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on April 7, 2011
A delicious book for anybody who loves science and especially physics. The story of the most absurd, funny, incomprehensible theory we have, and still the most effective and powerful of all physical theories: quantum mechanics. A theory that truly shows how reality is different from the common idea we have about it. The story is told in a lively and capturing way, via 40 shorts key "moments", when the theory has been glimpsed, conceived, understood, tested, questioned and applied, by an extraordinary sequence of characters from Planck and Einstein, via Feynman, until our days. Each such "moment" is a lively, very readable, very simple, very human portrait of a crucial step ahead in the modern understanding of the strange and deep structure of reality. The beauty of the book is that it concedes little or nothing to wild unproven speculations or dreams about "what the world might be". It is established physics, and still it is more strange and magic than many current fashionable speculations. At the end, one feels as having understood contemporary physics better than from a textbook or a standard popular science account. A book to be read in a night, or sip bit by bit, one short chapter after the other. A pleasure for intelligence and an extraordinary description of how science actually works.
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on August 8, 2011
This appears by all accounts a thoroughly well researched work. But, it is tough going. If you don't have a grasp of mathematics, this can, in some places, bog you down. But if you have more than just a passing interest in quantum physics, then this should not be a discouragement, as there is much in this book that can be entertaining and enlightening. Particularly if you are interested in the historical development of this area of science.

The Kindle version is well laid out with 'clickable' footnotes.

As someone who is not mathematically inclined but interested in the physical (and not so physical) make-up of our world, this has been a good find.
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on June 28, 2011
Jim Baggott is taking on a path well travelled in this recounting of the quantum story. His mode of travel works well, concentrate on the human element, stretch the reader with the technical details and don't oversimplify.

You don't get a Guernsey telling this kind of history without really knowing your stuff, and Baggott shows that he does. For the early chapters, the explanations of quantum theory are as good as any I have read - De Broglie's dual wave-particle hypothesis, Heisenberg's matrix mechanics and Born's rationalisation of the wave function are stand-outs. The shadow of Einstein falls over all players and debate, and Baggott's explanations of the gedankenexperiments of Einstein and others enrich the story.

Baggott's rendition of the middle era of quantum theory after WWII gets a little turgid, with many layers of detail hanging a little limply without more mathematical backbone. The evolution and testing of the Standard Model was laborious in real life, so I guess the story needs to impart some of that. Again, Baggott really knows his stuff so, while this era is slow to wade through, I expect the index will provide the reader with a good reference to be reminded of an overview or context on specific points long after the back cover is closed. The modern era is well described and wide-ranging to help the reader see how topics such as string theory and supersymmetry have influenced modern quantum physics.

Baggott's writing is crisp and his insights and anecdotes are told, or retold, in a fresh style. It's a long story and worth the investment.
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on April 16, 2011
Here are excerpts from Jeremy Bernstein's book review in the Wall Street Journal:

'I have never come across a book quite like Jim Baggott's "The Quantum Story." He has done something that I would have thought impossible in a popular book. He manages to present the full ambit of the theory, starting with the introduction of the quantum--the basic unit of energy--by the German physicist Max Planck in the beginning of the 20th century, and ending with the search for the Higgs particle at the collider at CERN in Geneva. In doing this Mr. Baggott navigates successfully between the Scylla of mathematical rigor and the Charybdis of popular nonsense.'

...

'I very much liked "The Quantum Story," but I have a word of caution. It is not easy to read. The problem is not the mathematics. There is almost none. The problem is that physics is hard. Quantum mechanics is hard. Like a good wine, you cannot take this book in gulps. Take it in sips. It is well worth it.'
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on July 3, 2011
An excellent history of quantum physics presented in 40 concise, interesting chapters--from Max Planck developing the physical constant that carries his name in 1900 to today's superstring theory and high-energy particle colliders. While the science and math are presented in a manner that is understandable for most with college-level math and physics, once the book progressed beyond the Standard Model of particle physics (chapter 29), I was only grasping the concepts. However, the history was what really interests me, and the book delivered all I expected and more. The combined cooperation and competition between some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century is fascinating, as is the interplay and interdependence between the theoretical and experimental physicists. As someone who works in software technology and has some capacity for abstract thought, I am in awe of the minds that conceived the subatomic structure of our universe.
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on August 12, 2011
The Quantum Story gives a very fine historic view on the development of quantum theory from Maxwells electrodynamic theory and Einsteins theories of relativity and gives a good reason for the need of a new theory uniting the both. We follow the advances of Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, de Broglie et al. in a logical advancing story and get some glimpses of the personalities and the struggle between them that leads to the final theory. Later in the book we get insight in the development of the standardmodel and how physics becomes a work of teams instead of single persons, mainly due to the advanced apparatus needed to push the frontiers of knowledge.
The book has a good balance between storytelling and explanations of the physics involved.
I highly recommend the book for all with an interest in the subject.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 6, 2015
This book relates the historical development of quantum mechanics, and should serve as a useful adjunct to quantum mechanics textbooks. I liked this book a lot and highly recommend it to physicists and students of physics, both those taking university courses and those seriously studying on their own. However, I do not recommend the book for those with only a very limited knowledge of physics, because while no equations are presented the book is replete with somewhat in depth discussions of some of the finer points of the subject, particularly with regards to the interpretation of the Schrodinger wave equation, the meaning of the uncertainty principal and on the EPR experiment. All this is best illustrated by discussing what is in this book.

