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Dance Of The Photons [Hardcover]

Anton Zeilinger
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct. 12 2010 0374239665 978-0374239664 First Edition
Einstein’s steadfast refusal to accept certain aspects of quantum theory was rooted in his insistence that physics has to be about reality. Accordingly, he once derided as “spooky action at a distance” the notion that two elementary particles far removed from each other could nonetheless influence each other’s properties—a hypothetical phenomenon his fellow theorist Erwin Schrödinger termed “quantum entanglement.”
In a series of ingenious experiments conducted in various locations—from a dank sewage tunnel under the Danube River to the balmy air between a pair of mountain peaks in the Canary Islands—the author and his colleagues have demonstrated the reality of such entanglement using photons, or light quanta, created by laser beams. In principle the lessons learned may be applicable in other areas, including the eventual development of quantum computers.

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“Those seeking an accessible popular account of this fascinating field will find their search over . . . Taking some of the most complex ideas from cutting-edge science, Zeilinger provides simple and clear explanations that in no way compromise the fundamental concepts.” —Jeremy L. O'Brian, Science
“From the sewers under Vienna to a whirlwind tour of the great physicists of the twentieth century and their wild ideas, this is a marvelous introduction to the world of quantum physics by one of the most accomplished experimenters working in the field today. Zeilinger takes the reader on a very personal journey while providing a remarkably clear and cogent discussion of the mind-bending world of quantum mechanics and its potential to change the future of technology.” —Lawrence M. Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and author of Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science
“Anton Zeilinger’s Dance of the Photons is a delight. The explanations of some of the most subtle and unexpected effects of quantum physics are provided in terms of beautifully simple and charming everyday settings. The true flavor of quantum mechanics is here made accessible, without pain but with considerable good humor.” —Roger Penrose, emeritus professor of mathematics, Oxford University, and author, most recently, of The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
“For more than eighty years the bizarre features of the description of nature at the atomic level given by quantum mechanics have puzzled and fascinated the physics community, but it is only in recent years that many of these features have been verified by experiment. This delightful little book, by one of the world's leading practitioners in this area, explains these recent advances in a way that should be accessible even to readers with no physics background.” —Anthony J. Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois, and winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics
“Anton Zeilinger has done more than anyone to unfold the quantum world by fashioning amazing experiments that have allowed nature to speak to us in her own native quantum language. In this clearly and elegantly written book he takes the reader on the journey he and his colleagues have traveled in their interrogations of the quantum world. Along the way he introduces us to the new concept of quantum information and explains its promise to revolutionize how we communicate and compute.” —Lee Smolin, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
“Anton Zeilinger's exposition of this puzzling subject is clear and vivid, and backed by a voice of authority that could only come from his being a leading experimenter in the field.” —A. Zee, author of Fearful Symmetry, Einstein's Universe, and Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell

About the Author

Anton Zeilinger is a professor of physics at the University of Vienna, where he heads the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly edited, over long, grating narrative style Feb. 25 2011
By Aaron
Part of the job of a publisher/editor is to make the text idiomatic for the target language. That did not happen here. It can be a frustrating slog. Even if that were fixed, I found the Alice/Bob narratives grating and distracting. The information is interesting, but in the end not worth the effort to extract. There are lots of other books that discuss the subject in a more direct and pleasing way.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
64 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Often greatly frustrating Nov. 28 2010
By A techno geek - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I hate Alice. I hate Bob. Reading this book is maddening. I just want to get a clear description of the phenomena of entanglement. I figured you can't do any better than read it author Anton Zeilinger, the world's greatest authority on quantum entanglement experiments. But the text is ensnared and enmeshed in endless dumbing down in this book. It is as though one bought a book, "The Workings of a Lamborghini" written by Lamborghini himself, and it describes driving to the beach, and driving to the mountain top, and getting gas, and changing the oil, and watching the speedometer, but you never get to see the pistons, crank, chain, hydraulics, etc. --- there is no math nor attempt to describe how entanglement looks and works mathematically. There are other "equation free" physics books that manage nevertheless to describe their mathematical "engines" quite concretely, also written by preeminent physicists --- The Shape of Inner Space: String Theory and the Geometry of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, and its antiparticle, The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next.

Trying to pick up physics from physics books and papers (and even physicists!) can be very frustrating because they tend to be complacent and content to stay within physics jargon, and not translate it to the basic mathematical objects that they are in fact talking about. In mathematics one also runs into multi-story jargon, for example in algebraic geometry, which makes it very difficult to learn. But in the mathematics literature, the jargon is irreducible, because it is tagging abstract concepts built atop other abstract concepts. You simply have to climb the building from the ground floor. But the jargon in physics can be unpacked with a little insight on behalf of the writer --- and empathy. A supremely wonderful example of this is Roger Penrose's The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. It is the most clarifying book I've read in physics. It is a revelation. I hoped Dance of the Photons would be a good sequel expanding on entanglement.

Dance of the Photons takes forever to get to the point, and chooses to avoid jargon by simply avoiding the details of the underlying mathematics. I suppose there is a large class of readers for whom this is optimal. But for me, it's a problem of impedance matching. Jargon filled papers have too high impedance --- and the energy is deflected. This book has too low impedance --- and the energy likewise deflects away.

