Most helpful positive review
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Risk-taker who rode the wave
on October 28, 2012
Aided by a strong technical understanding and a robust research team, Gribbin's expository texts are many and his experience commendable in explaining, anticipating possible barriers to comprehension, and putting theory into perspective. In this biography of Schrodinger, he covers many topics that he has treated previously. He even invites his readers to skip the chapter on wave mechanics if they have read In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. I didn't skip it because I was finding this book, built on the writing and feedback of many earlier books, compellingly comprehensible. His explanation (p 140) of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is as simple as I've read. The book has good Notes, Further Reading and an excellent Index.
No doubt Gribbin's vast library of expository work helped him identify the opportunity to pull together a biography of Schrodinger. Physics was the major part of Schrodinger's life and Gribbin gets it right. Gribbin also investigates Schrodinger's life and times. While he doesn't pull any punches detailing Schodinger's romantic affairs, poor decisions and their consequences, the analysis helps us understand the man and is never prurient. The upheaval of early twentieth century Europe created physical and mental turmoil for Schrodinger and Gribbin's historical commentary is direct and cogent. Schrodinger tended to have one eye on his career and another on the future security of his family. While not discounting the unusual, almost ridiculous, positions into which Schrodinger placed himself, Gribbin reconciles the physicist's motivations well. This is exemplified by Schrodinger's admirable, yet to his peers imponderable, public support of each his wife, lover and illegitimate child when living on British charity at Oxford, and also by his very European views of career options in the Americas. Nevertheless, as William McRae remarked to Gribbin, "Schrodinger had a singular talent for taking risks."
In assessing Schrodinger's excursion into biology with his book What is Life, Gribbin notes "that what is good in the book is not original, and that what is original in the book is not good". Dry humour aside, Gribbin shows how Schrodinger inspired a generation of biologists: quoting Francis Crick "he certainly made it seem as if great things were just around the corner" which, for Crick, they were.
Gribbin concludes in Schrodinger-like style, introducing the physicist's scientific legacy with very up-to-date accounts of testing quantum entanglement, quantum cryptography, quantum teleportation and quantum computing. A post-note introduces a new character, allowing another dig at the Copenhagen Interpretation, but more importantly realising two of Schrodinger's lifelong wishes, one of which was the connectedness of all reality.