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on 14 June 2017
This book was a really interesting read. It kept a very dense subject light and entertaining. It was a compelling read. There were times I couldn't put it down.
I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject but doesn't need to know it as a career physicist!
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on 7 March 2017
Told me what I wanted to know
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on 15 April 2017
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on 13 August 2017
This is an amazing book that explains the wonders of the infinitely small world in an easy to understand logic, with lots of examples and analogies. The reader also had a very good voice and is easy to listen to.
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on 12 April 2017
An Awesome book. I've read about this subject many time and this is the first time I'm starting to understand it. Very readable.
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VINE VOICEon 9 December 2007
I failed my last physics exam in 1983 with a grand score of 19% and was not allowed to take it at O level! Having had what I consider to have been one of the worst science teachers ever, I had never shown the remotest bit of interest in physics since. Then I discovered this man's books. I picked one up at a friend's house and was hooked. This is now the third one of his that I've read and he has opened my eyes to the wonders that are out there. It's a fascintating read which is pretty accessible to the average person if the reader is prepared to put a bit of effort in to concentrating on the trickier aspects.

Well worth a try even if you're a physics sceptic as I was!
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on 15 May 2009
A whistlestop tour through the two theories that underpin pretty much all modern physics - quantum theory, and relativity. The title is somewhat misleading as this is very much a book of two halves - 'Small Things' and 'Big Things'. It's also surprisingly short, consisting of just 80 pages on quantum theory and 71 on relativity, and that's it! Well, besides the admittedly ample glossary, which appears to be a staple of Chown's books.

That said, it manages to cram in some of the important stuff to varying degrees of success. Chown's down-to-earth writing style helps, but there's no escaping the problem that condensing topics like quantum entanglement and probability waves to this extent will necessarily sacrifice answers to a whole host of follow-up questions that arise to the curious beginner. Still, there are some good explanations and analogies, particularly on time dilation. For me though, it didn't quite live up to the standard of Chown's earlier book, The Magic Furnace.

By all means give it a go if you're a beginner - you'll no doubt expand or strengthen your understanding of at least some aspects of the subject. Just don't be surprised if you wind up with a lot of unanswered questions by the end of it.

[EDIT: I have since read Jim Al-Khalili's Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed. It's a bit more expensive, but I have to say it was definitely worth it: better explained, and probably the kind of book this one should have been. It's now apparent just how much information was lacking in Chown's book, not to mention the vital role a diagram can play when grappling with a new concept.]
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on 28 December 2008
I bought this book at a book signing event in Waterstones whilst waiting around for Ben Goldacre to show up to sign his book Bad Science. Marcus Chown was also in attendance and I chatted a while with him about this book amongst other things.

I have read several books on physics and quantum theory by authors such as Brian Green, John Gribbin and Stephen Hawking and was familiar with quantum theory; familiar in the sense that I have a vague understanding of the topic and find it thoroughly interesting but decidedly bonkers.

Given my existing "knowledge", I wasn't sure if this book would be for me, but I bought it anyway, and now, having found a few spare hours dotted through the Christmas holiday, I am very glad indeed that I did.

The book is split into two parts; i) Small Things and ii) Big Things. Small things discusses the strange world of quantum theory, wave-particle duality, interference, superposition, quantum tunnelling and the like, whilst part two focusses, in general, on Einstein's theories of relativity.

Given the book's title, I was surprised at the amount of space given over to relativity. (That little bit of prior "knowledge" meant I figured the author intended to bring us full circle and explain why General/Special relativity break down when describing the very small in black holes or at the Big Bang - which he does.) However, the Big stuff sits nicely alongside the Small and in the final chapter prepares readers for the even stranger world that string theorists inhabit.

The book progresses at an nice, even pace with plenty of examples and illustrations, which, given the topic, end up being a little contrived and exaggerated. But this is not a problem; what is being discussed is just as crazy as anything the author dreams up to help illustrate the science!

For me, the individual sections were a little brief, but for the reader that is coming fresh to the topic I doubt this will be the case. Instead, "Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You" is a thoroughly interesting introduction to this fascinating area of science.

And, true to his word, the book didn't hurt one little bit.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 September 2012
I know pretty much nothing about Physics and, wanting to understand at least something of quantum theory, was recommended this by someone who does know Physics (thanks Sid!). So, do I now understand QT? - definitely not; did I expect to after reading one popular science book? - um, no. Am I thrilled, exhilarated and excited while still being perplexed and, sometimes, utterly bewildered? - definitely yes.

Chown has done an excellent job of making some extremely complex, abstract and counter-intuitive ideas accessible in lay-persons language. But, let's be honest, if modern physics was so easy that anyone could understand it in less than 200 pages, there'd be no need for books like this.

So I'm certainly not going to claim that reading this has made QT instantly clear and transparent to me, but I don't see that as being a fault of the book. This isn't a painless read for someone with no grounding in physics, but it is an entertaining and often astounding book.

Having read this book I can't say, hand on heart, that I understand quantum theory in anything more than a very (very!) superficial manner - but I can now understand why physicists find their subject so astonishing and fascinating.
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on 7 November 2007
chown's latest offering is a fairly slender, but highly fascinating volume which runs through the physics of the very small (quantum theory) and the very big (general relativity) with pointers along the way where they interface. as usual for chown, it's all told with easy-to-understand descriptions, analogies and speculations, along with all the groundwork necessary to follow it through logically. the latter part of this book - the physics of the very big - is by far the more interesting (to me anyway).

well worth reading.
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