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How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog Paperback – December 7, 2010
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
What do dog treats and chasing squirrels have to do with quantum mechanics? Much more than you might imagine, as Orzel explains in this fun introduction to modern physics based on a series of conversations with his dog Emmy. Dogs make the perfect sounding board for physics talk, because they approach the world with fewer preconceptions than humans, and always expect the unexpected. Physicist Orzel begins with the basics, explaining how light can be both particle and wave simultaneously—a bit like a dog that can split itself into two to chase a rabbit no matter which direction it runs. A look at Heisenberg's uncertainty principle begins with a hunt for a hypothetical bone. Schrödinger's cat becomes, of course, Schrödinger's dog. Quantum entanglement, quantum teleportation and virtual particles (composed, for example, of bunny-antibunny pairs) are all explained with the author's characteristic lighthearted touch. While Orzel's presentation may be a bit too precious for some, readers who've shied away from popular treatments of physics in the past may find his cheerful discussion a real treat. (Dec.)
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.
Particle physicist Orzel has a smart and energetic German shepherd-mix, Emmy, who’s interested in what he does for a living that keeps her in treats and kibble. So she asks him about it, and he tells her, with plenty of chaseable bunnies and squirrels illustratively standing-in for photons, electrons, and other particles. He cheerfully and uncommonly clearly explains particle-wave duality; Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (and the popular-media misuse of it); photon superposition and polarization; wave-function collapse and Bohr’s strict discrimination between quantum and classical physics; the many-worlds view of quantum mechanics that defies wave-function collapse; the quantum Zeno effect; quantum tunneling (right through “solid” barriers); entanglement and how it enables teleportation (at the quantum scale, that is); virtual particles and quantum electrodynamics; and the fraudulence of quantum-mechanics-exploiting “free energy” and healing schemes. Emmy’s attempts to apply her new knowledge practically (to catch squirrels and bunnies) keeps the conversation moving. It’s hard to imagine a better way for the mathematically and scientifically challenged, in particular, to grasp basic quantum physics. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Many authors tackle quantum physics at an introductory level and attempt the difficult task of explaining a mathematical subject without maths. A strength of this shorter book is the option to easily reread a point that did not sink in. There can be no pretence that quantum physics is any other than a mathematical world that can defy comprehension. Accessible books like this one are the rabbit that will entice future physicists into that field. Views on quantum theory vary as do teaching methods, so readers can improve their grasp by reading similar introductory books. A sometimes different treatment of many of the same topics, with a focus on glossy artwork rather than canine prerogative, is Jim Al-Khalili's Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed.
It's a fun idea and Chad Orzel does a terrific job explaining physics to the lay reader in the guise of talking to his dog. He seems to have a good feel for how a dog acts and thinks, and I have no trouble imagining that if a dog could talk about physics she would be just as excitable, and as easily distracted by squirrels, bunnies, and treats.
The most important chapter in this book must be the last one, Beware of Evil Squirrels. Here Professor Orzel warns the read of the misuses and outright scams involving quantum physics. There are any number of con artists and New Age frauds who make use of scientific sounding terminology to mislead their victims into believing that one can get free energy from "vacuum energy" or heal oneself of all diseases by imagining oneself to be perfectly healthy. As Orel explains, despite the many weird and wonderful manifestations of quantum physics, it is not magic, and follows the same sort of rules as anything else in the universe, including the common sense rule that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I found How to Teach Physics to Your Dog to be appealing and informative. I think that some of the explanations were a bit hard to follow but that is perhaps more my fault than the writer's.