27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2009
After reading Lousia Gilder's new book I was at a loss for words; how does one write anything (of merit) about the subject of Quantum Mechanics while also earning the title of 'page turner' ? Initially I was unsure about how much interest the book would hold for me: as an undergraduate in Astrophysics I've had wavefunctions and uncertainty relations hammered into me until they weren't funny (if they ever were). This book however takes a totally different tact, doing away with anything text-book and yet still retaining real integrity to the subject of quantum theory. The book is not about Quantum theory in the strictest sense; it is a completely original, beautifully narrated chronology of the developments in Quantum Mechanics and the people involved (from the earliest foundations to quantum computation). Aside from the various interpretations and formulations of Quantum Mechanics that the book historicizes, it also gives an overall sense of just how different the earlier time periods (1900-1940) of Physics were and the uniqueness of the 'quantum club' of Bohr, Einstein, Pauli &c &c. The reason why this book is such a pleasure to read is due to the formidable lengths that Gilder has gone to, in order to select from the vast amount of literature and commentary, the best and most poignant discourse on the subject. The fact that the best and most poignant remarks made were deeply philosophical, controversial, and ultimately revolutionary in the field of science, is (I think) what motivated the book's writing.
Gilder deserves a great deal of credit for crafting a wonderfully original, thought-provoking and enjoyable book on the subject of Quantum Mechanics.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2010
Clearly this is not a book for the faint-hearted. The concepts which Louisa Gilder so effortlessly navigates are extremely perplexing to many of us. And yet she makes us feel clever for following the plot. I had never really understood the idea of a "thought experiment" until I read this, and yet now it makes perfect sense. Having seen and loved plays like Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, or Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, this story fitted right in with my gradual comprehension of this seemingly arcane corner of science - the domain of rocket scientists or simply science fiction. It is gripping, amusing and surprising. Many of the stories of the geniuses described are very endearing in their humanity - Einstein and Bohr missing the bus stop - not once but twice - is illuminating yet funny. This is exactly the sort of book that the interested but not technical person should read. If you have every really wondered what a quantum leap was, this will really get you there.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2011
I liked the presentation of the material, which consists of invented (synthetic) conversations between many of the developers of the Quantum Theory. The presentation of the Physics was very well done - although some of the surrounding English used "for interest" was mildly irritating due to the need to keep stopping and looking up unnecessarily complicated English words in a dictionary. Certainly this is a very accessible treatment of very difficult concepts.
The book started out well but seemed to drag a bit. Ultimately it did not deliver on its high star rating, leaving me a bit disappointed, especially as the critical entanglement part was less emphasized than the earlier material.
on 28 December 2014
This book is simply marvellous, certainly to us professional physicists but I suspect to anyone with intellectual curiosity about one of the great, if not the greatest of all time, stories of scientific progress. What is especially wonderful is the way these legends of modern physics (Bohr, Einstein, Pauli, Heisenberg, Sommerfeld, Planck, Born, Kramers, Ehrenfest, Schroedinger, Dirac, De Broglie, Gamow, Rutherford and many more interacted socially. Einstein comes across as a particularly likeable guy. But they all 'needed each other'. It seems light years away from the sterile, super-competitive university science 'culture' of today. May it revert back to collegiality as soon as possible, and may league tables of which university is top dog (who gives a monkeys), impact factors and other obscenities of this intellectually barren age be consigned to the dustbin of history forthwith.Thank you Professor Gilder!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2010
The theme of quantum entanglement is explored in terms of the concept, its implications, how its predictions conflict with those of classical physics, the practical consequences and technological opportunities. Development of all these aspects is pursued historically as a narrative in which visions, explanations, interpretations and contributors interact continually. Much of it is presented as a series of dialogues among the theorists engaged in the development and critique of quantum mechanics.
So far, so appropriate; but the weakness in this account is that, although some conversations, exchanges of letters or publications of papers are a matter of record, others have been invented or synthesized from snippets and then further embellished with ambient details, thoughts, asides, facial expressions and so on (I lost count of the instances of raised eyebrows).
Once the dialogues are interspersed with some longwinded reminiscences, glances into the future, family notes, menu details and so on, the embellished narrative becomes a distraction from what would otherwise be a reasoned discussion of some quite profound ideas.
There is some good stuff buried here - amid the anecdotes and the fanciful allusions to ideas as resembling tigers, little lambs or head-butting rams - but I confess that, after a few chapters, I gave up on systematic digging for meaning and settled for reading snippets.