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Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian Hardcover – October 6, 2013
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Winner of the 2014 Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, Phi Beta Kappa Society
One of Physics World's Top Ten Books of the Year for 2014
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014
One of Scientific American’s Best 2013 Books for the Physics Fan, chosen by Jennifer Ouellette
One of Science Friday’s Science Book Picks for 2013, chosen by Ira Flatow
One of nbc.com’s "Holiday Gift Books Span the Science Spectrum" for 2014
Brief, pacey and lucid. . . . The breadth and depth of Einstein's contribution in this area becomes overwhelmingly clear. . . . Worth a read because it demonstrates that there is more to Einstein's oeuvre than even most quantum physicists know. Stone concludes that Einstein's work was worthy of four Nobel prizes, and it is a measure of the book's achievement that his claim sounds quite reasonable.---Graham Farmelo, Nature
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is as famous for his paradigm-shifting theories of relativity as he is for his grudge against quantum mechanics, but Stone's (Physics/Yale Univ.) engaging history of Einstein's ardent search for a unifying theory tells a different story. Einstein's creative mind was behind almost every single major development in quantum mechanics. . . . The author adeptly weaves his subject's personal life and scientific fame through the tumult of world war and, in accessible and bright language, brings readers deep into Einstein's struggle with both the macroscopic reality around him and the quantum reality he was trying to unlock. . . . A wonderful reminder that Einstein's monumental role in the development of contemporary science is even more profound than history has allowed. (Kirkus Reviews)
A fascinating book, so well written lay people can easily understand this. It is full of science and personality.---Ira Flatow, Science Friday
In Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian (Princeton University Press), a historical analysis leavened by many personal stories about Albert Einstein, A. Douglas Stone argues persuasively and engagingly that although this iconic scientist rejected quantum theory as a final theory of microscopic physics, he was responsible for most of its central concepts, including wave-particle duality, indeterminacy and the implications of identicalness.---Sir Michael Berry, Times Higher Education
From the Inside Flap
"Common lore holds that Einstein's essential contribution to physics is relativity. But in this scholarly and accessible book, A. Douglas Stone argues convincingly that Einstein had a profound impact on the development of quantum theory. With lively, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable prose, Stone's account is bound to be a definitive history of the subject, vividly establishing that Einstein's genius permeates one of the most startling advances in twentieth-century science."--Brian Greene, author ofThe Elegant Universe
"With his lucid and engaging style, A. Douglas Stone has captured one of the most interesting tales in the history of science. Despite Einstein's later discomfort with quantum theory, Stone shows how absolutely instrumental Einstein was in its development. It's a wonderful story that reveals the essence of Einstein's genius and creativity, and Stone is exactly the right person to tell it. I can hear Einstein chuckling in anticipation."--Walter Isaacson, author ofEinstein: His Life and Universe and Steve Jobs
"A. Douglas Stone argues that the scientist best known as the creator of relativity theory was also the originator and substantial developer of almost every concept in the quantum mechanics that dominates today's physics. In this scholarly, convincing, and eloquently presented account, Einstein's personal and cultural lives are seamlessly interwoven with his science. I learned a great deal fromEinstein and the Quantum, and recommend it to working physicists as well as students and nonscientists wishing to understand a central aspect of the cultural history of the twentieth century."--Michael Berry, University of Bristol
"A. Douglas Stone, a physicist who has spent his life using quantum mechanics to explore striking new phenomena, has turned his considerable writing skills to thinking about Einstein and the quantum. What he finds and makes broadly understandable are the riches of Einstein's thinking not about relativity, not about his arguments with Bohr, but about Einstein's deep insights into the quantum world, insights that Stone shows speak to us now with all the vividness and depth they had a century ago. This is a fascinating book, lively, engaging, and strong in physical intuition."--Peter Galison, author ofEinstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps
"Max Born said, 'Einstein is . . . clearly involved in the foundation of wave mechanics and no alibi can disprove it.' In this informative and engaging book, A. Douglas Stone cracks the case and reveals Einstein's fingerprints all over the subject."--Richard L. Garwin, physicist, recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award and the National Medal of Science
"There's a lot of really good stuff in this book. I enjoyed it enormously. I know of no other book that covers Einstein's role in quantum mechanics so accessibly."--Daniel F. Styer, author ofRelativity for the Questioning Mind
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Few, however, if any have followed Euclid as purely as Einstein. It is among the triumphs of Stone's magnificent book "Einstein and the Quantum" to make clear the depth, breadth, and height of Einstein's direct and indirect impact on physics in the 20th century. He begins, however, in the sometimes shadowed area of the origins of quantum theory in which Planck's contributions are often spotlighted.
Stone explains his focus, writing, "It is crucial to understand that while relativity theory is an important part of modern physics, for most of us quantum mechanics is the theory of everything. ...Since quatum mechanics is the big kahuna, it behooves us to understand the role of Einstein in the "other" revolution of the twentieth century, the quantum one." (p. 4)
MORE DETAILS: This---understanding Einstein's role and why it matters---is precisely what Stone achieves in the 29 chapters and 290 pages of "Einstein and the Quantum."
