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The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments Hardcover – April 15, 2011

51 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199566846 ISBN-10: 0199566844 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "The reality of scientific endeavour is profoundly messy, often illogical, deeply emotional, and driven by the individual personalities involved...," writes Baggott, and his wonderful history of the scientists and ideas behind quantum mechanics offers ample entertaining proof. Science writer Baggott (A Beginner's Guide to Reality) tells the tumultuous story through 40 key events, beginning at the start of the 20th century, when Lord Kelvin, a British physicist, announced that scientists now knew everything about how the world worked. That triumphalism soon disappeared with Einstein's groundbreaking papers on relativity, which upended that understanding and defined the battleground that would occupy physics for the next century. Baggott hits all the usual high points, from Niels Bohr's work on atomic structure to the "uneasy alliances" and outright battles between proponents of different theories. Baggott's narrative stands out for its parallel exploration of the tenacious, all-too-human side of things: Schrödinger's unorthodox sex life and his loathing of academia; Richard Feynman's intuitive problem solving with all its "enthusiastic handwaving." The basic history behind the quantum revolution is well-known, but no one has ever told it in quite such a compellingly human and thematically seamless way. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Apr.)
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"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. He also manages to get the people right. I know this because for many of the scenes he describes I was there."--Jeremy Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal


"The history is as complex and involved as the theory itself, and Jim Baggott's history-through-vignettes approach brings out a wealth of fascinating detail about the personalities, philosophies and rivalries that guided its course...there are many good moments to be had." - New Scientist


"The basic history behind the quantum revolution is well-known, but no one has ever told it in such a compellingly human and thematically seamless way." - Publishers Weekly


"...engrossing." - Booklist


"Baggot shines...Those with a jones for physics will not be disappointed...Quantum theory may deny us the possibility of properly comprehending physical reality, but Baggott's account is smart and consoling." - Kirkus Reviews


"An accessible and informative history" - Science


"Intellectually gratifying." --The Economist


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199566844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199566846
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.8 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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