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126 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating & enthusiastic introduction
Most of the reviews I've seen for this book seem to be either from scientists who 'get it' or laymen who do not. All I can say is that I don't come from a scientific background, having found it all rather baffling at school but have become more interested in the subject later in life. This is the first book I've read on Quantum Theory & thanks to the clear explanations...
Published on 5 Dec 2011 by Sam Woodward

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71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I surrender!
I passed A level physics and actually did part of an engineering degree (40 years ago) so I dont think I am a complete dummy though 50 years out of date when it comes to these sort of discussions. I have tried for years to find a really comprehensible book that lets me begin to think I might just be getting the quantum thing at long last. This book is not it, leastways,...
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by Adam Smith


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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refresher course for me, 9 Nov 2011
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I bought this to clarify my understanding of Quantum theory, which it did by presenting a different approach then I have seen before. It is not a text book, and has few references. The maths is basic, and I assumed that the authors had done their homework and just took the results they quoted, Examples are restricted in complexity but get the main points over. The emphasis in the book is that the key propositions of quantum theory, strange though they are, have been amply justified by experimental results, both at atomic and astronomical scales. As quoted, our modern world relies on the correctness of the theory, and the whole story is a credit to science. In the end I have improved my understanding and it was well worth buying.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rewards effort - not a popular gambit these days!, 14 Dec 2011
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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Professor Brian Cox is one of our most brilliant communicators and has taken to the medium of TV like a duck to water, perhaps because as an ex-pro musician he has experience of entertaining ordinary people from a stage. Within the pages of a book his TV character doesn't come over quite so strongly, and it's difficult to unravel which parts of this introductory textbook he's actually written. The authorial voice is probably a combination of his own and that of his his Manchester University colleague Professor Jeff Forshaw, but I wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to who wrote what.

In the end, that isn't important, unless you're a fully paid-up subscriber to the cult of personality. This is not a coffee table book selling the wow-factor elements of quantum physics to the scientifically illiterate. It's not a TV spinoff like "Wonders of The Universe". Like the duo's previous "Why does E=mc2", it's a serious textbook, probably aimed at those with a good grounding in science and maths - a bright A-level student, perhaps, or a first-year undergraduate. I am not a physicist. I have a couple of science O-levels gained around the time that teachers were still the tweed-jacketed, chalk-dust covered dinosaurs that Brian & Jeff like to evoke whenever things get a little too technical for the layman. I am eager to learn, though, and I like to think my brain can still keep Alzheimer's at bay by tackling new ideas and absorbing new information. I found that this book really does repay a little effort - re-reading difficult passages, pausing often to reflect and absorb new information, looking up words you don't know, that sort of thing. Maybe this isn't a popular approach in these days of instant gratification and over-simplification, I don't know - that could be the source of some of the irritation I see in other reviews of the book. Despite my rather basic maths, I found I could usually skate around the most difficult conceptual stuff - the equations, the convoluted passages of logic - and still grasp the gist of what was being explained. I might not have followed every step along the way, but I got there in the end, sort of. And certainly finished the book knowing a good deal more about the subject than I did when I began.

