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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A man of many talents
I have read most of Gribbin's output and he is always clear and concise. His masterwork is "In search of Schrödinger's Cat" which contains a lot of hard-core physics. This is a lighter read but informative and entertaining. It's definitely about his life at work and at home so if you want the derivation of the Schrödiger equation, look elsewhere. As a...
Published 22 months ago by Geoffrey

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Schrödinger and his circle.
Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist, worked at the time of the `second revolution' in quantum theory, when scientists were struggling to interpret the meaning of the earlier work of Bohr and others, and develop a calculable quantum theory. Schrödinger's contribution was to formulate a variation called `wave mechanics', work for which he shared the 1933...
Published 17 months ago by Brian R. Martin


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A man of many talents, 7 Jun 2012
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I have read most of Gribbin's output and he is always clear and concise. His masterwork is "In search of Schrödinger's Cat" which contains a lot of hard-core physics. This is a lighter read but informative and entertaining. It's definitely about his life at work and at home so if you want the derivation of the Schrödiger equation, look elsewhere. As a theoretician, he carried out his most important work at a much more advanced age than did his sparring partners Einstein, Dirac and Heisenberg.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, all sane physicists are alike but a mad physicist is mad after his own fashion. Schrödinger comes across as a fairly naive man, seemingly oblivious of the impending Nazi catastrophe until rescued from mainland Europe in the nick of time by Lindemann and settling briefly in Oxford. He wasn't exactly a snappy dresser and his attitude to women was unusual to put it mildly but I won't, as it were, let the cat out of the box - you'll have to read this for yourself. And please make sure you do. I read this in three days - not an easy book to put down.

Gribbin is no self-publicist. He refers a couple of times to his book about the cat thought experiment but you have to look at the reading list at the back to find it's recently been updated In Search Of Schrodinger's Cat: Updated Edition - and of course can be purchased using the services of a well known internet bookseller.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Erwin Schrodinger & the Quantum Revolutio, 7 May 2012
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This book is very well written, being easy to read and to understand- particularly if you have a basic knowledge of atomic particles.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Schrödinger and his circle., 11 Nov 2012
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Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist, worked at the time of the `second revolution' in quantum theory, when scientists were struggling to interpret the meaning of the earlier work of Bohr and others, and develop a calculable quantum theory. Schrödinger's contribution was to formulate a variation called `wave mechanics', work for which he shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics with Dirac. It is familiar to all physics students through the Schrödinger equation, which describes most of physics, chemistry and biology. Schrödinger is also known to the wider public because of his `cat in-the-box' paradox (although it is not actually a paradox). This thought experiment was designed to show the apparent incompatibility with reality of the accepted interpretation of quantum theory at the time, called the `Copenhagen Interpretation'. It grew out of earlier work by Einstein and others on the `action-at-a-distance problem' that was inherent in the Copenhagen Interpretation. Unfortunately for both of them, experiments much later in the 1980s disproved Einstein's alternative interpretation, known as `local reality'.

The first part of the book gives a concise history of quantum theory and the work of its pioneers. It only becomes a biography of Schrödinger, in the sense that he is the dominant figure, in the remaining chapters, when he was a peripatetic academic, intent on finding a permanent job with a pension, and later when he fled mainland Europe following the rise of Hitler. Through the good offices of Lindemann, Head of the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, Schrödinger was offered a two-year appointment there. He shocked that staid establishment by arriving dressed informally as if he was on one of his frequent mountain hiking tours, and was accompanied by both his wife Anny and his current mistress. Remarkably for a Catholic country, when he later moved to the newly founded Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (where he stayed for 17 years) his unconventional domestic arrangements caused no adverse comment.

While in Dublin, Schrödinger continued to work actively on the meaning of quantum theory and was the first to suggest the alternative interpretation now called the `many worlds view', which has implications for quantum computing. But he never produced work of a quality comparable to wave mechanics. He published his thoughts on biology in a small book entitled `What is Life', and although widely criticized as not original, and sometimes wrong, nevertheless did contain some important original speculations and was cited by both Watson and Crick as an early inspiration. He also continued to pursue his extramarital affairs. One of his illegitimate daughters actually lived with him and was brought up by Anny. She accepted the situation because she herself was the long-time lover of a physicist friend of her husband, although eventually the strain seriously affected her health. In 1956 Schrödinger returned as a `grand old man' of quantum physics to an academic post in his beloved Vienna, but failing health meant that he contributed little, and less than five years later he died aged 73.

I have mixed views about this book. The first half covers well-worn ground that I know well, but because the explanations are brief and low level, I found it somewhat tedious. Someone new to the subject may well disagree. However there are some personal details about the participants that I did find interesting (for example, the `musical chairs' academic appointments that were a feature of the period), but again others may not share my view. The writing is clear and informal, and the book is well illustrated with a collection of interesting photographs, but the balance in the book between the main story, and other matters is uneven. Thus, the period known as `the first revolution' in quantum physics is given too much space, as are other topics such as Crick and Watson's work on the double helix of DNA and the detailed section on quantum computing at the end of the book. Although these are important topics in their own right, they are somewhat peripheral to Schrödinger's life and work, which was overwhelmingly quantum physics. Overall, it gives a reasonable account of Schrödinger the man set in the context of the revolution that look place in physics during a short period in the first half of the twentieth century, but if you want to find out more about Schrödinger the physicist, you will have to look elsewhere.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Schrodinger, 14 Oct 2013
This review is from: Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution (Paperback)
It might not be rocket science but quantum physics certainly is devilishly difficult to understand. As John Gribbin notes in his introduction to Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution, "it took many top scientists, working over the first three decades of the twentieth century, to work out just what quantum physics is and, when they did find out, some of them didn't like what they had found." Quantum physics seemed contrary to pretty much everything that classical physics held sacred, revealing that "particles can behave like waves and waves like particles; that quantum entities can be in at least two places at once; that they can get from one place to the other without passing through the space in-between."

