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The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science That Made Our World

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Overview

In the pulp magazines and comics of the 1950s, it was predicted that the future would be one of gleaming utopias, with flying cars, jetpacks, and robotic personal assistants. Obviously, things didn't turn out that way. But the world we do have is actually more fantastic than the most outlandish predictions of the science fiction of the mid-twentieth century. The World Wide Web, pocket-sized computers, mobile phones, and MRI machines have changed the world in unimagined ways. In The Amazing Story of Quantum ...
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Overview

In the pulp magazines and comics of the 1950s, it was predicted that the future would be one of gleaming utopias, with flying cars, jetpacks, and robotic personal assistants. Obviously, things didn't turn out that way. But the world we do have is actually more fantastic than the most outlandish predictions of the science fiction of the mid-twentieth century. The World Wide Web, pocket-sized computers, mobile phones, and MRI machines have changed the world in unimagined ways. In The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics, James Kakalios uses examples from comics and magazines to explain how breakthroughs in quantum mechanics led to such technologies.

The book begins with an overview of speculative science fiction, beginning with Jules Verne and progressing through the space adventure comic books of the 1950s. Using the example of Dr. Manhattan from the graphic novel and film Watchmen, Kakalios explains the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and describes nuclear energy via the hilarious portrayals of radioactivity and its effects in the movies and comic books of the 1950s. Finally, he shows how future breakthroughs will make possible ever more advanced medical diagnostic devices—and perhaps even power stations on the moon that can beam their power to Earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

During the Eisenhower years, young boys and girls scanned Popular Science and pulp magazines for futuristic drawings of flying cars, jetpacks, and public transportation submarines. None of those dreams has materialized in the ways we imagined, but we have experienced technological advances even more startling and significant. Few of us, however, know that these great breakthroughs can be traced back to quantum mechanics, German physicist Max Planck's unsupported postulate about the nature of light. James Kakalios's The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics unravels the story of the proliferating effects of this single idea—and most amazingly, he does it without mathematical equations. (Hand-selling tip: One of the most popular courses at the University of Minnesota is Dr. Kakalios' "Everything I Needed to Know about Physics I Learned from Reading Comic Books.")

Library Journal
Kakalios, physics professor and science consultant for Hollywood, uses examples from graphic novels to enliven this introduction to quantum mechanics. (Prepub Alert, 10/1/09)
From the Publisher
"A quirky but sensible explanation of quantum mechanics." —-Kirkus
Kirkus Reviews

A cheerful and mostly successful effort to explain the notoriously difficult field of quantum mechanics.

Kakalios (Physics and Astronomy/Univ. of Minnesota; The Physics of Superheroes, 2007), who served as the science consultant for the film version of Watchmen, loves pulp science fiction and comics but admits that their predictions flopped. By 2000, they promised flying cars, jetpacks, routine interplanetary travel and domed underwater cities. They had forecast a revolution in energy which didn't happen, paying less attention to the revolution in information that gave us personal computers, the Internet, smart phones, MRIs and instant international communication. Central to this revolution was quantum mechanics, a weird but critically important field. In the ultra-tiny quantum world, light travels as a wave or as a particle depending on the experiment. Protons and neutrons are infinitely small points, yet they "spin." The image of the atom many of us learned in high school—a tiny solar system with electrons circling a nucleus—is wrong. Reasonable things are impossible (you can never locate a subatomic particle precisely), but the impossible happens routinely (particles can teleport past impenetrable barriers).Readers will rarely chuckle at the author's numerous jokes, and they may roll their eyes at examples featuring superhuman characters from pulp magazines. Despite the title, the book is not math-free, although it rarely goes beyond high-school algebra. However, readers should not expect an easy ride. Quantum mechanics remains a complex field, but one as essential to a good education as, say, knowledge of Shakespeare or the Constitution.

A quirky but sensible explanation of quantum mechanics that avoids the oversimplification of TV science documentaries.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592406722
  • Publisher: Gotham
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 417,226
  • Product dimensions: 8.94 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


James Kakalios is a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota and the author of The Physics of Superheroes, which was named one of the best science books of 2005 by Discover magazine.

A veteran of stage and screen, Peter Berkrot held feature roles in Caddyshack and Showtime's Brotherhood. He has recorded over 170 audiobooks, over 100 for children; has been nominated for an Audie Award; and has received a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards and starred reviews.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Quantum Physics? You're Soaking in It!

SECTION 1 TALES TO ASTONISH

Chapter One Quantum Mechanics in Three Easy Steps 3

Chapter Two Photons at the Beach 13

Chapter Three Fearful Symmetry 27

Chapter Four It's All Done with Magnets 38

SECTION 2 CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN

Chapter Five Wave Functions All the Way Down 51

Chapter Six The Equation That Made the Future! 64

Chapter Seven The Uncertainty Principle Made Easy 74

Chapter Eight Why So Blue, Dr. Manhattan? 85

SECTION 3 TALES OF THE ATOMIC KNIGHTS

Chapter Nine Our Friend, the Atom 101

Chapter Ten Radioactive Man 114

Chapter Eleven Man of the Atom 128

SECTION 4 WEIRD SCIENCE STORIES

Chapter Twelve Every Man for Himself 141

Chapter Thirteen All for One and One for All 155

SECTION 5 MODERN MECHANICS AND INVENTIONS

Chapter Fourteen Quantum Invisible "Ink" 173

Chapter Fifteen Death Rays and DVDs 183

Chapter Sixteen The One-Way Door 194

Chapter Seventeen Big Changes Come in Small Packages 211

Chapter Eighteen Spintronics 221

Chapter Nineteen A Window on Inner Space 227

SECTION 6 The World of Tomorrow

Chapter Twenty Coming Attractions 239

Chapter Twenty-one Seriously, Where's My Jet Pack? 249

Afterword: Journey into Mystery 262

Acknowledgements 269

Notes 271

Recommended Reading 297

Index 303

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2010

    A must read for those who enjoy physics without the math

    I'm a mechanical engineering student whose taken quantum physics. In the class I constantly got lost in the calculations even though I thought that the material was really interesting. I bought this book shortly after it came out. This book does a good job of exploring the history behind quantum mechanics while not boring you to death. It then segways into how quantum mechanics is being applied today and possibly in the future. His analogies were easy to understand and 40+ pictures and diagrams helped a lot. I am currently taking a material science class, and this book helped explain in better terms how a p-n semiconductor works. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how things work, but don't really care how to calculate it.

    The one thing that I didn't like about the book was when he went off on tangents like global warming and creationism vs. evolution. Those usually came out of no where, lasted a page or two, and then he got back on track. I didn't come here for his opinions on those topics, and they frosted my cookies enough to state my annoyance here. I'd still read it again though.

    And when he talks about the reduced Planck's constant, the NOOKbook version had a problem displaying h; this lowercase italicized h with a bar though the tall part. Instead it displayed a question mark. Not a big deal but understandable because it isn't really a letter used in everyday language, sort of annoying though.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2012

    Excellent book. Highly recommend it

    A very complex subject explained in terms most understand

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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