I'd previously read Jim Al-Khalili's "Quantum: A Guide For The Perplexed" which covers much of the same ground, though in a glossier, heavily-illustrated coffee-table book-ish style. Cox and Forshaw's book is both less accessible and more up-to-date in terms of the latest advances in the field, and I felt that the two books complemented each other well in both style and content. I feel my mind has been enriched by reading this stuff, even if I haven't understood every word. And that's the point....isn't it?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too lay for this one, 18 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen (Paperback)
I've been reading books on quantum theory ever since I got my hands on Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time', back in the early 90s. Interesting in his acknowledgements at the front of this book he said "Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve the sales." If only Cox and Forshaw had taken this to heart. I just couldn't keep up with this. They lost me on the clock analogy at the beginning and then the wretched clocks just kept reappearing like one of those pc error messages that refuses to go away. And the equations - ugh - far too much for my poor brain to cope with. Maybe if you sit down and concentrate hard you might get it, but this was my bedtime reading, and it just got me to sleep in double quick time (which I suppose is a recommendation in itself). I wanted a book that gave me an overview of the findings of quantum theory, but it presupposes you know all that and tells you how quantum theory actually works. Too technical for me I'm afraid but if you can cope with the maths, you may get more out of it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sorry Brian, you're too clever for me, 19 Mar 2012
By 
Mrs. R. "Polymath" (London, England, UK.) - See all my reviews
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I've got A Level physics, although it's a long time since I sat the exam. I've got two maths A levels too, so I thought I'd give The Quantum Universe a go.
Dammit! It's written clearly, without using complex jargon. Every point is explained simply with diagrams to illustrate it. I can read each sentence and think, "Yes, I know what that means." But I still don't understand it. Perhaps I'm giving myself too hard a time. Pop Robson, my school physics teacher, once laughed until he cried (in a nice way) in a lesson about the planets orbiting the sun. I told him that I got what happened but I didn't understand why. Apparently no one understood that, so this was normal.
But I still don't really get the winding clocks metaphor in The Quantum Universe, and that makes the rest of it a bit tricky to understand.
I've given it five stars because it's a great book, and I've really enjoyed reading it, even though my conclusion is just that I'm not quite smart enough to get what on earth is going on in it.
I think it's probably the only book about quantum theory that would make me want to keep reading though, because it almost convinces me, for minutes at a time, that I really know what's going on inside an atom.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really for the complete layman, 20 Feb 2012
By 
SBno1 - See all my reviews
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I will be honest, I don't have any qualification this subject, but I do have a deep desire to understand it.

I read the book 'why does e=mc2 and why should we care' and there were points in that where I really struggled to keep up. I found the same with this, but I was getting lost more often and having to re-read pages. Now I guess that is the way it is, you can't pick up a reference book on human biology and expect to be a surgeon at the end of it. So part of me is saying 'Did you expect to understand quantum physics by reading one book?' - Of course not, but I was hoping for a better understanding. Maybe I am just a bit dull, but I felt that I was out of my depth for the best part of the book. What I should really do it try to learn to walk first.

There may be some who will argue that I shouldn't put the book down because I don't understand it. I kind of agree because you can't pick up a book on advanced computer programming and then argue that the book is no good based on the fact that you can't write a programme at the end of it. However, the reason I got this is because some of the marketing material I have seen gives the impression that it was explained in simpler layman's terms, which I don't think it is. I can't argue that my understanding has improved slightly, but there is a lot of material that I just didn't follow and spoilt the book for me. If like me you need to take baby steps, then look around before delving into this. I might try http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1851687793 (How to teach quantum physics to your dog) it is half the price and worth a shot.

Maybe the book should be marketed a bit more like the computer programming books with a 'Who this book is for' opening and explain what level of understanding you need before buying it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, if flawed, account of Quantum Theory, 8 Jan 2012
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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Any attempt to explain Quantum Theory is likely to be tough going unless it's so facile as to be pretty well worthless, and parts of this book will be very tough going for anyone with little background in physics or maths. Cox and Forshaw treat the subject and their readers with respect in that they do not fudge issues nor duck important ideas and problems, which means that some pretty serious brainwork is required to follow what they are saying.

I thought some parts of this book were excellent and other parts not so good. The explanations of such things as the Quantum Measurement Problem and the Epilogue on the Death of Stars, for example, are in the excellent category. Much less good was the explanation of phase and quantum interference by constant reference to "clocks," which I found clumsy and unhelpful (although others may disagree). This is quite a serious flaw, as it permeates much of the book. However, the style is readable and the treatment of the subject quite rigorous for a "popular" book, so overall I found it an incisive account of the state of Quantum Theory in late 2011

There is a reasonable amount of mathematics in the book, although most is explained in a way that should be comprehensible to those with only a little background in the subject. It is badly hindered, though, by a number of unnecessary errors which really should have been eliminated in proof reading. For example, a footnote on p67 asserts that... "a microgramme...is a millionth of a kilogramme." More seriously, in the otherwise excellent Epilogue in which the authors take us gently and expertly through a rather complex mathematical process, several errors in the text will make the argument almost impossible for anyone with little maths to follow. Examples include "rho" rather than "rho-bar" on p234, and "r-squared" rather than plain "r" on p235 and there are others. It just isn't good enough in a book like this, and I hope this will be corrected in future editions.