This new quantum universe seem to be distinctly lacking in certainty and so Schrodinger, among other brilliant minds, set out to restore the common sense of the classical physics to the quantum world. Schrodinger's research in this area led to the formulation his famous equation concerning wave mechanics for which he, along with Paul Dirac, was awarded the Nobel Prize. While the equation ultimately failed to provide the clarity that he had hoped for, with it Schrodinger became an integral part of the new physics revolution.

As the title suggests, John Gribbin devotes quite a bit of Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution to discussing the contribution to quantum understanding made by Schrodinger as well as scientists such as Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Louis de Broglie and Paul Dirac. Gribbin concentrates more on the work and the minds behind the important quantum discoveries than on the technicalities of their breakthroughs but, where hard science is involved, he explains matters in a logical and clear fashion.

Although it was his work on wave mechanics that earned Schrodinger his Nobel Prize, it's interesting to discover that he wasn't particularly enamoured of this then emerging area of physics. Gribbin thus also establishes the contribution that Schrodinger made to the study of electrical engineering, atmospheric radioactivity, colour and colour perception. It would sometimes have been nice to have greater detail on these other areas of scientific investigation but since the focus of Gribbin's scientific biography is Schrodinger's role in the quantum revolution it is understandable that other areas of discussion have to be limited so as to not interfere with that focus.

While Gribbin's explanation and analysis of Schrodinger's work is as interesting and informative as expected, the surprise highlight of Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution is the light that it shines on the relationships and collaborative working involving the great and famous scientists. This is perhaps most obvious in the exchange of letters between Albert Einstein and Schrodinger that led to creation of Schrodinger's famous `Cat in the Box' thought experiment but Gribbin mentions several other examples. It's also surprising just how much job swapping went on as the scientists moved from university to university at the whim of political and economic forces.

In Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution, John Gribbin succeeds masterfully in demonstrating just how monumental Schrodinger's scientific achievements were. However, in setting out to write a scientific biography, Gribbin is not just concerned with Schrodinger's academic achievements. Schrodinger's private life was every bit as interesting - or perhaps that should be unusual - as his scientific exploits. The most famous example of this has to be Schrodinger's decision to arrive to take up his post at Oxford accompanied by both his wife and his current mistress, but there are many other unconventional [and sometimes rather alarming] love affairs, to say nothing of a couple of illegitimate children, that played a role in Schrodinger's life.

Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution is another excellent popular science book from John Gribbin. He has an admirably clear writing style when explaining complex scientific matters that results in even the most technical passages being eminently readable. As side from the discussion of science, the personal biographical discussion of Schrodinger was very interesting and served to provide insight into the times as well as the man. Schrodinger was a complex man, no doubt every bit as complex as the problems that he strove to solve, and so is a fascinating subject for a biography.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quantum Revolution, 24 July 2013
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This book is more a biography of Scrodinger and his companions with a some quantum explanations tacked on. It has a few interesting observations but doesn't offer any great insights into the obscurities of the quantum world (but what does?).
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Barely any information about Erwin Schroedinger or about physics., 9 July 2012
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Augustinus Schulte "Gus Schulte" (Blankenberge, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This book is written for easy reading. In this respect the author has succeeded. One reads the book like a hot knife falls through butter. However, no substantial knowledge is transmitted from the book to the reader's mind. It is a nice book for someone who looks for superficial knowledge. For substantial knowledge on the subject one better reads Walter John Moore's "Schroedinger, Life and Thought", 1989.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cat with a twist in the tale, 19 Jan 2013
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C. S. Ebrey - See all my reviews
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This book was an absolute pleasure to read! For a biography, John Gribbins gets the narrative just right between the fascinating and colourful life of Schroedinger, combined with that of his academic achievements. I found the description of the relationships between the great physists of the time particularly interesting. John skilfully brings the book to a close with accounts of the legacy that Schroedinger has left behind....... with an unexpected twist in the tale at the end.....very satisfying.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 1 Aug 2012
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Up to John Gribbens high standards. Well written, easy to read and covers science and the human angle to perfection. Highly recommended.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable and edifying, 5 July 2012
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Paul P. Mealing (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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John Gribbin is a very good writer on physics and this book is no exception. Schrodinger was an eccentric personality as well as a brilliant mind. The book is both biography and exposition of his discoveries. It captures both the man and the time. Schrodinger lived through both of the great wars of the 20th Century and played a key role in the golden age of physics. The equation that bares his name has been described by John D. Barrow as 'The most important equation in all of mathematical physics.' He was forced to leave his beloved Vienna on the eve of World War 2, which led to his 'beautiful exile' in Ireland, where he developed his ideas for 'What is Life?' a series of lectures transcribed into a book, that had a profound influence on Francis Crick, who co-discovered the double helix structure of DNA. Schrodinger foreshadowed that there was a molecular code at the heart of life. Schrodinger not only gave us one of the most seminal equations in physics but wrote eloquently and eruditely about life itself.

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Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution
Erwin Schrodinger and the Quantum Revolution by John Gribbin (Paperback - 14 Mar 2013)
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