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Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality Hardcover – 1 Jun 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Jun 2010
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; 1 edition (1 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393078299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393078299
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 0.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,920,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Lively....a wide-ranging account, written for readers who are curious about the theory but what to sidestep its mathematical complexities....fascinating. "

Review

'This is about gob-smacking science at the far end of reason… Take it nice and easy and savour the experience of your mind being blown without recourse to hallucinogens' (Nicholas Lezard, Guardian)

'A super-collider of a book'. (Independent)

‘…the most important popular science book of the year.’ (Bookseller)

‘Kumar is an accomplished writer… In Quantum he tells the story of the conflict between two of the most powerful intellects of their day: the hugely famous Einstein and the less well-known but just as brilliant Dane, Niels Bohr.’ (Financial Times)

An exhaustive and brilliant account of decades of emotionally charged discovery and argument, friendship and rivalry spanning two world wars.’ (Steven Poole, Guardian)

‘…it does provide a fresh perspective on the debate.’ (Press Association)

‘A dramatic, powerful and superbly written history.’ (Publishing News)

‘This is not an easy read. There are many concepts that… I could not come to terms with, but this is the biography on an idea and as such read much like a thriller.’ (Ham & High)

‘Quantum is a fascinating, powerful and brilliantly written book that shows one of the most important theories of modern science in the making and discusses its implications for our ideas about the fundamental nature of the world and human knowledge, while presenting intimate and insightful portraits of people who made the science. Highly recommended.’ (Bookbag)

‘‘Quantum’ is an interesting and informative read.’ (Physics World)

‘That science is a many-splendored, sexy thing is the radiating message that comes out of this fabulous book…a pulsating narrative’. (Hindustan Times)

‘Probably the most lucid and detailed intellectual history ever written of a body of theory that makes other scientific revolutions look limp-wristed by comparison’. (Independent)

‘One of the best guides yet to the central conundrums of modern physics.’ (John Banville, The Age, Australia) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The development of quantum physics through the 20th century is one of the great adventures of science, and here at last is a book aimed at the layperson which clearly explains its key concepts, while situating the scientific development in its broader setting. The result is a challenging and enthralling read.

Quantum is appropriately sub-titled, Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality. The long theoretical duel between these two giants of modern physics is a recurring theme of the book, but the story starts before them with the build-up to the discovery of Planck's constant at the turn of the century, and continues beyond their deaths (in 1955 and 1962 respectively) to take in Bell's Theorem and Everett's "many worlds" interpretation. Along the way we meet other great physicists such as Rutherford, Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrödinger, Dirac and Bohm.

One might suspect that a book of such scope would be in danger of being overcrowded with theories and theorists, yet Kumar rises to the challenge, displaying a novelist's sense of pacing allied with an impressive scientific clarity and succinctness. Clearly he has taken to heart the famous injunction attributed to Einstein to "make it as simple as possible, but no simpler!" He also strikes a judicious balance between scientific explanation and human context. This provided for me a welcome alternation between the physics and the lives of the physicists, with each stimulating an interest in the other.

What is so powerful and inspiring about this book is the way it conveys the passion for truth of those great pioneers. No doubt ego played its part as well, they would hardly have been human otherwise, but it is always secondary to the great quest to fathom the nature of sub-atomic reality.
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By D. Jones #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Aug. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful scientific theories ever made. But it is utterly non-intuitive for both the scientist and non-scientist alike.

In our everyday lives, things happen for a reason - you place a fork on a table and unless someone comes along and moves it, you can be certain that it will be still there the next day. Not so in the atomic world of quantum mechanics, an electron might be here... or it might be there ... or over there. In fact it could be anywhere in the universe at any given time. Quantum mechanics predicts this behaviour in the form of a probability wave function. And it works.

But is this the true nature of reality?

This is the theme of the book. We have two great scientists - Einstein and Niels Bohr who have a fundamental difference of opinion about the nature of reality.

From Einstein's' point of view, an electron has a real set of parameters such as location, velocity, spin and so on that is independent of an observer. He admits that quantum mechanics does a good job in predicting atomic behaviour but he is convinced the theory is not complete.

On the other hand, there is Niels Bohr's vision that an electron (or any microscopic entity) has no reality until an observer chooses to measure one of its parameters. He considers quantum mechanics to be complete with no further need for revision or modification.

This argument goes on for decades. The book takes the reader through the panoply of scientists who helped put quantum theory together from its beginnings around 1900 to today. Scientists such as Max Planck, Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, Oppenheimer, Von Neumann and many, many others are included.

The appeal of this book is that it brings humanity to the story of quantum mechanics.
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Format: Paperback
I have always been fascinated by how 'it' all fits together, but struggle to find the time to concentrate on dry theoretical texts. It was therefore with great delight that I found myself engrossed in Quantum on the tube, the bus and even occasionally the walk in between. Manjit Kumar's writing eases you effortlessly into the some of the most complex ideas in physics by juxtaposing the personal stories of the authors playing out through the 20th century with the theories themselves. Sufficient detail is provided to challenge all but the most experienced reader, and a comprehensive references list encourages further exploration for those who need to dig even deeper. While having to admit to only momentary glimpses of both the elusive beauty, and the black hole enveloped by quantum theory, I felt strangely comforted that even Einstein struggled to fully embrace such a world.

Highly recommended
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Format: Hardcover
This is fascinating book written as a narrative history of those scientists who contributed to the development of Quantum Theory - one of the most important challenges to orthodox thinking in the whole history of ideas.

The book does a very good job of establishing how classical physics of the 19th Century was seen as completed and except for a few minor details that needed tidying up, the consensus was that nothing really fundamental at a theoretical level was left to discover.
Kumar explores how this certainty that physics was done and dusted came to unravel and how an idea as counter intuitive as the quantum came to be accepted by most physicists.

This manner of exploring quantum theory through its historical development allows anyone with a basic grasp of science to understand why it is so revolutionary in its implications. At the centre of this story is the struggle between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr about what our attitude to the reality should be.

Mixing historical narrative with the scientific ideas that were in contention brings quantum theory to a much broader audience of readers than is generally possible with this sort of material.

Part social history, part popular science as well as raising questions of a philosophical nature - this makes a cracking read and comes highly recommended.

Jenny Gardener
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