Flaws aside, I would recommend this to anyone who isn't afraid to get stuck into a bit of roughly A Level standard algebra and reasoning and who wants a proper account of where quantum physics stands and what it may mean. It's a generally readable and enjoyable intellectual adventure.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE FORCE STAYS WITH NEWTON, 6 Jan 2012
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This is an important book. It is important for everybody to gain some understanding of quantum physics, because quanta seem to be the ultimate building materials of the universe. The authors are not just particle and theoretical physicists, they are professors of these subjects. In other words they are both experts and teachers, so we have every chance to learn if we want to. Brian Cox (43 apparently but looking half of that) is well known from his TV series, and its popularity may have found this book some readers. However anyone still to take the plunge is advised that while the book may be considered a primer it is no noddy-guide. To be treated seriously at any level, a subject like this requires effort from the student. The style is relaxed, but in no way patronising, and the authors have even jettisoned the advice that Hawking was given by his publisher to go easy on equations. They recognise fully, and emphasise clearly, that the world of quantum physics is or can seem to be counter-intuitive. To understand it we have to take leave of our senses, so to speak, because they will not prove a reliable guide. All we have to guide us is our brains.

The dust-cover states that this is our most up to date picture of reality. The authors themselves go a lot further. Discussing Newton's Laws of Motion they say `Newton's laws are heading for the bin because they have been exposed as only approximately correct...The laws of quantum theory replace Newton's Laws.' Also `...the very notion of force is absent from quantum theory.' Well, not entirely. They can hardly avoid reference to the strong or weak atomic force or the electro-magnetic force, and right up to the end we find the F-word here or there, e.g. on p230 `it takes a force to reverse the momentum of an electron.' If the authors were politicians this would no doubt qualify as `quoting them out of context' and they could issue `clarifications', but a little clarification would actually be helpful. I suppose `approximately correct' gets the meaning across approximately. `Force' can hardly be a redundant hypothesis like the ether, but the notion does not describe quantum phenomena accurately, whereas quantum phenomena allegedly describe the entire cosmos. The authors don't appear to overstate the stage of knowledge and understanding that has been attained at the leading edge, in particular black holes are admitted to be a mystery in the absence of a quantum theory of gravity. I could not help reflecting that about 30 years ago Stephen Hawking expected to have got the full story of the universe in about 30 years, so I'm waiting eagerly for the missing bits any time.

I also recall a remark in one of Arthur C Clarke's stories about the detour through chemistry and mechanics before reaching the ultimate reality of physics, or words to that effect. The picture built up from different standpoints is persuasive - we really have crossed a Rubicon, so what is still being taught at school-level? Even senior citizens ought to be educating ourselves in realities that are no longer all that new, let alone young minds. I was struck as I read through the book by just how long some of the basic concepts of quantum theory have been around. Planck's Constant dates as far back as 1900, for example: it was in 1913 that Bohr `published the first quantum theory of atomic structure'; and some of the big names e.g. Pauli, Heisenberg and Schroedinger did their most famous work in the 20's. Surprisingly, it is much more recently that there has been a coherent explanation of solid matter made out of atoms that consist mainly of empty space, the reason being that Pauli's Exclusion Principle, by which no two identical electrons can occupy the same space, gives stability to atoms. On a similar tack, the reason why there is a universe at all rather than just a fog of atoms is covalent bonding, which allows single atoms to combine into molecules. I am glad incidentally that the book avoids the expression `the illusion of solidity' that Cox used in one of his TV shows. Illusions are e.g. mirages, conjuring tricks, that kind of thing. Solidity of matter is a sense-percept, it is the way in which certain types of matter, made out of largely empty atoms, are perceived with the organs we have been given for perceiving, and it is perfectly `real' and perfectly solid.

Very comforting and reassuring, that. However I would advise other readers, unless they have a natural affinity for the subject, to expect to have their `common sense' put under some strain. An electron wave, for instance, is not like a water wave, a wave of water molecules, but a computation of the probability of finding a given electron in such-and-such a place. Nothing in the theory forbids electrons from having position without magnitude, (as a certain pompous official was characterised by Rutherford.) How this scenario is compatible with mass is something that is kept from us until late on. Newton could not define mass, but it can be done under quantum theory, or so they tell us.

