Schrodinger's Rabbits: The Many Worlds of Quantum

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Overview

For the better part of a century, attempts to explain what was really going on in the quantum world seemed doomed to failure. But recent technological advances have made the question both practical and urgent. A brilliantly imaginative group of physicists at Oxford University have risen to the challenge. This is their story.

At long last, there is a sensible way to think about quantum mechanics. The new view abolishes the need to believe in randomness, long-range spooky forces, or conscious observers with mysterious powers to collapse cats into a state of life or death. But the new understanding comes at a price: we must accept that we live in a multiverse wherein countless versions of reality unfold side-by-side. The philosophical and personal consequences of this are awe-inspiring.

The new interpretation has allowed imaginative physicists to conceive of wonderful new technologies: measuring devices that effectively share information between worlds and computers that can borrow the power of other worlds to perform calculations. Step by step, the problems initially associated with the original many-worlds formulation have been addressed and answered so that a clear but startling new picture has emerged.

Just as Copenhagen was the centre of quantum discussion a lifetime ago, so Oxford has been the epicenter of the modern debate, with such figures as Roger Penrose and Anton Zeilinger fighting for single-world views, and David Deutsch, Lev Vaidman and a host of others for many-worlds.

An independent physicist living in Oxford, Bruce has had a ringside seat to the debate. In his capable hands, we understand why the initially fantastic sounding many-worlds view is not only a useful way to look at things, but logically compelling. Parallel worlds are as real as the distant galaxies detected by the Hubble Space Telescope, even though the evidence for their existence may consist only of a few photons.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
To the average reader trying to understand current theories of the subatomic quantum world, terms like nonlocality, decoherence and quantum collapse must sound like fantastical notions tossed about at an ivory-tower tea party. British physicist Bruce (The Einstein Paradox) attempts to put into plain English what physicists, especially those based in Oxford, think is happening in this invisible world that binds the universe together. We shouldn't be talking about "the universe" at all, Bruce says, but rather of the multiverse: the idea of coexisting alternate realities is based on sophisticated mathematical models of what happens to probability waves-the form in which subatomic elements exist before they "collapse" and assume tangible form. Very early, tentative experiments have confirmed pieces of the multiverse theory. Bruce illustrates these mind-altering concepts via accessible stories and illustrations. He gives equal time to "single worlders" like Sir Roger Penrose and Anton Zeilinger, who has proposed that apparent contradictions in quantum theory can be explained if the amount of information that a quantum system can contain is limited. The tone of the book changes midway through: the general reader will be able to follow the first half, but the latter part of the book is tough sledding and will appeal more to science buffs. (On sale Oct. 26) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309090513
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 10/13/2004
  • Pages: 21
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Table of Contents

1 A magical universe 1
2 Clinging to the classical 13
3 Collapse by inference 27
4 A horror story writ large 40
5 The Old Testament 57
6 Let's all move into Hilbert space 74
7 Pick your own universe 92
8 A desirable locality 106
9 Introducing many-worlds 126
10 Harnessing many-worlds 1 : impossible measurements 140
11 Harnessing many-worlds 2 : impossible computers 155
12 Many-worlds heroes and dragons 169
13 The terror of many-worlds 185
14 The classical warrior : Roger Penrose 198
15 The new age warrior : Anton Zeilinger 211
16 Proving and improving many-worlds 228
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