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In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality unknown Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0553342536
ISBN-10: 0553341030
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Part history book and part remedial physics text for those who lost interest when the equations started getting unintuitive, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat explains quantum physics in a way that's not only clear, but also enjoyable.

Gribbin opens with the subjects that most physics professors have just started to examine at the end of the semester: The mysterious character of light, the valence concept in Nils Bohr's atomic model, radioactive decay, and the physics of life-defining DNA all get clear, comprehensive, and witty coverage. This book reveals the beauty and mystery that underlies everything in the universe.

Does this book claim to explain quantum physics without math? No. Math is too central to physics to be bypassed. But if you can do basic algebra, you can understand the equations in In Search of Schrödinger's Cat. Gribbin is the physics teacher everyone should have in high school or college: kind without being a pushover, knowledgeable without being condescending, and clearly expressive without being boring. Gribbin's book belongs on the shelf of every pre-calculus student. It also deserves a place in the library of everyone who was scared away from advanced physics prematurely.


"A gripping account of the history of quantum mechanics and a clear description of its significance - and weirdness. Absolutely fascinating" -- Isaac Asimov "Precise yet mysterious... as beautiful as a poem and as exciting as a novel" The Sunday Times "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it" -- Niels Bohr --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books; unknown edition (August 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553341030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553342536
  • ASIN: 0553342533
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
1. Good narrative style - you won't be bored.

2. Not complicated... not trivial or overly diluted either. High school Math, and Science will suffice for understanding. You'll derive more on a second read though.

3. I like how he weaves history into science and adds personality to the characters way beyond anything you'll find in a textbook. One reader said he wanted just the facts and could do without the extras. I think it's the extras that make this book appealing, approachable and engaging. If you want just facts, get a college textbook.

4. Not too long... he spends just about the right length of time on each topic.

5. He revisits topics to shed extra light at appropriate times... he doesn't try to hammer in everything into your head all at once.

6. Gives credit to respective scientists, including stating who won what Nobel prize when. This is good as otherwise these people and their achievements would be largely unknown by people who are not academics, such as some of the readers of this book.

7. Gives an excellent sense of perspective of how things were developed or arrived at. You really appreciate that it is by collaboration and assistance that a lot has been developed. Previous to this work I hadn't heard of Dirac... everybody knows Einstein. I heard of Bohr, Rutherford, and Planck at school. But there really are other greats of the era: Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli and Shrodinger for example.

8. Extremely well-researched and woven together.

9. Great to find out the simple origins of anti-matter. (pages 124, and 125)

10. Great to see how many things we take for granted have been derived from Quantum Mechanics...
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Format: Paperback
I wrote this review before reading the sequel to this book (Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality). After reading the sequel I have an additional comment, which is included at the end of the review.

This book rests somewhere between being a history book and a popular science physics text that focuses on the underlying implications of quantum theory. It introduces the history of the development of quantum mechanics and develops this physics in a general, non-mathematical, manner. In my opinion, Gribbin does a fine job in both areas. The book is very readable and very informative. It begins with the particle/wave nature of light and how attempts to explain this paradox formed the basis of modern scientific thought. From this, Gribbin introduces the notion that matter (initially electrons) also exhibit wave as well as particle characteristics. This is then used to describe Bohr's initial attempts at describing the nature of the atom. Gribbin shows how the Heisenberg uncertainty principle grew naturally out of attempts to explain the nature of an atom, as depicted by the splitting of spectral lines. The uncertainty principle is often incorrectly depicted as just an adjunct to quantum theory, not as its central idea. Gribbin shows that it is intimately tied up with the particle/wave paradox and that it is not (as it is often portrayed) just an experimental limitation. (He also shows that Heisenberg himself is responsible for this misconception because he used this analogy to try to explain the concept.)

The hardcover version of this book was published in 1984, so one could justly question reading a book that is over 20 years old.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book that deals with a rather fascinating subject: quantum mecahnics. For those who may not be familiar w/QM, it is the physics of the microcosmic world of electrons, photons, protons & neutrons. It is where Newtonian causality breaks down, where there appears a "totally new ballgame." Gribbin does an excellent job of writing for the layman, especially considering the recondite nature of the topic. However, I would recommend anyone interested in QM to read Alice In Quantumland by Robert Gilmore first as it is slightly more accessible & also has the advantage of being "fun" to read (it is told as an allegorized story). Note that I still recommend Gribbin's book, but AFTER one has read Gilmore's. It may help to make Gribbin's book make a bit more sense. All in all, though, this is an enlightening work.
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Format: Paperback
John Gribbin obviously has a real enthusiasm for the subject matter, and it makes this book very readable in spite of the often bewildering complexity of the subject matter (which he explains admirably without use of mathematics). The coverage of the history of quantum theory in the first half of the 20th century is excellent, and made me want to read more about it.
Where Gribbin goes wrong, in my view, is in railroading his point "Nothing is real" (a thesis which seems to bookend the whole thing). I know I'll get "not helpful" points for pointing this out, but the quite obvious fact that Gribbin chooses to ignore is that subatomic particles, when collected as aggregates into everyday objects like a wallet or a pen, end up statistically combining to behave in predictable ways; if I leave it in a room and come back several hours later, it's still there unless somebody disturbs it, and I can be absolutely assured it was there in the intervening period--what could be plainer? In other words, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, yes, of course it makes a sound. But an electron or photon? Who's to say? The fact that such intractable weirdness in the quantum realm as Gribbin describes ends up getting together to form what we know as matter, is indeed a mystery worth contemplating. It makes me think of the realm of matter as if it were inside some kind of holodeck like in Star Trek, and when we look deep into matter itself we find that it's put together in some way inconceivable to us, and yet seemingly expressly for the purpose of creating the "macro" world in which we live. This idea is consistent with the Anthropic Principle, that has nudged so many scientists in the direction of theism. But 'nothing is real'? Then how can one make any meaningful statements, including the statement of universal unreality?! Come, now...
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