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The Quantum World (Princeton Science Library) Paperback – January 21, 1986

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691023885 ISBN-10: 0691023883 Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[Polkinghorne] offers much insight in this thoroughly delightful little book into the nature of the conceptual problems at the heart of the twentieth century's most successful theory. . . . I wholeheartedly recommend The Quantum World. . . ."--Tony Hey, New Scientist

"A delightful book, written at a popular level but without any misleading over-simplification."--Roger Penrose, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"The author's life as well as his oeuvre, especially this lovely little book, bear testimony to the fact that . . . science and nature can coexist in harmonious complementarity."--Abraham Pais, Nature
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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Science Library
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691023883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691023885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is one of the finest introductory physics books I've ever read on the theory of quantum mechanics. It has everything that one needs to get started: a clear & concise mapping of all the essential evidence and ideas that lead implicitly to quantum theory. Many other authors do much the same thing, in their own ways, but The Quantum World does so with a directness that makes the entire work brief & to the point such that the entire book is readable and understandable in only an afternoon of pleasant reading, without gaping holes left to be filled in later. It is also is the only popular work I've ever read that makes plain the role of what are called "operators" in the formal mathematics of the theory, making this book quite unique and indispensible.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on April 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
"It is not possible in a modest book like this to clarify everything," says Polkinghorne. Although this may be an obvious truism, his modest book is a little dynamo. In this wonderfully concise exposé, Polkinghorne reveals the fundamental tenets of quantum physics. Roger Penrose called this "a delightful book written at a popular level but without any misleading over-simplification." Excellent popularizations from Hawking, Penrose, Davies, and others, followed in the wake of this 1984 volume. These subsequent books generally aspire to a broader focus (i.e., they include discussions of classical physics, cosmology, and metaphysics, topics which Polkinghorne barely touches upon) and to a broader readership. TQW features smaller type (8.5 or 9 pt), less leading/spacing, and few illustrations, making it seem relatively small, however it will take about as long to read as Hawking's Brief History of Time.
Polkinghorne learned quantum theory "straight from the horses mouth, so to speak", which is to say from Paul Dirac, and if you only read a few books on quantum mechanics, this should be one of them. (I will go so far as to say if you only read one it should be this one, but if the reader has no previous foundation in the topic, this volume may be rather tough to digest.) The explanation of the superposition principle is presented with economy and as much clarity as can be brought to such an esotericism. Even if you've no previous knowledge of quantum superpositioning, Polkinghorne will equip you to startle your classically minded friends with Schrödinger's fabled dead/alive cat paradox.
The discussion of the problems with each of the interpretations that have been suggested for quantum theory is very good, as direct and studied as any you will likely find...
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Joe Kolecki on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Quantum World" is a tour-de-force in miniature. Beginning with "Perplexities", and following a brilliant, step by step development, it carries the reader along on a current of thought that inevitably leads to a clear understanding of the fundamentals of Quantum Mechanics and their significance to modern thought in physics. Seldom have I seen mathematical concepts dealt with in a language-only format which renders those concepts so tangible. Dr. Polkinghorne recognizes that his readers are most likely NOT mathematically sophisticated; yet, he does not render Quantum Mechanics in allegorical terms which may tend to be misleading, but carefully describes the nature of mathematical thought, and shows how it is used in formulating and using the theory itself. He also provides rare and extremely valuable insight into the provisional nature of a scientific theory. This book is a priceless gem amidst the voluminous popular literature on physics. I highly recommend it.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There is little argument that quantum mechanics is currently the strangest theory of the physical world. It is hard to conceive of any idea that is more counter to our normal experience. This makes it very difficult to write an effective popular explanation of the principles of quantum mechanics. Polkinghorne almost succeeds in this, but that is not a criticism. Unlike others, he includes equations when they are necessary.
In my opinion, it is not possible to adequately explain quantum mechanics without using an occasional equation. Therefore, I found the explanations in this book better than those in other books that avoid equations like they were coated with a toxic substance.
There is also a bit of occasional humor in the book. The author was a professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge until he resigned to become an ordained priest. That combination certainly makes for a different perspective on quantum mechanics, what many have called the human view into the mind of god. If you are interested in learning the principles of quantum mechanics and do not cringe when you face an equation, then this book will work for you.
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The Quantum World (Princeton Science Library)
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