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on 1 August 2016
This is a fantastic book if one is just attempting, for the first time, to come to terms with the puzzling yet fascinating world of quantum theory. What makes it different from most other books I read on the subject is the way in which Gribbin tries to explain one phenomenon that, quite often, can be felt as unexplainable. At times, it can still feel overwhelming to those averse to maths, but you can jump over those moments as they will not necessarily be essential for what the book does: if you're not very familiar with the subject, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat will launch you into a magical tale that is a part of our reality as much as anything else, even if you don't actually experience it on a daily basis. And by doing that, it might ultimately also reshape your own view of the world and yourself. Highly recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 29 April 2018
The title of this book probably highlights its greatest weakness. Updated Edition. This is a history/explanation of quantum physics written in the mid 1980s with the subsequent 30+ years tacked on at the end. There are more recent works which form a more coherent whole, for example Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw's Quantum Universe.

The other thing to say is that John Gribbin sets out to do something virtually impossible. Given that the most famous quantum physicist if the mid 20th century, Richard Feynman said "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics", to write a popular science book on the subject is optimistic to say the least.

Any writer seeking to make the subject accessible to the lay reader must travel along the border between explanatory and comprehensibility. To put it another way, by providing a full explanation, s/he run the risk if tunnelling through the border into the region where the reader is lost and confused. For me Gribbin is a little over conservative, not providing enough explanation. For example, while describing one of the early signs of the need for quantum mechanics, the "black body problem" he describes what the problem was - that classical physics predicted an infinite amount of energy - but not why classical physics made this prediction. Linked to this , the early chapters are more about the people involved than the developing theory. That it is a very valid story to tell, but Gribbin almost sits in an indeterminate state between the people and the physics. If you want to read the story through the people, could I recommend Manjit Kumar's excellent Quantum: Einstein, Bohr .....

While I have some criticisms of this book, overall it remains an excellent introduction to an incomprehensible subject. While referring to Schrodinger's cat makes for an arresting title, Gribbin seems to agree with another of Feynman's assertions that the double slit experiment is the absolute heart of quantum physics.

Having, in previous readings on quantum physics, been troubled by the use of classical terms (e.g. spin" ) to label features of the quantum realm, I was rather taken by Gribbin's suggestion that use of the language of Carroll's Jabberwocky would be equally valid.

This book also gives one of the clearest explanations of the differences between the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and the many worlds version. In an incredibly simplistic nutshell, the former suggests that the universe sits on a sea of probability waves which collapse to certainty when observed, while the latter postulates that the universe splits every time a quantum "decision" is taken.

The end of the book, which contains sections referring to developments since the mid-80s, is both tantalising and returns to the main weakness. I wanted to know more about quantum computing, or about why the apparent study of the massive, cosmology, can be viewed as the forefront of the study of the subatomic quantum domain.

To finish, if you read this book, you should be able to follow this marvellous joke.

Schrodinger and Heisenberg are stopped by a traffic cop.

Police Officer: Do you know how fast you were travelling sir?
Heisenberg: No, officer
PO: 90 mph, sir
H: Great, now we're lost
PO: and did you know you have a dead cat in the boot
Schrodinger: We do now.
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on 12 August 2017
What a great book - does justice to the great minds involved in the transition from classical theory to quantum mechanics and explains the basics for those without the terrific intellect of the book's subjects. I did have to keep flipping back to re-read a couple of sections, but it's accessible, well written, and will come out again in the winter for a re-read.
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on 21 January 2016
In Search of Schrodinger's Cat walks the reader through the development of quantum mechanics starting in the early 1900's and up to today. The book starts with the historical attempts to describe light as either a particle or a wave and eventually leading to Bohr’s basic atom model for hydrogen.

The birth of quantum mechanics is eventually found with the famous double-slit experiment in which both particle and wave behaviour are found in light. At this point, various physicists begin attempting to create frameworks to describe quantum mechanics up until the 1980s.

The book introduces many of the concepts of quantum mechanics in a logical order ignoring much but not all of the mathematics behind the theories. Though the book claims to bring every reader to a clear understanding of quantum mechanics, a background in physics and maths is recommendable (around A level skill).

The book gives an idea of what quantum mechanics is about, which can be built upon further. Much of the concepts are well described, but some ideas are only lightly touched and somewhat unclear. Overall a nice introduction to quantum mechanics.

For those interested in further developing their knowledge, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum is a great place to proceed, where the reader can approach the field mathematically and actually apply the ideas.
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on 4 August 2016
A nice read actually. Not a bad first book to read if you want to cover the topic quickly, it covers a lot of ground in fewer pages than most books. A nice chronological walk through history telling the story of the Quantum world. First published a couple of decades ago so does not cover recent thinking and observations. Not as detailed in terms of explanation as some books, but if you are still hoping to spot the hole in the whole theory like me, it gives you hope highlighting how even the most brilliant minds were blind to what seemed like the obvious, after the fact due to preconceptions and just plain alien concepts at each point in history.
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on 14 April 2018
If one is serious about some basic grasp of quantum mechanics, this is an excellent publication. Not easy to read; occasionally requiring revision; often requiring careful re-reading to ensure nothing is missed. Now a treasure on my library shelves.
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on 9 December 2017
I love this stuff, but it gets a bit difficult the further you get through it, but I just know I need to try. If it was easy everybody would easily know it, BUT most people are not interested. I just need to try at least.
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on 25 March 2013
I don't think anyone who doesn't have an advanced knowledge of physics could read this book without finding it a mental challenge, yet it maintains the reader's interest throughout.

As a non-physicist with a scientific bent, I found Gribbin' s writing style sufficiently informal that I wasn't turned off, yet just detailed enough to make me feel that I was learning something, a neat trick! It would be easy to write a book on this subject and make it too simplistic, or completely impenetrable. In this sense, this book is a complete success.

Personally my mind was blown by the most recent appendix about quantum computing, something I plan to read more about now.
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on 19 June 2016
One of my favourite reads in Science for some time. I find John Gribbin not only knows his subject well but he also has quite a talent for disseminating it to a wider audience.
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on 16 March 2017
Descriptive. Not technical ideal for laymen outside looking in.
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