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The Quantum Zoo: A Tourist's Guide to the Neverending Universe Hardcover – 1 Oct 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: National Academy Press (1 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0309096227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0309096225
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 15.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 634,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A clear window into the utter strangeness that defines our universe. The author stands out. -- Publisher's Weekly, January 9, 2006

Never fear Chown is here! Chown makes the steep learning curve easy and entertaining. -- Science A Go Go, May 4, 2006

Presents complex science in a way that both educates and entertains. -- The Washington Post, May 28, 2006

Weird, sexy and mind-blowing. This is what good popular science writing is all about. -- Nature, April 13, 2006

Synopsis

The two towering achievements of modern physics are quantum theory and Einstein's general theory of relativity. Together, they explain virtually everything about the world we live in. But, almost a century after their advent, most people haven't the slightest clue what either is about. Did you know that there's so much empty space inside matter that the entire human race could be squeezed into the volume of a sugar cube? Or that you grow old more quickly on the top floor of a building than on the ground floor? And did you realize that 1 per cent of the static on a TV tuned between stations is the relic of the Big Bang? These and many other remarkable facts about the world are direct consequences of quantum physics and relativity.Quantum theory has literally made the modern world possible. Not only has it given us lasers, computers, and nuclear reactors, but it has provided an explanation of why the sun shines and why the ground beneath our feet is solid. Despite this, however, quantum theory and relativity remain a patchwork of fragmented ideas, vaguely understood at best and often utterly mysterious.

They have even gained a reputation of being beyond the understanding of the average person. Author Marcus Chown emphatically disagrees.As Einstein himself said, "Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone." If you think that the marvels of modern physics have passed you by, it is not too late. In Chown's capable hands, quantum physics and relativity are not only painless but downright fun. So sit back, relax, and get comfortable as an adept and experienced science communicator brings you quickly up to speed on some of the greatest ideas in the history of human thought.


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on 26 Jun 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting and non-mathematical introduction to quantum theory ("atoms and their constituents") and the general theory of relativity ("our picture of space, time and gravity"). These subjects are fiendishly difficult to understand, but Chown's use of many fresh explanations and analogies should help you get to grips with them. Chown has put in a great deal of effort to try and make these subjects as accessible as possible. As a result, this book has given me a much better understanding of these subjects. And far fewer headaches than many of the other books, articles and documentaries I've encountered before.

At the moment, there's no free preview chapter on this site for the Quantum Zoo; but if you Google Chown's website you can sample a free chapter before making a decision.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By dave1138 on 21 Jun 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting and non-mathematical introduction to quantum theory ("atoms and their constituents") and the general theory of relativity ("our picture of space, time and gravity"). These subjects are fiendishly difficult to understand, but Chown's use of many fresh explanations and analogies should help you get to grips with them. Chown has put in a great deal of effort to try and make these subjects as accessible as possible. As a result, this book has given me a much better understanding of these subjects - and far fewer headaches than the many other books, articles and documentaries I've encountered before.

At the moment, there's no free preview chapter on this site for the Quantum Zoo; but if you visit Chown's website at www.marcuschown.com, you can sample a free chapter before making a decision
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 17 Feb 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was touring this black hole with my trusty guide to the "neverending" universe by my favorite science writer Marcus Chown. I wanted to get just inside the horizon where time slows down so magnificently that I wouldn't age. The idea was then to somehow escape the black hole and come back home and see my investments so wonderfully grown.

But somehow I must have missed a chapter in Chown's book or maybe a section or something because no matter how hard I tried I didn't seem to be getting anywhere. The problem is that the gravity well is so intense that time is crawling by so incredibly slowly that I may never get home. I don't seem to be moving at all!

But since the universe is "neverending" and I got stuck such a long, long time ago (your time), what with Hawking's dissipation, things are beginning to look rather good. The hole is about to evaporate and I should be free. Ah, but now I remember: this evaporation is taking place something like one particle at a time and I will come out a bit thin. On the other hand despite having entered the horizon some billions of years ago, I really haven't made much progress and in fact I'm not really IN the black hole yet even though it's dissipating.

Curiouser and curiouser. Such is the world as it apparently REALLY IS.

Chown has a lot of fun with all the quantum weirdness along with a retrospective on Einstein's relativity. He writes with his usual charm and grace although don't be fooled: we are NOT enlightened. I still cannot imagine that very real but "cloudy" electron, probabilistically surrounding the proton. I cannot imagine something that is both a single-pointed particle and a wave. The duality of all matter suggests to me that there is a level of reality that we haven't reached yet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By EMG on 6 Oct 2006
Format: Hardcover
What I really like about Chown's books is his stories about the people who come up with all this wonderful physics. (By the way if you are interested in the story behind this year's Nobel Prize for Physics, his 1996 book Afterglow of Creation is a surprisingly emotional and gripping tale of how the background radiation was found, with extraordinarily vivid portraits of the people who did it. How often can you say that about a science book? But I digress.) The Quantum Zoo also brings it home that science is done by real people, and how difficult it can be, even for the most brilliant minds: "It is ironic that Einstein himself missed the message in his own theory." He gives us historical perspective too, and reminds us that it is just as important in science to come up with the questions as the answers: "The fact that the Universe began in a Big Bang explains another great mystery - why the night sky is dark. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler, in 1610, was the first to realize this was a puzzle."

Chown also includes some wonderful asides. "The night after Houtermans and Atkinson did the calculation, Houtermans reportedly tried to impress his girlfriend with a line that nobody in history had used before. As they stood beneath a perfect moonless sky, he boasted that he was the only person in the world who knew why the stars were shining. It must have worked. Two years later, Charlotte Riefenstahl agreed to marry him. (Actually, she married him twice, but that's another story.)" (Can we look forward to the full story in the next book please?)

I found the science a bit mind-boggling in places, but Chown is a good explainer and I dare say the book is hard because the science is, um, hard.

My complaint about the book is its lack of pictures.
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