop science' books on this subject and this is the most lucid and enjoyable I have read. It encapsulates the main ideas so clearly and for once I understood the central mystery of quantum behaviour.
I don't care about the error that another reviewer got excited about as it doesn't make any material difference to the level of understanding I wanted to get to. And, unlike another reviewer, I find Mr Tomkins both dull and patronising. This book, in contrast, is extremely well written and never patronising.
I was extremely impressed and awed by the mastery of the subject the author has and that was demonstrated by the fact that he could explain the subject to a mathematical cretin like me...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For beginners intrigued by the subject 25 Sept. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I really wanted to write a review regarding this book I stumbled on. After borrowing from a friend I loved it so much I went on Amazon to check how much it would be and found there is a Kindle edition (it doesn't spoil it as there is not a lot of pictures and formatting) and it's only £2.99. While looking at the reviews though I noticed that maybe some people were not so enthusiastic so I wanted to share my view! I love sciences and I love University Challenge style of knowledge and I just love everything there is to be fascinated by the subject but the crude dull and sad story is that I am nearing my 30s and I studied accounting at university and therefore struggle to comprehend most of the university big books about quantum mechanics and molecular biology, past the 1st or 2nd chapter of each. So I dumbed it down to try and find the "Quantum mechanics for dummies" books and similar in libraries and on Kindle. This book is excellent, put it this way, I could understand it all and feel that it was not too easy but neither too hard. It gives you the satisfaction of learning about the subject without the feeling you are only scraping the surface of it because you are not good enough. It's a good start, full stop. So 5 stars to it and if you also feel you always wished to study physics but never quite made it, feel free to start from this :)
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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very short, but not all that lucid 5 Dec. 2002
This is a short book, and that is its only advantage, unfortunately.
Granted, that the author is eminent in this field and was himself a student of the great Paul Dirac. However, this book does not sit easily in a series designed to make a subject approachable to the novice. It has far too much esoteric maths than is good for a book of this genre. An ever stronger criticism is the fact that instead of keeping to basic physics ideas such as the double slit experiment (which this book does well!) and then developing the ideas of atomic structure, and the uncertainty principle, it dwells on things like operators and such like.
If you want a good introduction to Quantum Theory, look no further than the books by George Gamow's "The New World of Mr Tompkins" or "Mr Tomkins in paperback", or, "Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I taught electronics at collage level, and though I knew from an engineering stance what electrons did, I never fully understood what they were. Quantum mechanics fascinates me and the more I read, the more I am lead to believe I will never fully understand what is going on. People like Prof Polkinhorne do help, and this little book will introduce the beginner to some of the bizarre concepts of his and our quantum world. If you have never studied science, some of the subject matter may prove a little difficult to grasp, but you can always research elsewhere and it won't spoil the read. John Polkinhorne was taught by some of the 20th. Century's greatest scientists and has had a glittering career as a Theoretical Physicist at Cambridge. He is a very humble and spiritual man who was ordained as an Anglican Priest after leaving Cambridge. He has the honour of being referred to as a "good scientist" in Dawkins "God Delusion". Prof. Polkinhorne has a refreshingly holistic approach, when attempting to explain reality, (what ever that is) and if you like this book, then I recommend you read more about the man and his views. He has given me considerable food for thought.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Misleading Introduction to Quantum Theory 20 May 2004
By A Customer
Having previously read the Mathematics book in this series (which I highly recommended), I was looking forward to reading this.
First the good points:
This volume is fine for the non-technical reader, but as an added extra for the brave, does contain some nice appendixes giving extra mathematical detail. It is ok as a general introduction to the history of early quantum theory and its main creators, though in part looks like a fanzine for Paul Dirac (a former tutor of the author).
Now the bad:
Any lack of real technical depth is forgivable for a book aimed at the general reader. What is NOT forgiveable is that the author's explanation of the nature of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is plain wrong. He falls for the classic mistake of thinking this arises from momentum transfer between interacting particles during measurement. Heisenberg himself originally thought this, but later corrected himself. I can't believe the author would repeat this error - although this is a book for the non-technical reader, I still expect it to be technically accurate.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Provides a good basic understanding for those who are not experts but...
Provides a good basic understanding for those who are not experts but never the less still want to learn about the subject.
Published 2 months ago by Keith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Akash Midya
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to follow as it is written as the story ...
Really interesting book - made understandable but still retaining all the complexity. Easy to follow as it is written as the story unfolds through history - making it easier to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars It is a bit like wading through thick treacle
It is well this book is short - it is so general that it seems only to appeal to a quantum physicist who already knows that they do not know the details of quantum theory. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr. D. C. Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good quality
good service
Published 6 months ago by J E Michalski
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to the field for either the quantum newb ...
Excellent introduction to the field for either the quantum newb or physics student/graduate who wants to brush up on the non mathematical basics like myself.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. A. Summerfield
2.0 out of 5 stars too many detail and philosophical diversions.
I thought this would be a succinct summary of quantum theory, but the author spends a lot of time on details of the experimental background and philosophical distractions which... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. Charles J. M. Monk
3.0 out of 5 stars clearly written introduction to quantum mechanics
This is a well written brief introduction to some of the ideas of quantum mechanics. It introduces the key ideas of wave and matrix mechanics, collapse of the eigenstate and the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Starman
4.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Theory
Not a hard read if you just want to know the basics without being tied up in complicated wordiness and science.
Published 15 months ago by Claire Derby
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and concise.
A good and informative general introduction to a complicated but fascinating subject. And with the right diagrams to make the text easier to understand.
Published 22 months ago by steven slack
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