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101 Quantum Questions: What You Need to Know About the World You Can't See Hardcover – April 30, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050990
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this entertaining and comprehensive overview, Ford (coauthor of The Quantum World), former director of the American Institute of Physics, manages to encapsulate modern physics while illuminating rather than befuddling the lay reader. Starting with the introductory "What is the quantum, anyway?" and ending with the amusingly unanswerable "How come the quantum?" (asked by his mentor, who attempted to answer the question by writing a poem that ends, How could we have been so stupid / for so long?) Ford explains the essential concepts of quantum reality, our small-fast world, full of uncertainty and probability, where all matter can exist in more than one state simultaneously. Ford brings interesting and entertaining anecdotal and historical material into his answers, organizing and shaping his book around 15 subjects. By using humor and straight talk to answer questions that often bedevil the non-scientist who attempts to grasp this knotty subject, Ford has created an entertaining read and an excellent companion piece to more detailed popular treatments of modern physics. 104 illustrations, nine tables, two appendices.

Review

In this entertaining and comprehensive overview, Ford, former director of the American Institute of Physics, manages to encapsulate modern physics while illuminating rather than befuddling the lay reader...By using humor and straight talk to answer questions that often bedevil the non-scientist who attempts to grasp this knotty subject, Ford has created an entertaining read and an excellent companion piece to more detailed popular treatments of modern physics. (Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2011-02-07)

Kenneth Ford's question-and-answer-style guide to the weirdness of the quantum realm is a clear and handy reference. Ford's easy-going prose will help you feel right at home at nature's tiniest and most counterintuitive scale. (Amanda Gefter New Scientist 2011-03-12)

Among the slew of books published in the last several decades aiming to explain modern physics to the public, this work is surely one of the best. (Jack W. Weigel Library Journal (starred review) 2011-03-15)

This work provides the means for a lay reader to gain a basic understanding of much of the technical language and jargon that filters into popular accounts of quantum physics. (D. B. Moss Choice 2011-09-01)

More About the Author

I am a physicist-turned-writer, retired from the American Institute of Physics and from a career that included teaching at both university and high-school levels. My most recent books on physics are The Quantum World (paperback in 2005) and 101 Quantum Questions (2011, paperback in 2012). I have also written about my lifetime passion of flying light planes and gliders in a memoir, In Love with Flying (2007; see www.HBarPress.com/). I live with my wife Joanne in Philadelphia, and devote some time to online tutoring.

Customer Reviews

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Fantastic indepth coverage of very broad topics in quantum physics.
Fred
If you don't have an advanced degree in physics but are hungry for some understanding of quantum mechanics, I heartily recommend this book.
Taverndweller
This book clearly explains the major aspects of particle physics in a manner that is easily understood by the layperson.
H-Bar

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Neil G. Matthews on May 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There is an insightful footnote near the end of this book regarding understanding quantum physics which would have made an excellent introduction: "Feynmann reassured his students and readers that it is alright if they didn't understand it [quantum physics] either. And Niels Bohr reportedly said that if your head doesn't swim when you think about quantum physics, you aren't understanding it." So while your head may occasionally swim as you read this book, rest assured that you are in good company! That said, given quantum physics phenomena are often so weird when compared to our every day experiences, the author does an excellent job in making the world of the very small understandable in an interesting and engaging manner. The boundary of classical and quantum physics is well explained, with one chapter specifically covering the role of quantum physics in modern technology, showing how it underlies our every day personal experiences in so many ways that we just take for granted.

Reading this book will give you a great insight into why chemistry, nuclear physics, electricity, light, and many more aspects of our physical world we encounter daily work the way they do. If you have studied physics or chemistry into the final years of high school and enjoyed them, you should find this book a pleasure to read. While the book is aimed at the layman, be prepared to encounter formulae fairly frequently, but be reassured, these are carefully introduced and explained and do enhance your understanding of the topic.

The questions are grouped into 15 chapters exploring different aspects of quantum physics with individual questions answered in anything from a paragraph to several pages.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By William Gronos on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
After reading more than half a dozen books on physics and quantum mechanics, this book cleared up a lot of areas. It has the best explanations I've ever read and I now understand things not cleared up before.

Among the other books I've read in this area:

The God particle: if the universe is the answer, what is the question?, by Leon Lederman
The mystery of the missing antimatter, by Helen R. Quinn
QED: the strange theory of light and matter by Feynman
Quantum man: Richard Feynman's life in science by Lawrence Krauss
The strangest man: the hidden life of Paul Dirac, mystic of the atom by Graham Farmelo
Six easy pieces: essentials of physics explained by its most brilliant teacher by Feynman
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Taverndweller on September 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many illustrations are missing in the Kindle edition. In their place is the following instruction: "[To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.]" Harvard University Press and Amazon, refer to "rip off" in the dictionary.

UPDATE: Dr. Ford, the author, contacted me, and I can see he has commented here. I think he is a real class act, I look forward to the forthcoming edition with full illustrations, and I'm pleased that I can review the work rather than the shortcomings of the format.

If you don't have an advanced degree in physics but are hungry for some understanding of quantum mechanics, I heartily recommend this book. I also liked his "The QuantumWorld" but would favor the current title for beginners.

Thank you, Dr. Ford!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By a reader on December 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Unlike most science survey books that try to avoid scaring off lay readers by omitting formulas, this one conveys a lot of up-to-date science.

The question format is much more effective than typical section headings for pointing to the core of material to be discussed. This format and occasional cross-referencing facilitate quicker access for readers too impatient to read from start to finish.

Even for readers with some physics training, the thoughtful discussions raise interesting subtleties and inspire curiosity. Even the (almost mandatory?) historical coverage contains interesting surprises.

The authors' teaching experience with a wide variety of students shows in this book - it should be useful to a wide variety of readers!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Hoffman on October 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
But were afraid you wouldn't understand the answers if you asked.

If you have questions about quantum physics but have been looking for a book that will actually explain the subject, than look no farther. Kenneth W. Ford answers 101 questions about questions about the strange world of the very small. As a former director of the American Institute of Physics and one who has worked with many of the giants of twentieth and twenty-first physics, Ford has the knowledge and ability to explain the often difficult to understand and even seemingly nonsensical aspects of quantum physics.

The only fault with this book is that in the kindle edition, several of the illustrations are missing. These are largely photographs of scientists and for the most part, illustrations necessary for explanations. Other than this lack, 101 Quantum Questions is worth reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jim K on September 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best introductory text on quantum physics for lay readers. The text goes from 'soup to nuts' explaining quantum questions by analogy, examples and figures. The author introduces difficult concepts and then returns to them later to give a more detailed explanation (ex. superposition). The book ends with useful tables that summarize the properties of sub atomic particles.

Short bios with photos are given of some discoverers of quantum advances. Others are referenced in extensive footnotes.

Diligent reading of the book pays off in the last three chapters with explanations of technological applications using quantum techniques, reviewing some strange findings such as superconductivity and finally covering recent developments such as quantum computing and John Stewart Bell's contradiction of Einstein's EPR paper.
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