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Quantum Leaps Hardcover – November 30, 2009

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674035416 ISBN-10: 0674035410 Edition: First Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bernstein, a former New Yorker staff writer and prolific popular-science author (Plutonium), embarks on an almost quixotic attempt to explain the mysteries of quantum mechanics. It's a daunting topic. The legendary nuclear physicist Niels Bohr once said, Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it. Bernstein seamlessly interweaves the story of his own growing fascination with quantum theory and the people who were influential in nurturing his career with the theoretical conundrums that abound in quantum theory. He also is very eclectic in the sources he draws on to explain some of the more remarkable aspects of quantum theory: the Dalai Lama, W.H. Auden and the plays of Tom Stoppard all provide relevant points of interest. The scientific explanations that comprise much of the book—the problems of measurement and entanglement, how particles of energy and matter can become predictably correlated over great distances—are earnest and, because of the nature of the topic, unavoidably difficult for the uninitiated. But this is a labor of love, and serious science readers will find it worthwhile. (Oct.)
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Review

Jeremy Bernstein is as good a writer as you can find among scientists. (Steven Weinberg)

Bernstein, a former New Yorker staff writer and prolific popular-science author, embarks on an almost quixotic attempt to explain the mysteries of quantum mechanics. It's a daunting topic. The legendary nuclear physicist Niels Bohr once said, "Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it." Bernstein seamlessly interweaves the story of his own growing fascination with quantum theory and the people who were influential in nurturing his career with the theoretical conundrums that abound in quantum theory. He also is very eclectic in the sources he draws on to explain some of the more remarkable aspects of quantum theory: the Dalai Lama, W. H. Auden and the plays of Tom Stoppard all provide relevant points of interest. The scientific explanations that comprise much of the book--the problems of measurement and entanglement, how particles of energy and matter can become predictably correlated over great distances--are earnest and, because of the nature of the topic, unavoidably difficult for the uninitiated. But this is a labor of love, and serious science readers will find it worthwhile. (Publishers Weekly 2009-08-03)

Former New Yorker science writer Jeremy Bernstein revisits his own encounters with the quantum world, first as a student at Harvard and then throughout his storied career, which features a cast of characters including W. H. Auden, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Tom Stoppard. Along the way, he discusses the strange intersections of quantum mechanics with Marxism and mysticism. This is an eclectic book by someone who understands the physics and has observed its cultural consequences first-hand. (Saswato R. Das New Scientist 2009-10-10)

No subject in recent memory has generated as much nonsense as the weird realm of quantum mechanics...The great science-writer Jeremy Bernstein provides a wonderful antidote in this lucid, witty book, which draws on his firsthand acquaintance with many of the principal players in the development of quantum theory. (John Wilson Christianity Today 2009-09-01)

[Bernstein's] exposition of the quantum conundrums is clear and bracing, and a stimulating challenge. Quantum Leaps is an intellectual curiosity, redolent of the strange mental landscape inhabited by the world's greatest intellects. (Peter Forbes The Independent 2010-01-07)

A physicist-turned-prolific-writer, [Bernstein] is among the most engaging and thoughtful of quantum explainers, and Quantum Leaps provides one of the best concise guides available to what the fuss is all about. (Tom Siegfried Science News 2009-12-05)

An engaging little book by a unique figure in science writing. (Robert Fulford National Post 2010-08-03)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition edition (October 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674035410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674035416
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,202,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Jogalekar VINE VOICE on October 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very few physicists have emphasized the human side of physics as well as Jeremy Bernstein. A veteran physicist and writer who has known many famous physicists of the twentieth century, Bernstein has penned highly readable portraits of Oppenheimer, Bethe and Einstein among others and has written books about nuclear weapons, quants on Wall Street, Bell Laboratories and the German atomic bomb project. In this book he explores the several ramifications of the strange proliferation of concepts from quantum mechanics into popular culture, theater, art, philosophy and cinema. Perhaps this proliferation is not surprising considering the bizarre implications of the actual meaning of quantum theory, but as Bernstein indicates, non-physicists have extended the reach of quantum concepts far beyond what the scientific creators of the theory would have intended.

Bernstein takes us through a diverse variety of topics and characters. He describes the Dalai Lama's writings in which he draws parallels between Buddhism and quantum theory, and this gives him an opportunity to talk about two central characters in the book, physicists John Bell and David Bohm who the Dalai Lama knew and who played crucial roles in the development of the interpretative parts of the discipline. Bernstein describes the famous conflict between Einstein and Bohr about the meaning of quantum theory and explains Bell's groundbreaking contributions that argued against Einstein's belief that quantum mechanics might be governed by some kind of "hidden variables" which we have to discover; Bell showed that any such hidden variable theory would have to involve superluminal communication and would be at odds with the theory of relativity.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If one had to identify the basic theme of this book, one could say that it deals with the thoughts of people from varying backgrounds/professions on quantum theory and its implications. The author takes "quantum leaps" from one quantum sub-topic to another, all centering on these people's views on quantum theory: playwrights, authors (of novels, of new age books, etc.), artists, religious leaders (e.g., Dalai Lama), as well as the views of eminent physicists. The scientific explanations that are given throughout are generally quite clear, often including useful analogies. But, despite the fact that the book contains several discussions on various quantum phenomena, someone wanting to learn the basics of quantum theory should really look elsewhere. In addition to the science, the book also contains a fascinating agglomeration of snippets from the life of the author, including his interactions with some of the greatest luminaries in this field, as well as others. The writing style is clear, friendly, authoritative, relatively accessible and often quite captivating. Although anyone can read this book and learn quite a bit, it would likely be enjoyed the most by science buffs, especially those with a physics background, as well as those interested in the history of science.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Cmac on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a personal walk through the early days of the Quantum Physics pioneers, so for those interested in the history of QP it is interesting but for those of us trying to grasp the incredible implications of QP, it is dry going.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Wayne Dworsky on November 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Endowed with a rich writing tone, Jeremy Bernstein takes the reader on a ride to existentialism. The work is as much a scientific reflection as it is a book of mysticism. Jeremy Bernstein sees the world, from the vantage point of Quantum Theory, through the eyes of those whose research evoke such images as the CERN Collider (See my review, Collider by Paul Halpern.) and the Dalai Lama. He quotes big names extracting colossal ideas, leaving the reader with a larger number of questions than when he started.

The elusive titles of his chapters stimulate the imagination to surrender its doodles, which, in turn, take us to the exhilarating edge of original thinking. The author gives us a sense of the origins and ongoing debates that Quantum Mechanics has stirred in the Twentieth Century.

Be prepared to reflect often on the issues raised in this volume and the possibility that you will reread the book.
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