Monday, August 29, 2011

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown

A superb primer on the quirky phenomena/theories of quantum mechanics (1st half) and relativity (2nd half). If you are going to start on these topics, this book is probably a great first step. Chown has made some very complicated topics a lot less so while still presenting the important experiments, people and thinking that under-gird these incredible theories in physics.
While I enjoyed the latter exploration of special and general relativity, I found there was more novelty in Chown’s framing of various quantum phenomena. (Note: I expected the work to be primarily a review and only secondarily an extension, and this extension happened more with the quantum content.)
Chown emphasized the importance of having particles/systems isolated, which is easier to do when things are small, thus why quantum mechanics is thought of as the physics of the very small. He stresses how things just are the way they are, with experimental data and math as support for the validity of results, but so much of interpretation and other theories are just words (I already shared this view so I might be biased). Additionally, wave-particle duality, decoherence and uncertainty all get excellent coverage. Unfortunately, as quantum theory is so complicated, I can’t quite recall as many of the insights as I would have liked… guess I’ll have to listen again and take more notes (which should be taken as a sign of my failing memory and the complexity of the topic rather than of poor presentation).
Highly recommended.


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