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Quantum Physics: A Beginner's Guide Paperback – 1 Jul 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (1 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851683690
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851683697
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

"An accessible introduction to the field and assumes no prior knowledge; A comprehensive and up to date review." (Scientific and Medical Network)

Review

"Few appreciate how deeply quantum physics affects so many aspects of our everyday 21st century world, so Rae's emphasis on the practical impact of abstract concepts is very welcome." (Professor Sir Michael Berry - Royal Society Research Fellow, Bristol University)|"Rae has done an impressive job. Any reader who is prepared to put in a little effort will come away from this book with not only an understanding of the basics of some important practical applications of the theory but also some appreciation of why its conceptual foundations are still the subject of such spirited debate." (Professor Anthony Leggett - winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physics)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Granted, this is a particularly difficult subject for anyone who does not sleep with it; and the task to make it accessible to others is very challenging. What I was looking for was an introduction book, before going into more serious reading. I have tried real quantum physics books before, and I must say that in spite of my years of education in sciences including physics, I got lost in a few pages. So this book gave me great hopes!

But I was quite disappointed. Leaving aside the errors (quite a few, from typos to others picked in other reviews - all this gives an impression of lack of attention, and journalistic urge to publish something), I was still left hungry for an explanation of things and introduction to the approach that I could grasp. I did not find that. May be it's me ?

Three chapters are quite helpful: Nb 1, Nb 2, and Nb 8. The bulk in the middle seems to want to prove that everything is due to quantum physics, and that without quantum physics humanity would have been left without fire.

Well, I did not give up and bought Chad Orzel's book, which in my opinion is a better choice for the purpose I had.
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Having always had an interest in Physics since my A-level days, I thought I'd go for broke and brush up on my knowledge of Quantum Physics. Alastair Rae's book was really great for easing me back into the subject matter, since I hadn't looked at a physics book for over 7 years prior. His explanations aare simple yet thorough. Some did however test my memory, recalling those glory days of my college A-level lectures. I great one to recommend for anyone who's interested in the topic.
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"Beginners Guide" is about the relevance of quantum physics to everyday technology: semiconductors and transistors; energy sources and greenhouse gases; some not-so-everyday phenomena like superconductivity and SQUIDS; even the cutting edge stuff of quantum computing and quantum encryption. All are explained in terms of a few precisely stated properties of matter at the atomic scale or smaller. The weirdness of wave-particle duality and indeterminacy become accessible with minimal recourse to mathematics.

In successive chapters an insight is given into how materials acquire their large-scale chemical, physical and electrical properties by reason of what is going on at the level of electron, photon or atom. The way these particles are able to act with a concerted weirdness then seems just as reasonable as their bizarre individual behaviour.

The maths would be even easier to follow if more care had been taken with proofreading. Errors are confined mostly to the panels of mathematical details (where parameters annoyingly come and go like quantum particles) but there are also some in the main text (see posted comments).

Historical background is sketchy. We read: "James Clerk Maxwell . . . around 1860 showed the aether postulate was unnecessary". Arguably, it was he who started this entire goose chase; Michelson and Morley were still on the trail in 1887 and famously drew a blank; a kludge was proposed in 1892 by Lorentz; Einstein cleared things up a bit in 1905 - but the hunt ran and ran.

A brief analysis of how quantum indeterminacy might actually come about is presented in a well-argued short chapter at the end. If this stimulates further interest, then get the excellent companion volume Quantum Physics - Illusion or Reality. Both books are rewarding reads.
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Format: Paperback
Alastair Rae's book provides an introduction to quantum physics and a number of its applications in the world. The first chapter contains an introduction to basic physical properties, including an introduction to the atom. This will be familiar to most people with a basic science education. Chapter two discusses waves and particles and is reasonably detailed. I would recommend that you have a pencil and some paper ready to sketch out some concepts and to go through the maths. As the material presents a conceptual introduction to quantum mechanics, the maths is confined to boxes separate from the main text, to be indulged in at the readers's discretion. The book goes on to describe the role of quantum mechanics in energy generation. Included in this section is a quantum mechanical description of why carbon dioxide acts as a 'greenhouse gas'. I found the section on electrical properties, and the explanations on how electrical conductance / resistance arises. These is a helpful section on how semi-conductors work.

The important property of superconductivity has a dedicated chapter. I would have perhaps liked this to lead into a discussion of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as this is an application of quantum physics that many will have encountered but few understand. There is a discussion of the role of quantum mechanics in information processing, including cryptography and quantum computers. I did get the impression the Professor Rae is somewhat sceptical of the practicalities of constructing a quantum computer - indeed there are a significant number of difficulties that will need to be overcome before they become a reality so to speak.

The final chapter discusses some of the problems that are associated with quantum mechanics.
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