A couple of minor pedantries. `Quantum' does not necessarily denote discrete packets, although that is the sense exclusively used in quantum physics. All the word means in origin is `amount' - any old amount. `Phase' is derived from a Greek word of very infrequent occurrence seemingly meaning `disclosure'. In English the word has been used for a series of successive appearances like the phases of the moon, and thence in the special technical sense, but the word in origin does not have to mean anything so specific. Otherwise a great book, whether or not you want to bother with the very understandable bit of showing off that the authors do in the Epilogue, or whether you think that semiconductors and transistors are as interesting as the secret of the universe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging workout in a mental gymnasium, 10 Dec 2011
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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This is an excellent and truly exciting book, but must also be treated with caution. The caution comes from what you are expecting of it. If you are looking for a light-reading popular science book this is probably not for you. The ideal audience for this book would probably be someone who has already read a couple of high level popular science books about particle physics and quantum mechanics and is looking for a bit more meat. It would probably be lapped up by an A-level science student or by an undergraduate wanting to get some background before diving into the real thing of a quantum mechanics module.

The authors claim that no mathematical knowledge is required to follow their text, but that is probably a bit of a stretch. My educational background is in doing very hard sums (albeit too many years ago), and I found myself having to re-read a number of sections.

However, it is the topic itself that is challenging, rather than the authors' style. It has been said that if you think fully understand quantum physics, you probably don't. So, Cox and Forshaw are to be commended for a very open, approachable and readable style with which they successfully address the formidable challenge of deriving some of the key principles of quantum mechanics.

That is the exciting element of the book to which I referred earlier, the fact that, for example the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle from first principles using a methodology accessible to the lay person (with a bit of a mental work out en-route). Using a method based using clocks to describe some of the fundamental properties of nature (a method first developed by particle physicist Richard Feynman), as well as exploring Heisenberg, Cox and Forshaw also take a tour around the quantum mechanical basis for great swathes of science, chemistry, atomic physics, modern electronics, and cosmology.

If you are looking for a book with lots of glossy pictures of astronomical phenomena and of Dr Cox in various exotic locations, you will be disappointed. If you want an easily written and welcoming introduction to one of the best equipped mental gymnasia in town, this is well, well worth a go.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing achievement, 8 Dec 2011
By 
F. M. Muse "headspace traveller" (Leicester, Leics United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The first thing to say about this book is that the authors make no assumptions, so that it's one for those coming to quantum physics for perhaps the first time, and it's clear that the authors have considered A-level students as a potential readership. By the end of the second para. on page 2, the authors have said enough to reassure the faint-hearted on the one hand, and on the other manage to evoke a sense of excitement in anticipation of what is about to unfold. This is neither Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time", nor yet Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe", and good as those books are, I never managed to finish the latter, having fallen off the horse amid the confusions of calabi yau manifolds and related arcana.

The first chapter is a whistle-stop tour of the great and the good, from Newton to Clerk-Maxwell and on to Chandrasekhar via Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, Einstein and co. with brief nods to their various contributions. Chapter 2 introduces the reader to the concept of electrons as quantum particles and examines their behaviour. The authors have been meticulous in exploring and laying bare the nature of the electron and introduce the concept of probability, as opposed to determinacy in accounting for this behaviour and the contributions of Schrodinger and Bohr are examined. This incremental approach continues on into Chapter 3, where the reader is introduced to Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle, plus a fairly detailed exegesis of Planck's Constant and the authors show how the Uncertainty Principle can be derived via Planck's Constant.

Chapter 4 introduces the nature of waves, especially standing waves, and the examples given are both familiar and easily understood. The wave-particle concept is covered in some detail and the authors introduce the de Broglie Equation and explain why it was so important in developing a comprehensive understanding of waves and their properties. What is somewhat less clear is the concept of a string of clocks (the clock tool is introduced in Ch.3), which are (I think), collapsed into a larger, single clock which covers the same area as the string of smaller and more numerous clocks.This is the way I have chosen to understand references to "the size of the clock(s)", which is not explicitly explained. A diagram showing the transition from the string of clocks, to an inflated single clock covering the same area of the waveform, (and the probable area where the electron is located), would have dispensed with this ambiguity. With the energy relationships of the proton and the electron clearly delineated, the basis of atomic spectra is thereby explained.

The discussion then moves to the question of possible energy states or levels within the atom for the electron, and how these values provide insights into the structure of the periodic table and of the elements beyond hydrogen and related matters, e.g. why the inert gases ARE inert. Pauli's Exclusion Principle and the characteristics of spin are explored next and later the authors start to define particles as either fermions or bosons.

