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on 25 June 2016
This a pleasure to read as well as being very informative. The style of writing is very relaxed and is humorous at times. This is my third 'Bluffer's guide to...' and I am really enjoying them. They make very good 'filler' presents too.
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on 4 May 2000
Using this book to bluff, you'll never fool a physicist. But there are no dangers to that, because he or she would most likely refrain from starting to talk about Hilbert spaces and unitary operators and the like, since this would bring any dinner discussion to a screeching halt. After passing that hurdle, you're guaranteed to fool everybody else. Besides, the opening sentence of the book ends with "nobody understands what's going on", which also applies to the physicists.
Apart from giving the reader an overview of what these people have been up to the past 100 years, the book is filled to the brim with hilarious anecdotes about the many colourful characters who created quantum mechanics, and struggled in vain to make sense of it. In fact, it paints a fairly accurate picture of the physics community as it is. My advice to my fellow victims would be: fear the day when some sociology student decides to base his thesis on this book!
Even (or rather, especially) if you wear the robes of the physicist priesthood, this book is indispensible - read it in the closet if you must.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 January 2014
The Bluffer's Guide to the Quantum Universe is a handy set of explanations, mixed with off-beat observations and bluffing tips, which tells you not everything you need to know about the quantum universe (quantum physicists are still working on that one) but everything you could be expected to know, if you were ridiculously well informed.

If you've read several Bluffer's Guides you will be used to the format. If you don't know anything, you'll learn a lot about the subject. If you do know something, you'll feel you've been let in on the jokes, and if you know a lot, you'll be saying 'how true, how true'. The unusual thing about the Bluffer's Guide to the Quantum Universe is that it's actually quite similar to other books on cosmology, particle physics and so on. For some reason, quantum thinkers have rather a penchant for expressing themselves in a Bluffers' kind of way. The Bluffer's Guide does it best though.

Having listened to a couple of dozen episodes of Radio 4's In Our Time on this and related subjects, I have to say that this is like Melvyn Bragg's show, but turned up to about 300%.

A good read, whether you are completely baffled, mildly baffled, or smugly smiling at the in-jokes that 'those' readers won't be getting.

[Review copy supplied by the publishers.]
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 14 October 2013
I had the good fortune to be sent a few of these Bluffer's Guides for review by the publisher: they are pocket-sized and only around 100 pages long and I have found them all amusing, informative and very enjoyable. The Guides are, in fact, a bluff in themselves because although they purport to be a handbook for those who simply want to bluff their way, they use this as a cover for providing lots of very sound fact, written by people who really know and love their subject while being very witty about it and often scathing about the pretence which surrounds it.

This Guide, by Jack Klaff, has rather more in the way of information and jokes (some of them very good, some less so) and rather fewer "bluffer's tips" than some others, which in a way is a strength. It is certainly an enjoyable and very entertaining read. To give a flavour of the style, speaking of Relativity he says, "Furthermore, the faster you travel, the slower your brain would run. Planes, trains and motorways are full of examples of that." It's a decent gag - provided, of course, that you know enough about Relativity in the first place to see why it's a decent gag.

I am a physicist by training and my Inner Feynman (I wish!) compels me to point out that the information here isn't as consistently sound as I would expect from a Bluffer's Guide, so the unwary reader does need to be a little careful about accepting all the physics at face value. A couple of examples:
On p. 29 the Guide says: "The nucleus is one ten-thousandth the size of the entire atom." Well...not really. It depends on the atom, but as a rough guide has between one twenty-thousandth and one-hundred-thousandth the *radius* of the entire atom, so it's *volume* is somewhere around one million-billionth of the volume of the entire atom - a rather different matter. And rather more seriously, on p.31 we get "protons are 1836 times bigger than electrons." In fact, protons are 1836 times as *heavy* (massive) as electrons. (As far as I know, an electron is still considered a "point particle," and no-one has determined a meaningful, accurate physical "size" for it. Yet.)

Perhaps precision in these things isn't critical in a book like this, but I do think the strength of these Guides is that, beneath their jokey and apparently flippant surface, they have a really solid base of knowledge, so it is a genuine concern. Mind you, I can forgive Klaff almost everything because he quotes approvingly from the Rev. Dr. J.C. Polkinghorne KBE, FRS etc - a distinguished physicist, a truly good man and one of the finest teachers I have ever had. And, as a man who forced himself to read the whole of Baudrillard's The Gulf War Did Not Take Place while alternately muttering variations on "Oh, for heavens' sake" and laughing out loud, I very much enjoyed the debunking of bogus use of terms from quantum physics to try to make works in the Humanities seem deep.

Minor caveats aside, this is a very enjoyable and generally informative book. It is probably best suited to people with some background in physics who want an amusing read, but would do pretty well for the novice and aspiring bluffer, too.
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2008
Part of the Bluffers Guide series, this uncomplicated introduction to the world of Quantum physics provides an interesting insight, whilst still keeping it easy and fun to read. The short nature of the book and constant humour provided by the author make this quick to read and leaves the reader feeling they know just a little bit more about complicated Quantum topics.

This book is split into five main sections, each in itself broken down which splits it into ideal bite size chunks for the average reader. The introduction does exactly what is promised and talks about the world before the introduction of Quantum Physics and allows readers to "prepare themselves" for the "destruction ahead." Klaff then goes on to present the basic ideas of Quantum physics in a basic yet wryly amusing way that makes you want to find out more about the ideas presented here. He presents the problems that are currently faced by Quantum physics in a way that does not baffle but lets the reader get involved and if they want to find out more then they can. Unexpectedly, before rounding off the book with the implications of these theories, biographies of famous physicists are presented in a way that makes them interesting and wanting to know more about the lives of these people. Whilst the stories skimp on the science, the personalities and lives of the people are conveyed well and the author does his best to make everything amusing.

If your looking for a book that does bamboozle, beguile or outsmart then here is the one for you. This book is not only wryly amusing but is packed with useful information to present a winning formula for anyone to enjoy.
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on 12 March 2010
As an introduction to all things Quantum, this book is okay. However, as a witty insight into how physics messes with your head it is outstanding. Extremely well written, Mr Klaff was professor for public understanding of science at Starlab (a curious trajectory for a Springbok, admittedly) and it shows. It's a short, sharp, shock of spin, strangeness n' string-theory. And some other ssss'y subatomic stuff I'm too tired to come up with currently. Just buy the book and be informed and amused in equal measure.
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on 8 October 2015
This guide is designed so you can bluff your way in unsuspecting company so don't expect a primer on the science of quantum mechanics, but rather a conversational and delightfully trivia-packed introduction to the history of the subject.

As a physicist myself, the information is accurate and approachable. A particular favourite is the section of brief biographies on the key figures (and not just the obvious ones either). It was great to have some interesting anecdotes about the names I'd previously only come across next to the word Theorem, etc.
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on 4 August 2016
This is great read. It is very amusing and tongue in cheek as well as giving some good education. If you want to sound bright and intelligent in front of family, friends, or strangers - pick it up and have a read. I think I recognise some of the phrases from people I have met!!! Am really enjoying reading it, and have laughed out loud sometimes!
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on 20 June 1999
Jack Klaff uses a kind of self-deprecating humour which gets you through the subject while keeping you entertained. The style normally includes a half-assed pun at the end of each paragraph - I found I was actually looking forward to these. At 64 pages you can read it in a lunch-hour.
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on 28 July 2015
While you would think all this information would not fit into this perfectly sized pocket book - it does! Seriously the place to start if you are just trying to wrap your head around this... however also just as entertaining and witty for those already well versed in such a subject!
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