- Paperback: 552 pages
- Publisher: Simon and Schuster (1 Oct. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684863154
- ISBN-13: 978-0684863153
- Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 2.8 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,957,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Q is for Quantum Paperback – 1 Oct 2008
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John Gribbin's latest book "Q is for Quantum" is the perfect companion to his 1996 masterpiece "Companion to the Cosmos".
Gribbin's presents his work in a well illustrated, encyclopaedic (A to Z) style with nearly all topics having hyperlinks to cross-references elsewhere in the book. He puts great emphasis on the human dimension of science as well as on the purely physical phenomena and theories he describes so well. The mini-biographies of the scientists are fascinating in their own right, particularly when looking at the historical context and the geographic, social and academic connections/parallels that have led to these great advances in human thought.
Gribbin guides us along those amazing scientific paths of the past half millennia , from Galileo and Newton to Einstein and Hawking. He has this reader convinced that we are very close to realizing the ultimate dream of a Grand Unifying Theory (GUT) which ties together all the links between the forces of nature. His work is right up to date and includes the latest ideas on M-branes and superstrings.
The best way to read the book is to open it at random , find a topic of interest and see how far the hyperlinks can take you. Bliss for a net-head! The real strength of Gribbin's writing is to help us cover that great spectrum (in time and space) between the sub-atomic microworld of Quantum phenomena through to the edges of the Cosmos. Somewhere in the middle is the human dimension, dare I say, the "real world".
It was our friend Douglas Adams who posed that trickiest of tri-lemmas ... What is the answer to that ultimate question, that is, the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything ? He told us ... it is 42 !
John Gribbin's agrees - look up his section on Planck. What is the smallest unit of time? Answer: zero, decimal point, FOURTY TWO zeros, one second.
Before Planck time nothing much happened ... but then again ...
Run to this guide when incoherent journalists start throwing around terms like "Bell's inequality" or "QED". Gribbin almost always comes up with an adequate definition of difficult concepts. But not every time.
For instance, he produces the simplest, clearest explanation of "gauge theory" in the classical domain that I have ever read, but loses the thread when he tries to describe it within quantum chromodynamics. The article on "group theory" has a superb account of basic groups, but becomes confusing when discussing Lie groups and SU(3)
Also, some things are missing. For instance, there is no discussion of Hilbert space. His articles on Schrödinger's equation and Maxwell's equations don't show the equations. The simplest form of these equations shouldn't be too much for the reader to handle, as several recent popular physics books have shown.
No book could demystify Quantum Mechanics - paraphrasing Richard Feynman "if you get it - you don't get it!" - but Q is for Quantum goes a long way to providing an insight to what must be happening on the smallest scale within our Universe.
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