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The Quantum Ten: A Story of Passion, Tragedy, Ambition, and Science 1st Edition

18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195369090
ISBN-10: 0195369092
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"An excellent introduction for readers who have little previous background information about the exciting story of the developments of quantum physics." -- Naomi Pasachoff for Metascience


"The Quantum Ten illuminates a neglected chapter in the history of physics, and Jones tells the story with enthusiasm and flair. Above all, she gives the reader a real feeling for the personalities behind the science, a look at the minds of 10 passionate thinkers who changed our world forever." -- The Globe and Mail


"Out of this human and historical stew came ideas that have thrown physics into a tizzy ever since, resulting in a field that even its most famous practitioners admit they don't understand, and in further explanations like string theory that nobody knows how to prove. Yet there is the tantalizing potential for eventual understanding that goes beyond physics to life, the universe and everything." -- North Coast Journal


"The eminently readable result brings to life characters like the caustic Wolfgang Pauli and the womanising Schrödinger." -- New Scientist


About the Author


Sheilla Jones is an award-winning Canadian journalist with an advanced degree in theoretical physics.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195369092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195369090
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By parmenides on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This interesting book provides a special view of quantum theory.
It provides an insight into the origins of the theory based on the personal
lives of its creators.

The book treats scientific activity as any other cultural activity
making clear that even the most "objective" of our mathematical theories
(like the theories of mathematical physics) ought to be seen as cultural
products within the social and political frame of their conception and
(perhaps more importantly) within the professional and financial strains
and aspirations of their creators. This is indeed the case from the beginning
of abstract mathematical thought in ancient Greece to this day.

There is no deep discussion of the mathematics/concepts of the theory and
an expert in the theory would certainly not become any wiser as to its
meaning. However, the greatest service provided by the text is a better
understanding of the shaky foundations of the theory that was conceived
as an effective model of reality as allowed by the mathematical capabilities
of that time and not at all as a "fundamental" theory as understood today.
The theory emerged as a recipe for understanding experiments with no
intrinsic limits on its applicability or relevance to other situations.

Young people interested in a realistic view of how real science is done
rather than idealized, fairy-tale treatments would find this text interesting.
Interesting but not captivating so four stars.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By white gold wielder on October 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I see a few other reviewers disliked this book, but I must strongly disagree.

It seems to me that there are many personalities left out of typical books on quantum history, for example Max Born and Pascal Jordan typically appear only as shadows on the side. I enjoyed reading about the German contribution - the so called Gottingen school - in all its detail.

Background biography on the various characters and how the mystery of quantum theory slowly and painfully unfolded is well done and enjoyable.

Careers were being molded as some characters can be seen trying to prove that they belong with the big boys, to land a respectable job. Others seemed almost desperate to shut out certain views and keep their own dominant. Personal lives and friendships became entangled in it all.

I'm not crazy about google searches, but one reviewer says "all this is within reach of someone searching online." I seriously doubt that so much detail actually is there, and even if it is, would someone actually sit down and do about 7,000 individual searches? How would they know *which* searches to do, not knowing beforehand all of the twists and turns of the actual history?
Surely, having it all the info already under one cover, and told in a coherent fashion makes far more sense, I think one must agree.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm Cameron on September 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Quantum Ten: A Story of Passion, Tragedy, Ambition and Science
by Sheila Jones

The "Quantum Ten" is a great idea. The topic is the dramatic revolution in physics, the story of quantum physics from 1925 - 27, related through ten chosen participants. This is the unsolved problem in physics of unifying the separate worlds of the classical and the quantum physics. It is told in a personal, behind the scenes, hard hitting, popular narrative.

But what to make of its implementation by author Sheilla Jones? Each chapter commences with a quote: the reader may hesitate at the first choice "Science ... is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is." OK but why is the comment necessary? By Chapter 3 the reader may actually object to "Very strange people, physicists - in my experience the ones who aren't dead are in some way very ill".

The Q10 are chosen from those attending the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927: Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, Paul Ehrenfest, Max Born, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli, Louis de Broglie, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac; plus Pascual Jordan who was not at the conference. A good choice; but judge the brief introductory persona for each. For example Neils Bohr is "An obsessive and pressured man, running his own physics institute in Copenhagen, raising a large family and getting left behind by the new mathematical physics." Bohr, the legendary father of the atom and indeed most of the others, deserve more respect. For example, do we need to be told of Pascual Jordan's speech impediment five times?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By zfhindbrain on May 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In my 57 years, I have never read a book quite like this. If you are a simple aficionado of physics (like myself), perhaps having taken physics and P-Chem many years ago, you will be thrilled to see figures like Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and De Broglie come to life. Better yet, Sheilla Jones traces a path from the earliest hints of quantum behavior (Boltzmann, Planck) to the full-fledged theories and battles over the deepest nature of the subatomic world around us—a truly mysterious nature that she caps off with a pleasing reveal at the end. Moreover, Jones deftly humanizes these larger than life scientists, bringing us into their homes and into their trials and tribulations which, to my surprise, are not so different from ours today. One tiny annoyance is that, in weaving together the different pieces of this story, Jones jumps around in time quite a bit (just like we jump around in space) so you need to pay attention! But if you do, you will be rewarded with a front row seat at perhaps the greatest spectacle in human history—an intellectual free-for-all wherein us descendants of Neanderthals came to an understanding of the wave-particle duality that sits at the deepest levels of physical reality, buried inside a cloud of electron probabilities. I hope your soul will be warmed by this triumph of better human nature, a triumph forged with little heed to the brutish turmoil that percolated across continents and time in the early twentieth century.
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