- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 9, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393339882
- ISBN-13: 978-0393339888
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 183 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With vigor and elegance, Kumar describes the clash of titans that took place in the world of physics in the early 20th century, between physicists who did and those who did not believe in the quantum—the strange concept that we now know to be the underpinning of reality. The titans in Kumar's account of the conflict are Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. In 1900, Max Planck discovered that electromagnetic radiation and the energy of light are transmitted not in a continuous flow but in small packets called quanta (singular, quantum). Bohr applied the idea of quantum to electrons, leading to the development of quantum mechanics. Bohr's theory explained experimental results that were inexplicable in classical theory. Einstein rejected Bohr's theory overturning reality in dangerous but also thrilling ways. The clash culminated at the 1927 Solway conference. Kumar, founding editor of Prometheus and a consulting science editor for Wired UK, recounts this meaty, dense, exciting story, filled with vivid characters and sharp insights. With physics undergoing another revolution today, Kumar reminds us of a time when science turned the universe upside down. 16 pages of photos. (May)
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.
*Starred Review* “A first rate mind, extremely critical and far-seeing.” Einstein quickly sizes up the mental powers of Danish scientist Neils Bohr. How ironic that Bohr will demonstrate his farseeing vision most compellingly by discrediting Einstein’s own myopia! Kumar recounts Bohr’s astounding triumph over the great German theorist in their debate over quantum physics, thus illuminating a pivotal episode in modern physics. In that episode readers see how quantum mechanics integrates a range of promising but puzzling and seemingly disconnected subatomic discoveries. Readers see, for instance, how a cautious Max Planck reluctantly parcels light into discrete packets and how a befuddled Ernest Rutherford recognizes that only a radically new model of the atom can explain alpha-particle deflections. Though only specialists will understand the technical issues, Kumar keeps the main thread of his narrative accessible to the intelligent general reader, particularly clarifying how Einstein’s belief in objective reality pits him against the daringly agnostic Bohr, who leaves the mysteries of wave-particle duality veiled in statistical probabilities and abstract formulas. Intellectual exhilaration runs high as Einstein repeatedly presses Bohr—posing daunting questions about how to weigh an imaginary box of light and how to explain eerily “entangled” particles. The future of science hangs in the balance: physics becomes high drama. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Two of these great minds, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, disagreed on the basic interpretation of the Quantum Realm and their disagreement is the focus of Manjit Kumar's fascinating book "Quantum". For me this book was by turn interesting and yet overwhelming in content. In order to understand Einstein and Bohr's differing opinions on the subject the reader must have, at least, a very basic understanding of Theoretical Physics during this time period as well as the people and events that would lead up to Quantum Theory. To that end a good portion of the book traces the personal histories of some of the major players in the Physics World. When a new scientist is introduced Kumar gives you a kind of mini-biography of that person and places them in perspective with the other players. And it's the historical portions of the book that I found to be the most interesting. But when it came to the "Physics" of the late 1800s and early 1900s I was, to say the least, in well over my head. But in order to understand the gist of Bohr and Einstein's disagreement the reader must learn what was going on between them. In 1927 at the 5th Solvay Conference in Brussels, Belgium things would come to a head for these two men and their colleagues, and every one involved would take sides: Do sub atomic particles, like electrons, exist only when we try to observe them or, is there an "Observer Independent Reality" that exists weather or not we humans are looking in. In spite of my difficulties with the Quantum Theory segments I enjoyed Kumar's book very much. His writing is clear and layman friendly, he doesn't bog down the narrative with a lot of technical jargon and what he does include is "relatively" easy to follow. The history of the various characters involved made for fascinating reading and gave me a new perspective on this turning point for Theoretical Physics. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of his work. I had no downloading or technical problems with this Kindle edition.
Kumar has fleshed out these incredible individuals we have known and read about all our lives into characters we can relate to on the human level. I found myself emotionally overcome when Bohr had the final drawing of Einstein's 'light box' on his chalk board... I was actually caught up in it like a novel. He covers the history and idiosyncrasies of the 'characters' which one can see undoubtedly influence some of the breakthroughs, some of which the originator found more tragic and "Oh no!" than 'Eureka!"
Though a crude understanding of basic chemistry and/or physics will help it is not a necessary prerequisite for reading. The material and Ray Porter's intelligent and succinct style of narration could not be a better match. Can't say enough good things about this book.
For those who have finished this book and are looking for more, a couple of suggestions: Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science, which addresses the same subject in a different way - more from the perspective of the ideas than the chronology - and which I would say that I found to be more compelling; Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy, and the Meaning of Quantum Theory, which is much meatier and satisfying in addressing the meaning of quantum theory, but which requires one to go further with the concepts/mathematics.