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The Age of Entanglement [Kindle Edition]

Louisa Gilder
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In The Age of Entanglement, Louisa Gilder brings to life one of the pivotal debates in twentieth century physics. In 1935, Albert Einstein famously showed that, according to the quantum theory, separated particles could act as if intimately connected–a phenomenon which he derisively described as “spooky action at a distance.” In that same year, Erwin Schrödinger christened this correlation “entanglement.” Yet its existence was mostly ignored until 1964, when the Irish physicist John Bell demonstrated just how strange this entanglement really was. Drawing on the papers, letters, and memoirs of the twentieth century’s greatest physicists, Gilder both humanizes and dramatizes the story by employing the scientists’ own words in imagined face-to-face dialogues. The result is a richly illuminating exploration of one of the most exciting concepts of quantum physics.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The story of quantum mechanics and its lively cast of supporters, heretics and agnostics has always fascinated science historians and popular science readers. Gilder's version differs from the familiar tale in two important ways. First, by focusing on the problem of entanglement—the supposed telepathic connection between particles that a skeptical Einstein called spooky action-at-a-distance—Gilder includes more recent developments leading to quantum computing and quantum cryptography. Second, Gilder exercises—not wholly successfully—a daring creative license, drawing excerpts from papers, journals and letters to construct dialogues among the scientists. Science is rooted in conversations, Werner Heisenberg once wrote, and Gilder's created conversations reveal personalities as well as thought processes: Do you really believe the moon is not there if no one looks? asks Einstein. Less comfortable aspects of the era are also part of Gilder's story, the uncertainty and fear as one scientist after another fled Nazi Germany, the paranoia of the Manhattan Project and the McCarthy era. Gilder's history is rife with curious characters and dramatizes how difficult it was for even these brilliant scientists to grasp the paradigm-changing concepts of quantum science. 20 illus., 15 by the author. (Nov. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Captivating. . . . A movingly human and surprisingly accessible picture of the unveiling of the quantum universe. . . . Admirably lucid.” —Chicago Tribune

“A sparkling, original book. . . . Gilder brings the reader into a mix of ideas and personalities handled with a verve reminiscent of Jeremy Berstein’s scientific portraits in The New Yorker. . . . What had been for generations a story of theoretical malcontents now intrigues spooks and start-ups. All this radiates from Louisa Gilder’s story. Quantum physics lives.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Highly entertaining. . . . Hard to put down. . . . Grippingly readable. . . . Gilder is a fine storyteller who brings to life one of the great scientific adventures of our time.” —American Scientist

“[A] fascinating yarn. . . . For anyone who wants to understand the human angle of modern physics and separate quirks from quarks, this is your book.” —The Providence Journal (A Best Book of 2008)

“A witty, charming, and accurate account of the history of that bugaboo of physics–quantum entanglement . . . There are many books out there on the history or foundations of quantum mechanics.  Some are more technical, others more historical, but none take the unique approach that Gilder has–to focus on the quantum weirdness of entanglement itself as her book’s unifying them and to present it in an inviting and accessible way . . . Delightful.” —Science

“Astonishing. . . . The courage and even audacity of a nonscientist to investigate the evolution of ideas about the most esoteric aspects of quantum physics are truly remarkable. . . . Gilder is a phenomenal writer.” —Charleston Post & Courier

“A welcome addition to the genre. . . . [Gilder’s] book really shines . . . [She] proves that th...

Product Details

  • File Size: 1115 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001MYJ3BU
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,951 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Louisa Gilder's new book is about abstract science and the very real people who clash (and collaborate) over its truth and meaning. *The Age of Entanglement* is an old story with a new perspective, a dramatic new telling -- and a new ending. An ending that shows Einstein was right and launches quantum physics toward its next great chapter.

All the old characters are here -- Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger (who coined the word "entanglement"), Pauli, Born, Dirac, de Broglie, and of course Einstein, who thought "spooky action at a distance" was implausible yet found Bohr's entire quantum mechanical philosophy even less convincing. Unlike other tellings, however, Gilder vividly deploys their actual words from speeches, papers, letters, and memoirs to recreate the intense conversations and rancorous debates that toppled the Newtonian world. Our new understanding of entanglement, moreover, changes the very nature of the old quantum debates. Gilder's description of Schrödinger's epiphany that led to his wave equation is almost euphorically exciting and inspiring.

Despite the quantum revolution, big questions remained, questions that only Einstein, Schrödinger and few others had the courage to raise. And now enters the new cast -- Robert Oppenheimer, John von Neumann, David Bohm, Richard Feynman, and the particle smashing Irishman John Bell, who from the early 1960s through his untimely death in 1990 showed entanglement was real. Bell is perhaps the most-important-little-known physicist, and Gilder brings the late CERN engineer-theorist to life just as his work has become the most-cited in all of physics and is breaking out across the scientific and technological frontiers.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Ambitious; Not Enough Detail June 6, 2009
This book is a laudable effort at a popular account of one of the most remarkable and counterintuitive discoveries in modern science, the existence of entanglement. Gilder covers the development of quantum mechanics, the considerable disputes over its foundations and consequences, and the eventual discovery of non-locality and entanglement. A number of important figures, notably Bohr, Einstein, and Schrodinger figure prominently. Gilder focuses also on a number of lesser known figures, notably the theoretician David Bohm and several experimental physicists, and above all, the important theoretician JS Bell. Gilder develops her narrative with an unconventional and largely successful device. She reconstructs important events and particularly important conversations in an effort to present the history accurately and give it an accessible quality.

