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The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn 10.11.2009 Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400095261
ISBN-10: 1400095263
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“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 the neglected last fifty years of quantum mechanics is . . . full of brilliant, quirky personalities and mind-bending discoveries. . . . She is a very compelling writer, and she clearly understands what makes science exciting and science history interesting.” —ScientificBlogging.com

“The clearest and most intriguing history of the manner in which the scientific method continues to advance knowledge. An amazing story.” —Sacramento News & Review

“A delightfully unconventional history. . . . Especially enjoyable are the portraits of the less famous physicists . . . Gilder has done her homework.” —Nature

“[Gilder] displays an ability to capture a personality in a few words.” —The Washington Post

“An admirable, unexpected book, historically sound and seamlessly constructed, that transports those of us who do not understand quantum mechanics into the lives and thoughts of those who did.” —George Dyson, author of Darwin Among the Machines

“Louisa Gilder disentangles the story of entanglement with such narrative panache, such poetic verve and such metaphorical precision that for a moment I almost thought I understood quantum mechanics.” —Matt Ridley, author of Genome

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 10.11.2009 edition (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400095263
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400095261
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bret Swanson on November 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 1989, the year before he died, John Bell gave the "speech of his career" to his fellow physicists, taking issue with the standard interpretation of quantum physics: "It would seem that the theory is exclusively concerned about 'results of measurement' and has nothing to say about anything else. What exactly qualifies some physical systems to play the role of 'measurer'? Was the wavefunction of the world waiting to jump for thousands of millions of years until a single-celled living creature appeared? Or did it have to wait a little longer, for some better qualified system...with a Ph.D.? If the theory is to apply to anything but highly idealized laboratory operations, are we not obliged to admit that more or less 'measurement-like' processes are going on more or less all the time, more or less everywhere?"

In The Age of Entanglement, Louisa Gilder presents us with quantum physics not as a textbook abstraction, but as a vigorous debate among brilliant men and women trying to make sense of the most baffling of mysteries. Gilder has performed a great service by assembling a vast collection of letters, conversations, speeches and anecdotes to tell this story in a fascinating way. Over many years of contentious theorizing and difficult experimentation, physicists came to grips with the implications of quantum mechanics: either little things are not fully real until they are observed by big things like us (the view attacked by Bell); or maybe they are real in some mysterious way, entangled in a hidden web of nonlocal connections. Quantum physics challenges the traditional scientific view of a world consisting of separate, independently existing objects exerting forces on one another from point to point to point in space.
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