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Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation Hardcover – October 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Light is the research focus of Zeilinger, a physicist in Austria who studies photons’ ghostly quantum behavior. Here Zeilinger introduces the fictional Dr. Quantinger, who assigns two students to experiment on an apparatus that sends photons to separate detectors that they observe. Alice and Bob periodically report their findings, proffer theories to account for the results, listen raptly to Dr. Quantinger’s hints about quantum states of light, such as entanglement and polarity, then repair to their detectors to watch more photons. Sometimes Zeilinger suspends this fictional device to address readers directly about the quality of entanglement––the property of pairs of particles, no matter how far separated, whether by the Danube in Alice and Bob’s case or by light-years of space, to “know” the quantum state of its partner. This faster-than-light talent of quantum particles bothered Einstein but excites Zeilinger, who describes the technologies that entanglement could in principle permit, such as quantum computers or quantum teleportation. An innovative presenter of a complicated topic, Zeilinger will appeal to the futurists of the science set. --Gilbert Taylor


Those seeking an accessible popular account of this fascinating field will find their search over . . . Taking some of the most complex ideas from cutting-edge science, Zeilinger provides simple and clear explanations that in no way compromise the fundamental concepts. (Jeremy L. O'Brian, Science)

From the sewers under Vienna to a whirlwind tour of the great physicists of the twentieth century and their wild ideas, this is a marvelous introduction to the world of quantum physics by one of the most accomplished experimenters working in the field today. Zeilinger takes the reader on a very personal journey while providing a remarkably clear and cogent discussion of the mind-bending world of quantum mechanics and its potential to change the future of technology. (Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and author of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science)

Anton Zeilinger's Dance of the Photons is a delight. The explanations of some of the most subtle and unexpected effects of quantum physics are provided in terms of beautifully simple and charming everyday settings. The true flavor of quantum mechanics is here made accessible, without pain but with considerable good humor. (Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University, and author, most recently, of The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe)

For more than eighty years the bizarre features of the description of nature at the atomic level given by quantum mechanics have puzzled and fascinated the physics community, but it is only in recent years that many of these features have been verified by experiment. This delightful little book, by one of the world's leading practitioners in this area, explains these recent advances in a way that should be accessible even to readers with no physics background. (Anthony J. Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois, and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics)

Anton Zeilinger has done more than anyone to unfold the quantum world by fashioning amazing experiments that have allowed nature to speak to us in her own native quantum language. In this clearly and elegantly written book he takes the reader on the journey he and his colleagues have traveled in their interrogations of the quantum world. Along the way he introduces us to the new concept of quantum information and explains its promise to revolutionize how we communicate and compute. (Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics)

Anton Zeilinger's exposition of this puzzling subject is clear and vivid, and backed by a voice of authority that could only come from his being a leading experimenter in the field. (A. Zee, author of Fearful Symmetry, Einstein's Universe, and Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374239665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374239664
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 74 people found the following review helpful By A techno geek on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hate Alice. I hate Bob. Reading this book is maddening. I just want to get a clear description of the phenomena of entanglement. I figured you can't do any better than read it author Anton Zeilinger, the world's greatest authority on quantum entanglement experiments. But the text is ensnared and enmeshed in endless dumbing down in this book. It is as though one bought a book, "The Workings of a Lamborghini" written by Lamborghini himself, and it describes driving to the beach, and driving to the mountain top, and getting gas, and changing the oil, and watching the speedometer, but you never get to see the pistons, crank, chain, hydraulics, etc. --- there is no math nor attempt to describe how entanglement looks and works mathematically. There are other "equation free" physics books that manage nevertheless to describe their mathematical "engines" quite concretely, also written by preeminent physicists --- The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, and its antiparticle, The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next.

Trying to pick up physics from physics books and papers (and even physicists!) can be very frustrating because they tend to be complacent and content to stay within physics jargon, and not translate it to the basic mathematical objects that they are in fact talking about. In mathematics one also runs into multi-story jargon, for example in algebraic geometry, which makes it very difficult to learn.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A parent on November 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am an engineer, not a physicist, but I have been following the topic of quantum mechanics (and what it all means) from afar since my college days (when John A. Wheeler was my Physics 101 professor).

I would highly recommend the book to those who have a strong background in science. For me it answered the question of what the heck is "Bell's Inequality". And it is an excellent introduction to the notions of "quantum computers" and teleportation.

For those who have read other popularized works on quantum mechanics (and like me) were still as confused after having read them, this book is a bittersweet experience. It does give one an excellent introduction to the sometimes counterintuitive nature of quantum uncertainty; nevertheless, I felt that there are some issues that need to be addressed:

1. The author overcommits himself to the idea that "Quantum Theory" is THE theory of our reality. Is it not possible that a thousand years from now, quantum theory and our interpretation of it will be regarded as laughably simplistic... or even downright erroneous? We already made that mistake with Newtonian mechanics; let's not make the same mistake again. I am inclined to agree with Thomas Edison's statement, to the effect that "We don't know even one percent about... anything!"

2. The author overcommits himself to the idea that somehow we (as observers) are intrinsically involved with the real world... to the extent that the real world is somehow dependent on our observations of it! Very important humans, we are! The author even goes as far as considering seriously the question of whether the moon exists if we don't look at it ("you can't prove the contrary"). Well, re-a-ll-y, it all depends what you mean by "prove".
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By R. E. Jodoin on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anton Zeilinger is one the rare scientists who is an expert in his field and can communicate with a general audience. My specialty as a physicist is quantum optics, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I know the subject in more mathematical detail and have actually done entanglement experiments. If you want a good solid conceptual understanding of an exciting area of current research, I would highly recommend this book.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By William Gronos on June 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What WAS the author THINKING when he wrote the book in this manner??? Here's what the dust jacket says:

"Zeilinger, winner of the prestigious Wolf Foundation Prize in Physics for 2010, tells the story of his life's work in a lively, accessible style, relying on simple cartoons, folksy anecdotes, and an engaging sense of humor..."

He wants to explain quantum entanglement using a fictional story. His "story" of Bob, Alice and John is neither engaging nor funny. It adds nothing to the content and subtracts a lot - mostly time stolen from your life. Here is a typical passage:

"That idea is wrong?" Bob asks. "How could it be wrong?"

"Well," John answers, "you have to find that out by yourselves, because I have to rush off to meet Professor Quantinger. He gave me an appointment to talk about my Ph.D. dissertation. And, by the way, the EPR story is not finished yet."

Bob shouts after John, "You can't leave us like this!"

John, over his shoulder, shouts back, "You'll find out! Just think carefully about all the measurements you have done so far. They will allow you to see why your own model is wrong."

And around the corner he disappears.

Alice looks at Bob. Bob looks at Alice. They scratch their heads. Neither of them has any idea how to proceed, and there is no point it going back to the laboratories, since John has told them that they already have all the data they need. They go to get a cup of coffee and sit down together with all the data.
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