Gilder's story is essentially the difficulty of coming to terms of some of the counter-intuitive implications of quantum theory. She presents Einstein and some others, notably Louis DeBroglie and Schrodinger, as drawing attention to some of the challenges to conventional thinking inherent in quantum mechanics. In her reconstruction, efforts to draw attention to these problems were repulsed by the fuzzy orthodoxy of the doctrine of complementarity emanating from Bohr. Eventually, individuals like Bell would question this orthodoxy and produce theoretical treatments that expanded the truly strange implications of quantum mechanics and suggest possible experiments. In an irony that Gilder doesn't expand upon, Einstein's doubts eventually gave rise to research that confirmed the counter-intuitive properties that Einstein felt were likely to undermine quantum mechanics.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars age of entanglement: rebirth of quantum understanding? November 17, 2008
I thoughly enjoyed reading the carefully referenced "dialogs/conversations" Miss Gilder weaved together to create a novel like experience. I hope that people are not turned off by the "quantum physics" in the title. Miss Gilder does a wonderful job of following the ideas of quantum physics from it's beginnings with it's many false starts, to current understanding (or puzzled understanding- can this really be?)
I felt as though I was a fly on the wall, as the well-known, and not so well known, scientists had discussions, reasoned out ideas, lost some, regained others, and puzzled thier way though the seemingly impossible complex possiblities. She caught "science" as it realy happens. False leads, promising ideas that could not be tested, experiments with unexpected results, and personality conflicts between scientists. All the human elements that are lost in many nonfiction accounts of modern science. People tend to think of "science" as being a series of linear discoveries, when in reality the "connect the dots" is sometimes quite random, and connections come from unexpectted places/people.
Louisa Gilder's book is one such unexpected welcome find.
She not your usual science writter. Enjoy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Louisa Gilder's book "The Age of Entanglement" is a rather unique and thoroughly engrossing book which tells the story of quantum mechanics and especially the bizarre quantum phenomenon called entanglement through a unique device- recreations of conversations between famous physicists. Although Gilder does take considerable liberty in fictionalizing the conversations, they are based on real events and for the most part the device works. Gilder is especially skilled at describing the fascinating experiments done by recent physicists which validated entanglement. This part is usually not found in other treatments of the history of physics. Having said that, the book is more a work of popular history than popular science, and I thought that Gilder should have taken more pains to clearly describe the science behind the spooky phenomena.

Gilder's research seems quite exhaustive and well-referenced, which was why the following observation jumped out of the pages and bothered me even more.

On pg. 189, Gilder describes a paragraph from a very controversial and largely discredited book by Jerrold and Leona Schecter. The book which created a furor extensively quotes a Soviet KGB agent named Pavel Sudoplatov who claimed that, among others, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer were working for the Soviet Union and that Oppenheimer knew that Klaus Fuchs was a Soviet spy (who knew!). No evidence for these fantastic allegations has ever turned up. In spite of this, Gilder refers to the book and essentially quotes a Soviet handler named Merkulov who says that a KGB agent in California named Grigory Kheifets thought that Oppenheimer was willing to transmit secret information to the Soviets. Gilder says nothing more after this and moves on to a different topic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Husband requested this specific book after reading another physics book recommended it, but hasn't read it yet. Hope he likes it.
Published 7 months ago by Grace
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read throughout, with an intriguing grand finale...
This is my posting for the paper version, but I've got this wonderful book on my Kindle also...and I liked it enough to get if for my wife's reader also. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Elwin L. Wirkala
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, nontechnical introduction to conceptual problems of Quantum...
The first ~2/3 of the book is a history of the early development of quantum mechanics and the arguments among its founders over its interpretation. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't get bogged down...
This is a tough book to read. Read the comments before reading the book, or after having read the first half of the book.

1. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Bruce Oksol
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring!!!!!
Unless your life revolves around physics then I wouldn't choose this book for enjoyment. I had to buy it for a class.
Published 16 months ago by MHampton
4.0 out of 5 stars The drama of the interacting among the truth of the unverse seekers
The personalities of the brilliant minds who have been digging out the truth of the universe like a digging out shiney clams of the pristine sandy beach. Read more
Published 20 months ago by OOG
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvelous History of Modern Quantum Physics
Quantum physics is a fascinating, if difficult, subject that had the keenest minds in physics bewildered for over 100 years. Read more
Published on February 19, 2012 by David B Richman
4.0 out of 5 stars A non-scientist author's surprisingly detailed account of the...
Because non-scientist author Louisa Gilder has written this book for laymen, her treatment of this daunting and technical subject is necessarily incomplete. Read more
Published on February 12, 2012 by Ulfilas
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a Physics major but still...
I am not a Physics major and probably I am not the right person to review anything Physics related but I have to say that I love this book for the kind of insight it gives in the... Read more
Published on December 4, 2011 by Amanjeev S. Sethi
4.0 out of 5 stars Sum over all Quantum Histories
A lively and entertaining history of the development and extension of quantum theory where history definitely takes precedence over science. Read more
Published on September 7, 2011 by Terry A. Gray
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