- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Icon Books (2 April 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848310358
- ISBN-13: 978-1848310353
- Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3 x 23.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality Paperback – 2 Apr 2009
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SHORTLISTED FOR THE BBC SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2009 -- Icon Books
'I found Quantum a fascinating, riveting read. I have not read individual biographies of the scientists concerned beyond what can be found in customary introductory sections of popular science books, and I normally dislike the biographical approach to popular science, but in this case the interweaving of the stories of the scientists and of the science worked brilliantly. Quantum shows not only the body of science, but also its human face. I had a real feeling of observing one of the greatest revolutions of human understanding of the world as it happened; from the personalities of people involved to the administrative details of their employment to the grand sweeps of history that engulfed them. Particularly compelling was how essential for the development of ideas was the communication, co-operation and competition between the scientists: how ideas were bounced between them, reused and refashioned, and how astonishingly creative this cohort of incredibly young men became in the process. ... 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.' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fascinating book. I write a retired physicist, who made use of quantum theory almost every day. Somewhat daunting for non-phsicists, but my wife (a retired nurse) got something... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Malcolm
A brilliant overview of how personal relationships, ambition, politics and war helped shape the development of quantum physics. Read morePublished 3 months ago by The Lit Doctor
A very good contribution and very well explained. My only reason for the four star rather than five star rating is a slight disparity in style between the ideas the book deals with... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Nicolas Milne
Really good book. Gives a great insight into quantum physics and how it links together. No need for advanced maths or physics to be able to read.Published 4 months ago by Hugo Karas
I found this hard to follow. It's a shame that the concepts at the heart of the debate aren't broken down in a way that is readily comprehensible to the lay reader; Kumar often... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joe Markham
‘If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics’, is a quote commonly attributed to the American Nobel prize winning physicist, Richard... Read morePublished 5 months ago by still searching
excellent delivery. Book brought together all I have been reading into a cogent account. top marksPublished 5 months ago by Irene
Now and then I enjoy a topic that is beyond my comprehension. Maths is one such and there is a good deal of it here. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Brian Pickering