As a kid I read Scientific American, and I always felt dumb because I could never really understand what they were talking about. Only later as an adult in going back to some of those articles did I realize that I didn't understand because the article never gave the actual theory of what was going on ... they were too dumbed down, and it was impossible to get the real material from their content. This book, unfortunately, is squarely within that tradition, and while it clearly has interesting content, it is simply too frustrating wading through the packaging to make it enjoyable to this particular reader.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subjective reality Nov. 15 2010
By A parent - Published on
I am an engineer, not a physicist, but I have been following the topic of quantum mechanics (and what it all means) from afar since my college days (when John A. Wheeler was my Physics 101 professor).

I would highly recommend the book to those who have a strong background in science. For me it answered the question of what the heck is "Bell's Inequality". And it is an excellent introduction to the notions of "quantum computers" and teleportation.

For those who have read other popularized works on quantum mechanics (and like me) were still as confused after having read them, this book is a bittersweet experience. It does give one an excellent introduction to the sometimes counterintuitive nature of quantum uncertainty; nevertheless, I felt that there are some issues that need to be addressed:

1. The author overcommits himself to the idea that "Quantum Theory" is THE theory of our reality. Is it not possible that a thousand years from now, quantum theory and our interpretation of it will be regarded as laughably simplistic... or even downright erroneous? We already made that mistake with Newtonian mechanics; let's not make the same mistake again. I am inclined to agree with Thomas Edison's statement, to the effect that "We don't know even one percent about... anything!"

2. The author overcommits himself to the idea that somehow we (as observers) are intrinsically involved with the real world... to the extent that the real world is somehow dependent on our observations of it! Very important humans, we are! The author even goes as far as considering seriously the question of whether the moon exists if we don't look at it ("you can't prove the contrary"). Well, re-a-ll-y, it all depends what you mean by "prove". To my mind, the geologic and archelogic record is ample proof of the fact that the earth existed quite well before we were around to observe it and will continue to exist quite nicely long after the human race is extinct. We made the mistake in Ptolemaic mechanics of placing man at the centre of the universe; let's not make the same mistake again.

3. In his discussion of the implications of quantum mechanics regarding our "reality," the author neglects to mention how ignorant we are of "the big cosmologic picture," something like a botanist examining the structure of leaves in the forest, yet being ignorant of the structure of the forest, Darwinian evolution, and so on. Quantum mechanics is also consistent with the "alternate worlds" concept of infinite parallel universes, which is not mentioned. That cannot be "disproved" either. How does that affect our notions of "reality"?

To be sure, the author repeatedly cautions us that these issues are controversial and are being hotly debated... which explains why the topic of "quantum mechanics" is likely to leave a bittersweet taste in our mouths for yet a long time to come.

If you are interested in the topic, run -- do not walk -- to your bookseller and buy this book.
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great explanation of quantum weirdness and its applications Oct. 29 2010
By R. E. Jodoin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anton Zeilinger is one the rare scientists who is an expert in his field and can communicate with a general audience. My specialty as a physicist is quantum optics, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I know the subject in more mathematical detail and have actually done entanglement experiments. If you want a good solid conceptual understanding of an exciting area of current research, I would highly recommend this book.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Annoying, Simplistic, Slow - GOD AWFUL! June 28 2011
By William Gronos - Published on
What WAS the author THINKING when he wrote the book in this manner??? Here's what the dust jacket says:

"Zeilinger, winner of the prestigious Wolf Foundation Prize in Physics for 2010, tells the story of his life's work in a lively, accessible style, relying on simple cartoons, folksy anecdotes, and an engaging sense of humor..."

He wants to explain quantum entanglement using a fictional story. His "story" of Bob, Alice and John is neither engaging nor funny. It adds nothing to the content and subtracts a lot - mostly time stolen from your life. Here is a typical passage:

"That idea is wrong?" Bob asks. "How could it be wrong?"

"Well," John answers, "you have to find that out by yourselves, because I have to rush off to meet Professor Quantinger. He gave me an appointment to talk about my Ph.D. dissertation. And, by the way, the EPR story is not finished yet."

Bob shouts after John, "You can't leave us like this!"

John, over his shoulder, shouts back, "You'll find out! Just think carefully about all the measurements you have done so far. They will allow you to see why your own model is wrong."

And around the corner he disappears.

Alice looks at Bob. Bob looks at Alice. They scratch their heads. Neither of them has any idea how to proceed, and there is no point it going back to the laboratories, since John has told them that they already have all the data they need. They go to get a cup of coffee and sit down together with all the data.

Whom were the author's intended readers? A ditzy blonde who wanted to read about how to detangle her hair, picks up this book by mistake and gets captivated by the cutesy, spoon-fed story?

I read both of the 5-star reviews Amazon has for this book before writing this one. One is written by
Linda Wiley and this is her only Amazon book review. As to the other one, I am baffled as to how R. E. Jodoin, "physicist" (Amazon review "A great explanation of quantum weirdness and its applications", October 29, 2010) could ever give this book that rating.

There are too many better books to waste your time on this piece of rubbish. I recommend the book I read just prior to this one: "101 Quantum Questions: What You Need to Know About the World You Can't See" by Kenneth William Ford.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dance of the Photons Sept. 8 2011
By Fascinated explorer - Published on
Zeilinger does a great job in using a dialog among two beginning physics students Bob and Alice, and a graduate student John, to explain the details of entanglement experiments and the interpretation of the results. For me the amount of detail gave some confidence that I understand the general results. The occasional appearance of the professor to make connections between the experiments, information and reality is very insightful. It is fascinating the idea that what you or I consider to be reality as an independent observer may not be so independent. Entanglement is indeed rather `spooky', and perhaps a source of new insight into how we interact with the world around us.

Dance of the Photons definitely gives some food for further thought and speculation.
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