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3.9 out of 5 stars27
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 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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on 19 January 2005
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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on 25 September 2012
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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on 5 December 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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on 14 March 2013
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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on 20 May 2004
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 September 2010
Quantum Theory: a Very Short Introduction, by John Polkinghorne, Oxford University Press, 2002, 128 ff.

An undergraduate's guide to quantum physics
By Howard Jones

The author of this little monograph, John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, was the Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University for a decade before 1979 when he resigned to study to become an Anglican priest. In his many books he has made a special study of the relationship between science and religion and is one of the recipients of the Templeton Prize that is awarded for illumination of the spiritual dimension of being.

This is not the simplest or most absorbing book on the subject I have read. I found Frank Close's monograph in the same series, entitled Particle Physics, more absorbing and much easier to read. Chapter 2 for example introduces us to matrix mechanics and eigenvectors. There's nothing really scary here and most of the maths is in an Appendix but the terms and several of the 'explanations' are likely to deter non-mathematicians I think. No-one other than mathematics graduates will make anything of the Hamiltonians and partial derivatives in another Appendix.

But the text itself is readable and informative, and it includes subjects like consciousness and Gamow tunnelling and explains the role of such luminaries as Max Born and Paul Dirac. Each subject is dealt with in small, bite-sized pieces, each of which is reasonably self-contained; so it is not necessary to tackle all of the more challenging ideas in order to extract information from the later portions. In Chapter 3 the author says: `At most times and in most places, the universe has been devoid of consciousness'. That's a surprising statement for a priest to make. It has certainly been devoid of human consciousness but I would have expected a priest to maintain that the consciousness of God was present eternally.

The book does explain simply for non-scientists some of the incredible consequences of the ideas that underpin quantum physics and explains the common terms. However, I suspect that non-scientists will find the book rather intimidating. It would therefore make an excellent introductory volume for undergraduates in physics or chemistry. The approach is holistic and spiritual, which is entirely appropriate, following on from the ideas of Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics. Readers interested in this subject may also want to look up Manjit Kumar's 2009 book Quantum on the same subject.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.

Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)Introducing Quantum Theory
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on 26 November 2014
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. It is a bit like wading through thick treacle.
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on 29 June 2013
... I particularly liked the historical narrative of how the story of Quantum Theory unfolds and continues to intrigue. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in any aspect of Physics.
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on 14 February 2013
Clear preliminary treatment easy for the non physicist to follow.Gives a clear and fair overview. Much more basic and easer to understand than the first work above but also authorative.
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