In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Realityby John Gribbin
Quantum theory is so shocking that Einstein could not bring himself to accept it. It is so important that it provides the fundamental underpinning of all modern sciences. Without it, we'd have no nuclear power or nuclear weapons, no TV, no computers, no science of molecular biology, no understanding of DNA, no genetic engineering. In Search of Schrodinger's Cat<… See more details below
Quantum theory is so shocking that Einstein could not bring himself to accept it. It is so important that it provides the fundamental underpinning of all modern sciences. Without it, we'd have no nuclear power or nuclear weapons, no TV, no computers, no science of molecular biology, no understanding of DNA, no genetic engineering. In Search of Schrodinger's Cat tells the complete story of quantum mechanics, a truth stranger than any fiction. John Gribbin takes us step by step into an ever more bizarre and fascinating place, requiring only that we approach it with an open mind. He introduces the scientists who developed quantum theory. He investigates the atom, radiation, time travel, the birth of the universe, superconductors and life itself. And in a world full of its own delights, mysteries and surprises, he searches for Schrodinger's Cat - a search for quantum reality - as he brings every reader to a clear understanding of the most important area of scientific study today - quantum physics. In Search of Schrodinger's Cat is a fascinating and delightful introduction to the strange world of the quantum - an essential element in understanding today's world.
- Random House Publishing Group
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- 5.20(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.81(d)
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Since my freshman days at the University of Sarajevo, where I was studying Metallurgical Engineering, I have been quite a bit intrigued and extremely fascinated by the whole world of quantum mechanics. In Search of Schrodinger¿s Cat was one of very few popular science books published in the early 1980s on the subject of quantum mechanics. The title of the book refers to a famous thought experiment (paradox) devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger. The thought experiment presents a hypothetical cat that apparently can be simultaneously both dead and alive (or neither dead nor alive), depending on an earlier random event, and assuming that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics can be applied to everyday objects.
For those of us who are not physicists, the book covers, in a rather accessible manner (especially in its first half), a number of key theories, ideas, and paradoxes such as the dual nature of light, the double-slit experiment, the structure and the inner workings of atoms, Plank¿s constant and its history and significance, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics and its possible far-reaching philosophical implications, the Compton effect, the Copenhagen interpretation, etc. Often incorrectly depicted as just an experimental limitation, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle (the central idea of quantum mechanics), is explained quite nicely (and I believe correctly) in this book. The author also gives a couple of great examples of the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in physics (e.g., Dirac¿s mathematical prediction of the existence of positrons, the electron¿s antiparticle).
The author¿s style of writing is engaging and pleasant to read. The book is filled with relevant historic references, which I personally always find useful, as they help with putting everything in a right prospective and context. Even though it is thought provoking, the second half of the book, which deals with more speculative questions related to quantum mechanics (e.g., the many-worlds theory), is less satisfactory and less focused.
I recommend this book as an easy, non-mathematical introduction to the basic concepts of quantum mechanics, arguably the most fascinating scientific theory ever formulated by human mind. To fully understand and truly appreciate quantum mechanics, however, one has to sharpen one¿s mathematical pencil and dig deep into vector algebra with all its eigenvectors and eigenvalues. There are no shortcuts. Thus, my caveat lector: advanced students will almost certainly learn nothing new of importance in this book.
I have read a few books on quantum physics, but this work for the layperson is exceptionally understandable (even though the subject matter, by its very nature, still bemuses scientists). The historical exposition, the clear logic of presentation, and the exquisitely apt examples allowed me to comprehend to a fuller degree this most abstruse of natural phenomena. The major drawback is that the book was written in the 1980's, and lacks any discussion of discoveries dating within the last 30 years.
John Gribbin's work is informative and fun to read. His explanations make quantum mechanics approachable for those interested in science.