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Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation Hardcover – October 12, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Light is the research focus of Zeilinger, a physicist in Austria who studies photons’ ghostly quantum behavior. Here Zeilinger introduces the fictional Dr. Quantinger, who assigns two students to experiment on an apparatus that sends photons to separate detectors that they observe. Alice and Bob periodically report their findings, proffer theories to account for the results, listen raptly to Dr. Quantinger’s hints about quantum states of light, such as entanglement and polarity, then repair to their detectors to watch more photons. Sometimes Zeilinger suspends this fictional device to address readers directly about the quality of entanglement––the property of pairs of particles, no matter how far separated, whether by the Danube in Alice and Bob’s case or by light-years of space, to “know” the quantum state of its partner. This faster-than-light talent of quantum particles bothered Einstein but excites Zeilinger, who describes the technologies that entanglement could in principle permit, such as quantum computers or quantum teleportation. An innovative presenter of a complicated topic, Zeilinger will appeal to the futurists of the science set. --Gilbert Taylor


“Those seeking an accessible popular account of this fascinating field will find their search over . . . Taking some of the most complex ideas from cutting-edge science, Zeilinger provides simple and clear explanations that in no way compromise the fundamental concepts.” ―Jeremy L. O'Brian, Science

“From the sewers under Vienna to a whirlwind tour of the great physicists of the twentieth century and their wild ideas, this is a marvelous introduction to the world of quantum physics by one of the most accomplished experimenters working in the field today. Zeilinger takes the reader on a very personal journey while providing a remarkably clear and cogent discussion of the mind-bending world of quantum mechanics and its potential to change the future of technology.” ―Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and author of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science

“Anton Zeilinger's Dance of the Photons is a delight. The explanations of some of the most subtle and unexpected effects of quantum physics are provided in terms of beautifully simple and charming everyday settings. The true flavor of quantum mechanics is here made accessible, without pain but with considerable good humor.” ―Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University, and author, most recently, of The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe

“For more than eighty years the bizarre features of the description of nature at the atomic level given by quantum mechanics have puzzled and fascinated the physics community, but it is only in recent years that many of these features have been verified by experiment. This delightful little book, by one of the world's leading practitioners in this area, explains these recent advances in a way that should be accessible even to readers with no physics background.” ―Anthony J. Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois, and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics

“Anton Zeilinger has done more than anyone to unfold the quantum world by fashioning amazing experiments that have allowed nature to speak to us in her own native quantum language. In this clearly and elegantly written book he takes the reader on the journey he and his colleagues have traveled in their interrogations of the quantum world. Along the way he introduces us to the new concept of quantum information and explains its promise to revolutionize how we communicate and compute.” ―Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

“Anton Zeilinger's exposition of this puzzling subject is clear and vivid, and backed by a voice of authority that could only come from his being a leading experimenter in the field.” ―A. Zee, author of Fearful Symmetry, Einstein's Universe, and Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374239665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374239664
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hate Alice. I hate Bob. Reading this book is maddening. I just want to get a clear description of the phenomena of entanglement. I figured you can't do any better than read it author Anton Zeilinger, the world's greatest authority on quantum entanglement experiments. But the text is ensnared and enmeshed in endless dumbing down in this book. It is as though one bought a book, "The Workings of a Lamborghini" written by Lamborghini himself, and it describes driving to the beach, and driving to the mountain top, and getting gas, and changing the oil, and watching the speedometer, but you never get to see the pistons, crank, chain, hydraulics, etc. --- there is no math nor attempt to describe how entanglement looks and works mathematically. There are other "equation free" physics books that manage nevertheless to describe their mathematical "engines" quite concretely, also written by preeminent physicists --- The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, and its antiparticle, The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next.

Trying to pick up physics from physics books and papers (and even physicists!) can be very frustrating because they tend to be complacent and content to stay within physics jargon, and not translate it to the basic mathematical objects that they are in fact talking about. In mathematics one also runs into multi-story jargon, for example in algebraic geometry, which makes it very difficult to learn.
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Format: Hardcover
I am an engineer, not a physicist, but I have been following the topic of quantum mechanics (and what it all means) from afar since my college days (when John A. Wheeler was my Physics 101 professor).

I would highly recommend the book to those who have a strong background in science. For me it answered the question of what the heck is "Bell's Inequality". And it is an excellent introduction to the notions of "quantum computers" and teleportation.

For those who have read other popularized works on quantum mechanics (and like me) were still as confused after having read them, this book is a bittersweet experience. It does give one an excellent introduction to the sometimes counterintuitive nature of quantum uncertainty; nevertheless, I felt that there are some issues that need to be addressed:

1. The author overcommits himself to the idea that "Quantum Theory" is THE theory of our reality. Is it not possible that a thousand years from now, quantum theory and our interpretation of it will be regarded as laughably simplistic... or even downright erroneous? We already made that mistake with Newtonian mechanics; let's not make the same mistake again. I am inclined to agree with Thomas Edison's statement, to the effect that "We don't know even one percent about... anything!"

2. The author overcommits himself to the idea that somehow we (as observers) are intrinsically involved with the real world... to the extent that the real world is somehow dependent on our observations of it! Very important humans, we are! The author even goes as far as considering seriously the question of whether the moon exists if we don't look at it ("you can't prove the contrary"). Well, re-a-ll-y, it all depends what you mean by "prove".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anton Zeilinger is one the rare scientists who is an expert in his field and can communicate with a general audience. My specialty as a physicist is quantum optics, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I know the subject in more mathematical detail and have actually done entanglement experiments. If you want a good solid conceptual understanding of an exciting area of current research, I would highly recommend this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written book, describing for the layman the central mystery of quantum mechanics- Entanglement. Zeilinger also describes how an extremely insightful physicist, John Bell, figured how to do something extremely unusual; i.e., to employ actual scientific experiments to answer deep philosophical questions about the nature of reality and causality. The basic scientific question Bell figured out how to address was: Do two particles in contact, that are about to be separated but remain entangled, contain a set of instructions such that, when they have been separated, even by millions of light-years, measurement of a variable of one particle allows the other particle to "know" immediately the result of that measurement. And the experimental investigations of this question (including an important one by the author's group that ruled out any role in entanglement for oommunication between measurement devices) have forced us to the conclusion that we must in fact greatly modify- indeed virtually abandon- our intuitive notions of reality and causality. I am a physicist, and I certainly gained insights from this book. I highly recommend it to anyone, scientist or no, who wants to gain an understanding of quantum mechanics, a branch of physics that simultaneously strikes us macroscopic humans as completely whacky, but is also by far the most precisely experimentally validated theory to ever come down the pike.

Carter Bancroft
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