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The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
by Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover

263 of 277 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking can take you a long way, 2 Nov. 2011
This isn't a safe book. It isn't one of those well crafted yet bland and simplified introductions to quantum physics, the type that breeze you on through the history and development of our realisations. Don't get me wrong - those are good books, many of which would complement and round out this latest offering from Cox and Forshaw. Instead, this is a book to make you think for yourself and wrestle down those fleeting shadows of insight as they flit past our consciousness, until, as if we were making the discoveries with them anew, we have our own little "Eureka" moments.

Starting from the most basic of principles and following the simplest and, one might say, obvious rules, Cox and Forshaw use a novel conceptual technique to lead us from the microcosmic world of the quantum into discovering why the macro world is as it is. More than that, we are left realising that it is not the quantum world that behaves strangely at all, but that the world as we know it is an amazing and yet inevitable realisation of the counter-intuitive behaviour of the quantum world.

The discovery and realisation of just why a particle-like nature appears out from a wave function is then surpassed by the insight into the limitations of quantum fluctuations and the revelation of how "real movement" occurs. The same conceptual technique shows why quantum behaviour is "fuzzy" and how, without resorting to macro-view analogies, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is built in to the fabric of the universe.

Frankly, had they stopped there I would have had my monies worth. But they then go on to demonstrate how these insights must truly be present in the quantum world in order for our modern discoveries and technological developments to work.

In a final act of exuberance, Cox and Forshaw pose their own version of an Einsteinian thought experiment... taking some basic axioms from physics and the nature of quantum behaviour to demonstrate how it is possible to calculate the maximum mass of a dead star. Yes, this section is a delve into the world of equations (though rather more engineering than physics!), but you have to forgive them revealing their passion and revelling in the beauty of such a demonstration.

I would not give this book to my mother for Christmas. But it will appeal to anyone with a passion to discover how the physical world works. It will challenge you to think for yourself and reward you as "the penny drops". I wish that I had read it when I was fifteen years old... what an inspiration that would have been!
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