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The Shadow and the Flash:
on March 3, 2017
The late 19th and early 20th Centuries were heady times for Theatrical Physicists. Some of the greatest minds in the world were focused on understanding the very "Nature of Reality" and framing a new theory to explain it all: Quantum Mechanics.
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.