Doing so requires writing accessibly about
--the nature of nature in areas such as light and physical forces in classical physics
--the work of Planck in the late 1890s and 1900s
--Einstein's miraculous years between 1905 and 1909 when he published (in the Annalen der Physik) on the nature & transformation of light, the electrodynamics of moving bodies, the theory of light production and absorportion, Planck's theory of of radiation and the theory of specific heat, and on the nature and production of radiation.
--the concurrent history of skepticism and eventual recognition of Einstein's world-changing thought among the other giants of this time
--Einstein's modus operandi which, as described by Stone, involved going to the heart of what was inconsistent or impossible in other theories, then worrying these inconsistencies until he found the simpler, more elegant, more comprehensive solutions
(This seems to me among the most fascinating & valuable aspects of Stone's analyses)
--the brick walls when quantum theory would not yield to all his efforts
--his shift to issues such as the nature of time & space
--Einstein's influence on other scientists, including his amazing recognition of a radical new statistical concept almost hidden in a paper by the then-unknown Indian physicist, Bose
--and the tensions, disappointments and hopes of his later years when he strove to find & express a Unified Field Theory. This was gallant but unsuccesful and is now continued in contemporary expressions (string theory, e.g.,)
Stone gives enough detail to permit following this history technically, given some understanding of mathematics and physics. Happily, in most instances, Stone offers fine accesibility to readers with scientific knowledge in other fields, and for non-scientists to follow with fascinated appreciation.
Some of Einstein's personal life (as the Valiant Swabian courting his first wife, their falling out, and the Berlin years with his second wife) is inter-woven. However much of Einstein qua Einstein emerges from the letters be wrote to life-long friends, often almost in exultation about reaching a beautiful insight, a hard-won understanding. He describes himself as a contemplative, a theorist, happiest with undisturbed time to think---and think, and think.
Readers may feel close to the man, as well as the mind, reading this book. The chapter titles are examples of Stone's deft touch, including, for example, "The Impudent Swabian," "More Heat Than Light," "Entertaining the Contradiction," "Calamity Jeans" (a particularly clear & brilliantly written chapter), and "Lamenting the Ruins."
OTHER FEATURES: "Einstein and the Quantum" is embellished with detailed chapter notes augmenting the footnotes, with a fine reference list of further reading on Einstein's writings & correspondence, biographical works on Einstein, Einstein & quantum theory, quantum theory & quantum mechanics, biographical material on other scientists, original scientific articles; an excellent detailed index and splendid appendix on the three thermal radiation laws that reaaders may find helpful---even essential---to study first.
ANY READER ALERTS? Yes.
--The reproduction of Einstein's letter to Schroedinger of February 28, 192 appears to have been printed with weak dishwater (p. 236). There is no excuse for the apparent penury of not printing whatever is worth including dark enough to be readable.. The same problem occurs in some charts and other illustrations.
--An appendix showing what else was happening concurrently in the physics community would make this book more valuable. Readers can make their own timelines & concordates but this is tedious and unnecessary. The appendix on other physicists appreciated as it is, is insufficient.
OVERALL: Five stars--actually were this possible, a galaxy for this book: Stone's originality in examining Einstein & quantum theory in this depth, the skill with which the book is organized and written, and the sense of immersion in a world of beauty bare and of true genius. Bravo, bravissimo, Professor Stone!
There are so many books on Einstein. I noticed this one because of Professor Stone's interesting article for Physics Today in 2005, in which he connected Einstein's 1917 work on old quantization rules to quantum chaos. Here I particularly enjoy the chapter "The Indian Comet" which gives an a detailed account on how Einstein invented quantum statistical mechanics in 1924 after he received a letter from Bose. The succeeding chapter "Quantum Dice" discusses the Bose-Einstein condensation which led to several Nobel Prizes, and Einstein's influence on Schrodinger. It contains a facsimile of Einstein's letter to Schrodinger in which Einstein demonstrated the difference between tossing 2 coins and 2 quantum particles to illustrate the concept of identical particles. Professor Stone has masterfully weaved many interesting facts about Einstein into an eloquent narrative. The book is is informative for me--I consider myself to be well-read. His accounts are accessible to students and general readers as well.
Which, I guess, after reading Stone, I find was not an altogether incorrect understanding, but was definitely an incomplete understanding. Einstein's central role in the concepts of "light quanta" and Bose-Einstein condensates, along with other notions he developed, turned out to be foundational in the maturing of quantum thought.
The book is easily readable but ably sets out enough sophisticated science to keep a curious lay reader interested. I thought this book was well worthwhile.
Most recent customer reviews
I think A. Douglas Stone needs a reality check. Throughout the book he describes Einstein, as follows:
great charisma and...Read more