The authors then discuss the idea that all atoms everywhere, are all connected, each to the other, an idea first mooted in the form of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Effect, which may be summarised as: "Once two or more particles come into contact with each other, they will continue to influence each other, regardless of elapsed time or distance". If you don't think this is spooky (Einstein did), you've either not been paying attention or else you've failed to understand the authors explanation.

By the end of Chapter 8, the authors have explored the behaviour of electron in conductors, insulators and semi-conductors and the role of electrons in defining their properties. In the following chapter the application of these materials in transistors and microchips is described.

The later chapters have been covered by other reviewers, so all that remains is to summarise the methods which the authors consistently employ. Each chapter neatly segues into the next and what follows is built on what has gone before. None of the maths is especially challenging, and if maths is not your thing, it is possible to imagine/conceptualise what is being explained. The criticisms levelled in some other reviews, appear to take no account of the fact that quantum physics challenged and deeply troubled some of the finest minds in physics for much of the 20th century. The authors meticulous and painstaking approach to explaining everything, means that most intelligent people over the age of say 16, are now able to understand the subject, but it does call for periods of concentration and persistence on the part of the reader. In view of the foregoing, this book is an astonishing educational achievement. Anything misrepresented in this review is a reflection of my own struggle to deal with some concepts.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Quantum Universe, 26 Nov 2011
By 
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is an obvious attempt to capitalise on the highly successful series of popular physics-related TV programmes presented by Brian Cox (and why not!). But popular accounts of quantum theory are plentiful, so is this one any different? Firstly, it is not of the `shock and awe' genre, where the reader is constantly bludgeoned with `startling facts and phenomena'. Rather, it is a serious primer of quantum theory. It begins with the usual obligatory summary of the remarkable twenty or thirty years, starting at the beginning of the twentieth century, when the development of quantum theory changed forever our view of physics and the universe, but it quickly turns to tackling the central problem of wave-particle duality.

To avoid the problem that a wave function is a complex quantity, the authors use a model based on the idea of a clock with just a single hand, whose parameters are the length of the hand and the hour of the clock (i.e. the angle of the hand relative to 12 o'clock). The first third of the book is spent explaining the model and using it to discuss the behavior of a single particle. Only by about page 80 is the correspondence of clocks with wave functions made. The clock model also plays an important role in later chapters, where systems with more than one particle and particle interactions are discussed.

The next chapters discuss in detail atomic structure and the energy levels of solids, in particular semiconductors, and there is a separate chapter on transistors (labeled by the authors as quite possibly the `most important invention of the twentieth century'). The discussion of the latter somewhat disrupts the flow of the book, and could perhaps have been better presented as an appendix, rather like the `epilogue' on the death of stars, as an example of an important `real-world' application of quantum theory. After this, the story continues with the much more difficult problem of describing particle interactions and the clock model becomes considerably more complicated, with new rules being necessary. The final chapter, about the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs boson and the origin of mass etc., covers well-worn ground rather briefly and conventionally, but concisely and clearly. However, it does require that the reader already knows about quarks, gluons etc.

So, how to summarise this book? It is certainly an ambitious attempt to present quantum theory in a way that is different from most other popular quantum theory books, without `dumbing down'. It is also written in an easy informal style. But the success of the book to a large extent stands or falls on whether the reader `gets' the clock model and feels able to use the rules that govern how the parameters of the clock change when the it moves. It is essential that they can do so, because the model is used to explain key questions, such as how the motion of a particle is described in quantum theory, and the all-important de Broglie relation and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle are `derived' using it. As a physicist who is very familiar with quantum theory, I am unable to answer this question, but personally I found the model confused matters, rather than illuminating them, particularly when interactions are discussed. Here the model definitely seemed ill suited for the job, but again, it is simpler if you know the mathematics. For this reason, and the somewhat disjoint flow of the narrative, for me the book was not entirely successful.

A final gripe is with the publishers. The book is only about 240 pages long, but they have chosen to bring it out has a hardback at the relatively high price of 20, knowing that with Cox as an author, sales are assured. If they really wanted to encourage more people to take an interest in science, then a cheaper paperback would clearly have been better.
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