What is in the book –
The book discusses the development of quantum mechanics from 1900 to 2010, as depicted by 40 “moments”- critical junctures in time. These 40 moments are divided into seven parts, as follows:

Part I – Quantum of Action. This part details the origin of the idea of quanta, first developed by Max Planck in 1900. It goes on to Einstein’s application of Planck’s ideas and to additional developments, up to 1925, including the work of Heisenberg, deBroglie and Schrodinger. I found this to be a very entertaining and informative part or the book as it mixes basic ideas of physics with a bit of the biographies of the men who development them. This approach is carried out throughout the book, with some biographical information accompanying the physics discussions.

Part II – Quantum Interpretations. This part of the book discusses the various interpretations of the meaning of quantum mechanics and the controversies that developed, covering the period of 1925-27.

Part III – Quantum Debate – This part of the book further amplifies the debate about the meaning of quantum mechanics during the period of 1927-47. It focuses on Einstein’s reservations and his EPR thought experiment that sought to show that quantum mechanics, as it was formulated, was incomplete.

Part IV – Quantum Fields – This part of the book, covering the period of 1947-67, focuses on the development of quantum field theory and quantum electro-dynamics. I liked the development of Feynman’s approach and how it compared to that of Schwinger and Tomonaga. It also goes into the beginnings of the development of the quark model.

Part V – Quantum Particles – This section deals with the development of the standard model, covering 1968-2003. I found this and the preceding sections to be the most difficult when they delved into the ideas of group theory. Part IV contains a good description of the relation of symmetry to basic conservation laws, but then the author jumps to group theory and then to its application to particle physics, but without explaining very much about group theory and even less about how it is applied to the problems of describing the interior of the atom and the interior of protons, neutrons and of the particles that are observed in accelerator experiments, some of which are also found in nature due to cosmic ray collisions.

Part VI – Quantum Reality – I found the discussions of Bell’s theorem and Bell’s inequality to be excellent. I learned that there are many version of the experiments meant to investigate this inequality and determine if “reality” is local or non-local, and that there are newer types of expressions of the sort that Bell developed that are being tested. This part of the book covers the period of 1951- 2006.

Part VII – Quantum Cosmology – This part of the book deals with quantum mechanics, its application to cosmology (especially through the work of Hawking) and to attempts to develop a theory that encompasses both gravity and the standard model for particle physics. This part of the book covers these subjects from 1966-2000. There is also a brief epilogue that discusses the search for the Higgs particle up to 2010.
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VINE VOICEon September 24, 2015
By looking at quantum physics through the eyes of the scientists confronting it, this book does an excellent job of teasing out the counter-intuitive nature of the discipline. Starting at the very beginning with the experimental anomalies that indicated flaws in Newtonian physics, it goes through Bohr's primitive model of the atom, through Pauli's exclusion principle telling us why electron orbits "fit" the way they do, through the creation of the concept of a wave function and its meaning, the first half will help you see the conceptual challenges faced by early quantum physicists and how they solved them. Along the way, you'll hopefully pick up some of that understanding too.

The second half wasn't as compelling to me, though it was still good. It covers the rise of experimental particle physics, and how that led to our current Standard Model. The best part of the second half is the coverage of the research around Bell's inequality and how it makes "hidden variable" quantum theories untenable.

If you're really uncomfortable with math concepts, you'll struggle with some of the explanations. But if you made it through first year calculus without too much grief, you'll be fine.
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on November 2, 2015
Excellent review featuring information about the personalities and lives of the character's and their contribution to the development of the flawed Quantum Mechanical description of atomic structure. I very much have been enjoying listening to the audio version while on road trips. Really helped cement my own concerns about the underlying principles that form the basic understanding of atomic structure and energy levels of electrons. Great writing that doesn't distract at all from the story telling. JB left out his own bias while writing about the history for the most part so you feel like you are really learning about the history and not a jaded version of it. Thanks for an excellent read! I suggest also reading Walter Isaacson's biography on Einstein before reading this accounting.
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on August 1, 2015
I got a B+ in quantum physics at college by memorizing what I needed to know to pass the tests. I never understood any of it until I read this book. It is a very readable history of the progress that has been made by some extremely gifted people to understand how the physical world works. The book explains what those physicists, whose names we all recognize, did to make themselves famous. The achievements of Einstein, Bohr, Schroedinger, Hawkings and many others are detailed in this imminently readable narrative that left me in awe of what they have accomplished. Although the text can get a little complicated in parts where quantum concepts are explained, it is (with just a little extra effort) understandable by a normal person who doesn't wear a caped suit with a big "S" on their chest. This is a great book for anyone that wants to have a better understanding of the weirdness of quantum physics and the true geniuses that figured it out.
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