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on 7 December 2011
You want to know more about the original publications of the inventors of quantum mechanics and read their own words? Then this large volume is very good value. Though what you get out of it will depend strongly on your technical background in physics and what you expect from your reading.

The selection of papers was presumably made by Stephen Hawking. If so, it is rather odd in that a number of key papers are missing. In particular Bohr's famous paper 'On the Quantum Theory of Line-Spectra' is replaced by a much later review article. No doubt this makes for easier reading but it is not in the spirit of the book as advertised. Again, the key paper by Born Heisenberg and Jordan 'On Quantum Mehanics' is not there, probably for the same reason. As usual in US/UK physics de Broglie's contribution is absent. Amazingly there are 2 long papers by David Bohm on his hidden variables interpretation of quantum mechanics (39 pp!) which has had zero influence on current physics.

The introduction by Hawking is a (very) brief history of the subject which seems to be present mainly to justify his name on the cover. It does not discuss the contents in detail. It also looks as if Hawking was not involved in the brief commentaries heading each chapter: these are attributed to Joel Allred. They will not help you to understand the papers. (If you want to know what can be done to explain the papers and their history in detail, look at '100 Years of Planck's Quantum' by Duck and Sudarshan or 'Sources of Quantum Mechanics' by van der Waerden.)

A largish proportion of this volume is taken up by review artcles and even a couple of chapters from a popular book by Gamow; hardly 'the most astounding papers ...' promised on the dust jacket. Even so, it does cover a large range - up to work by Feynman, Schwinger et al.

The book has a clear typeface, all papers have been translated and reset (expect typos) and it is nicely bound. So if you know some physics already - about degree level - it represents unbeatable value at Amazon's price. Get it for the price of a couple of drinks.

100 Years of Planck's Quantum
Sources of Quantum Mechanics (Dover Books on Physics)
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on 4 December 2011
This is a technical book and only for those who have a physics degree. Do not think it will be accessable in the same way as a Brief History of Time. What Hawking has done here is to assemble all the original papers on Quantum Theory from the very start to almost the present day. If you are use to reading scientific papers then this will be for you.

The real strength of the book is in the choice of which papers to include and this is where Hawking's expertise comes in. Here you have between the pages of a single volume every important paper that was written by the original discoverers of Quantum Theory; Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, de Broglie, Feynman, Dirac, Pauli, etc. He includes them all... and even includes the seminal papers of David Bohm from 1952 and John Bells papers on hidden variables which though not considered mainstream are central to undertanding what is behind Quantum Theory. A keyresource book for anyone who wants to study this area seriously and who is not afraid of equations. If you want to really understand Quantum Theory you really need to understand the orginal ideas and thoughts from the people who actually came up with the ideas themselves. This is the only book to do that for you.
Dr Phil
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on 12 September 2013
This ~1100 page work is a sourcebook of seminal papers intended to give a historical overview of the development of quantum physics over the course of the twentieth century. The selection of papers (translated into English) is excellent (although some reviewers have complained about omissions), and they have been skilfully arranged into chapters by theme. In addition there are historically important lecture notes and book extracts. There is a good, brief introduction by Stephen Hawking, and also useful commentaries at the start of each chapter, written by Joel Allred (and presumably approved by Hawking). Despite the publisher's blurb, this is certainly not aimed at the typical lay reader. Only someone who has substantive previous knowledge of quantum theory up to at least the equivalent of undergraduate level will be able to benefit much from it.

[The following paragraph is too harsh - I will correct it in a comment.]
What might have been a superb book has been marred by shoddy proofreading. There are numerous glaring typographical errors that unfortunately extend to the formulae. Phi and psi get mixed up, subscripts or exponents are printed in normal font or vice-versa, and so on. I do not think that this makes the book unreadable - if you know the maths you will usually be able to work out what is wrong. But it makes reading these papers even more challenging and wastes considerable time. Moreover one cannot be confident that any equation taken from the text is correct.

Chapter five on philosophical issues is representative of the others. The first item is Max Born's Nobel Prize acceptance speech in which he describes his statistical interpretation of the wave function. The second is Erwin Schrodinger's discussion of his famous thought experiment involving a cat. Sadly, essentially only the paragraph quoted in every popular science book is given. Next is the Einstein, Podolski, Rosen (EPR) paper arguing that the description of reality given by the wave function cannot be complete. Niels Bohr's reply follows. His paper asserts that the inevitable interaction between the apparatus and the quantum state being measured prevents us having full knowledge of all physical quantities. Both EPR and Bohr frame their discussion in terms of conjugate variables. Next come two papers by David Bohm describing his hidden variables interpretation. This is important philosophically - its ontology is highly non-local and deterministic. Bohm explains how EPR type experiments are to be interpreted, and where John von Neumann's argument, that quantum theory is inconsistent with hidden variables, goes wrong. In the final paper John Bell focuses on another concern of EPR - that there cannot be `spooky action at a distance' as this (prima facie) contradicts the principle of relativity. Bell proves that if locality holds then a certain inequality must follow. Quantum theory disobeys this inequality. Bell gives examples in which Bohr's explanation for the EPR paradox is no longer reasonable.

The commentary for chapter five is somewhat slanted towards orthodoxy: Bohr and the `standard' Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics are vindicated; Bohm is pooh-poohed; EPR were simply wrong; Schrodinger's cat is absurd; and all is well with the world. But it was the theoretical work of the `realists' - Einstein et al. (fruitfully wrong) and Bell (who elsewhere wrote, "The aim remains: to understand the world. To restrict quantum mechanics to be about piddling laboratory experiments is to betray the great enterprise.") - that led to the experimental proof of entanglement. EPR, Bell, Schrodinger and Bohm were all deeply committed to attempting to find a comprehensible ontology for quantum mechanics. Bohr on the other hand took the attitude that from now on physicists should merely explain how our knowledge of the world changes. His active and influential discouragement of any scientist wishing to investigate `the nature of reality' delayed the discovery of how radically entangled our universe actually is. Despite its success as a calculating tool there is still no uncontroversial interpretation of quantum theory.
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on 15 May 2013
I must admit I love reading new science books, always preferred them to fiction books...but then again I may be completely mad. I find this book more substantial than his other work as he delves into other peoples great work, talking about other theories of which most have won noble prizes for. It can be seen as a little bit less user friendly, but then again for those that seek the actual papers and read science journals regularly within the field it would be a better book than his other work.
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on 14 March 2013
My own fault, my knowledge base is two narrow to fully appreciate this collection of ground breaking papers. You need to read and reread these papers to get a glimpse of this most unintuitive of subjects.
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on 16 December 2011
Ordered this for a relation who loves maths and physics - amazed by the size of the book :-)
Some of the chapters have the maths so might be offputting to those allergic to mathematical notation, but a real joy to those who understand such stuff.
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on 22 July 2014
Includes all the very important Quantum Physics papers that shaped our models for studying Nature. An excellent companion and first class resource for every Physicist or one that Quantum Physics is an indistinguishable component of his/her interests.
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on 21 March 2013
As expected, a lucid and entertaining account of difficult and nebulous theories. Looking forward any or other publications from this genius.
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on 24 May 2013
Same recipient,same love of the subject,amazed at the complexity
of this volume,but not deterred by it.
A book to treasure.
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on 1 December 2011
I haven't actually read this book. How could I? How could anyone read a book with such a shamefully barbaric title. To end with a preposition - filthy, but to butcher and misquote Shakespeare into the bargain? Grim indeed. Does Professor Hawking not have an editor?
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