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Quantum: A Guide For The Perplexed Paperback – 13 May 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Paperback, 13 May 2004
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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; Reprint edition (13 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841882380
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841882383
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Takes readers on a fascinating journey. Al-Khalili [uses] simple and clear language and he provides excellent graphics. This is mandatory reading for undergraduates with or without a science background. "Library Journal ""

Book Description

The terrifying complexities of quantum mechanics explained.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an extremely interesting book and, considering the subject matter, very accessible. The author present the ideas and theories of the Quantum world without, as I think some other writers do, ascribing an almost "black magic" side to the subject. This temptation to sensationalise I find in some writers on Quantum Mechanics (QM) who tend to present themselves practically as high-priests, allowing us, the uninitiated, a glimpse of the wonders that lie beyond our comprehension, but not necessarily beyond theirs. So, well done! to the author, Jim Al-Khalili, for avoiding that irritating style.

Also, I was very interested to learn that Schrödinger's famous thought-experiment about the dead / alive cat, dealing with one of the weirder aspects of Quantum Theory - the collapse of the wave function into actuality only on observation or measurement - was proposed by Schrödinger as a rebuttal of that theory, on the basis that he considered the notion of the cat being simultaneously alive and dead as being absurd. As do I. All other books that I have read to date on QM discuss Schrödinger's cat as one of the many bizarre realities of QM rather than as being a warning sign that the theory is incomplete.

The world, the universe, matter, time and space are all exceedingly strange things. We can only perceive them, or anything else, through our senses. Undoubtedly much lies "out there" that our senses do not perceive. We have, and can have, only a glimpse of reality. It is therefore virtually impossible for us, even in principle, to fully understand how it all works. But work it undoubtedly does. Science is a search for the explanation and continually seeks the Holy Grail of physics, the Grand Unified Theory or the Theory of Everything, a quest which may never succeed.
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Format: Paperback
I will admit that the title of this book grabbed me straight away. Having been self-studying quantum physics and evangelistically telling friends and anyone who would listen about the wonderful world of the sub-atomic, i thought a general reader on the subject would be good for 'summing up' etc.

In this regard Al-Khalili does not disappoint. The historical progress of thought from the world of classical (Newtonian) physics through the golden age where physics and philosophy walked uneasily hand-in-hand during the 1920's and 30's and the rise to prominence of the 'greats' of theoretical physics - Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, et al - is very well and clearly documented and engagingly presented.

The vibrancy of the crashing principles and ideas of quantum mechanics and the birth of subatomic theory is fascinating in itself, but it is Al-Khalili's sheer enthusiasm for the truly strange nature of the universe at the quantum level that is most infectious. This can often lead to hints of "no, look how weird this is!" but for the most part, the ideas are clearly presented and logically presented without resorting to jingoism and tenuous metaphor.

The only place the book really falls down is in its layout in this edition. Often very key principles are interrupted by small fly out boxes or spin-off articles within a chapter which can lead your train of thought to go "ooh, hang on, i better read that, it looks interesting" which can really wreck your train of thought on the main chapter text.

These articles are always interesting and are often practical examples of current research into matters being discussed within the chapter, often by prominent current researchers - it's just the layout that suffers a little.
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Format: Paperback
As other reviewers have pointed out, "Quantum: A guide for the perplexed" is a superbly readable and entertaining introduction to the field of quantum mechanics. It is highly suitable for those, like me, whose knowledge of mathematics and physics is not particularly advanced.

Quantum physics being what it is, I half-expected the book to be quite difficult and dry but this is 100% not the case. Although some of the theories are tricky to grasp, the author uses a great set of analogies (along with some clever and very colourful diagrams) to convey their meaning. There is plenty of humour to keep you going as well.

After finishing the book, I'll come clean and admit that I am still not sure exactly what a wavefunction really is (then again, I'm not sure anyone does) but I do feel that I climbed a couple of rungs up the ladder of understanding. But I definitely now know what a quantum leap is and I learnt about something I had never heard of before, namely quantum tunnelling' (and why it is relevant to everyday life). I also certainly now understand the significance of what happens in the famous double-slit experiment (so next time the subject comes up in the pub, I can offer an explanation of wave-partical duality). Oh, and I solved the paradox at the heart of the `Schrodinger's cat' thought experiment. Of course I didn't actually solve it but the author gently led me there step by step and then, just at the right time, confirmed my growing suspicions. That is a clever teacher/writer in action !

The book is also superb on real-life applications of quantum understanding, such as in biology and semi-conductors, and on possible future applications such as the `quantum computer' (which could one day help Moore's law hold good for a few more years).

This is popular science, albeit on a difficult subject, at its absolute best and most entertaining.
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