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Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed Paperback – Sep 1 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Reprint edition (Sept. 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841882380
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841882383
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 18.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 839 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

“Takes readers on a fascinating journey. Al-Khalili [uses] simple and clear language and he provides excellent graphics. This is mandatory reading for undergraduates with or without a science background.”  —Library Journal

About the Author

Dr. Jim al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist and senior lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Surrey. He has twice been nominated for the Royal Society's Michael Faraday Award for the Public Understanding of Science and is the Institute of Physics Schools and Colleges lecturer. He is the author of Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines and has appeared on Radio 4's Leading Edge and the BBC's Tomorrow's World and Horizon programs.

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J.C. on June 18 2003
Format: Hardcover
I became interested in quantum theory after reading Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" about six months ago; since then I have gone to some lengths to find a book that would explain quantum theory in a way that was non-formal enough for me to understand but not excessively simplified. Until recently, I hadn't found any thing that fit this description -- until, that is, I ran into this book at my local book store. It is BY FAR the best explanation of quantum theory for someone who is relatively (or even completely) unfamiliar with it. The author explains the theory in a step by step fashion, not leaving anything implied or unsaid, but in no way is insulting to one's intelligence. As a philosophy grad student, I especially appreciated the chapter on the various interpretations of quantum theory, including the 'many-worlds' interpretation that reminded me very much of David Lewis's metaphysical system (in which all possible worlds actually exist somewhere). I bought this book at 10:30 p.m. and had read half of it by the time I went to bed, and finished the rest of it the next day. It is that good! Highly, highly recommended.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Tillier on Aug. 24 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautiful in all aspects. It is very well written, interesting and has great illustrations. The author takes a very complex and many times seemingly illogical topic and makes it both understandable and interesting. We are also given alternative views and told when the state of the art falls short of understanding. I would like to see a second edition in 10 years covering new advances in the topic. One of the best books I have seen in science in the past few years.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David B Richman on April 29 2004
Format: Hardcover
Biologists have to a great degree ignored the strange world of quantum physics. As Chet Raymo (actually an Astronomer) observes it is difficult to see how quantum effects could really touch the scale at which we function. Raymo in fact believes that such effects may cancel each other out at our scale. I think, however, that this may be a narrow, if comfortable, view. Roger Penrose has proposed that consciousness itself may be a quantum effect and Johnjoe McFadden believes that quantum effects may very well have bearing on the evolution of life. As a biologist I am struck with the inability of scientists to actually define life, other than by the reductionist view that it is a series of chemical processes. There are in fact many chemical processes that are not life and so this does not quite satisfy.
However, this is not to get into heavy metaphysics or to take on some mystical view of life. It is, however, to acknowledge the basic weirdness of life that fits, it seems to me, into the weirdness of the quantum universe. I suspect that future scientists will discover that life has more to it than fits the conventional view. But then our view of the universe, including life, has always changed with new insights and I doubt that we have (or will ever) reach full understanding of it all.
Jim Al Khalili has caught the excitement of the old and new developments in quantum theory in "Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed." Once you get past the somewhat glitzy format, you find a solid and fascinating description of the extremely weird quantum world in which matter acts like waves and waves act like matter and in which mere observation can and does change results.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James E. Vancik on Nov. 3 2003
Format: Hardcover
I must admit I bought this book for the pictures, glossy pages and arty production just to add to my collection of physicist authored books. If you can ignore the pretentious british spelling centred around colours and flavours etc etc ad nauseam, however, what you will get is a remarkably up to date and extensive exploration of what the quantum is. What I particularly liked about this book is that you don't read about the author's interpretation of the wavefunction equation but instead explore its various attributes and meanings and uses. I certainly rate this book at the top of its genre.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 56 reviews
119 of 121 people found the following review helpful
Best intro to quantum theory for non-specialists June 18 2003
By J.C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I became interested in quantum theory after reading Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe" about six months ago; since then I have gone to some lengths to find a book that would explain quantum theory in a way that was non-formal enough for me to understand but not excessively simplified. Until recently, I hadn't found any thing that fit this description -- until, that is, I ran into this book at my local book store. It is BY FAR the best explanation of quantum theory for someone who is relatively (or even completely) unfamiliar with it. The author explains the theory in a step by step fashion, not leaving anything implied or unsaid, but in no way is insulting to one's intelligence. As a philosophy grad student, I especially appreciated the chapter on the various interpretations of quantum theory, including the 'many-worlds' interpretation that reminded me very much of David Lewis's metaphysical system (in which all possible worlds actually exist somewhere). I bought this book at 10:30 p.m. and had read half of it by the time I went to bed, and finished the rest of it the next day. It is that good! Highly, highly recommended.
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
complex topic - wonderful book Aug. 24 2003
By William Tillier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautiful in all aspects. It is very well written, interesting and has great illustrations. The author takes a very complex and many times seemingly illogical topic and makes it both understandable and interesting. We are also given alternative views and told when the state of the art falls short of understanding. I would like to see a second edition in 10 years covering new advances in the topic. One of the best books I have seen in science in the past few years.
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Better than Quantum Mechanics for Idiots Aug. 21 2006
By Robert Dell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good book for the math-impaired know-something-but-not-much crowd. I took a semester of physics (mechanics) in college, and have read "A Brief History of Time" and watched the PBS thing on string theory, and something about quantum physics on the Discovery Channel, and decided that I wanted to know more. Being over 50 with an aging brain, I needed something that wasn't too technical, that didn't go too fast, but wasn't a children's book, and this was it.

The first half of the book covers some history and the discoveries that made the development of quantum physics necessary. Also covered is the "weirdness" that seems to occur in the microscopic (quantum) world. I'll have to admit that on first reading, I only 'got' about 75% of what the author was presenting. If I read it again, I'll probably get more. And this is why I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5.

The second half of the book is not quite as brain intensive and covers speculation on the WHY of quantum physics. (Yeah, weird, huh? They know how it works, buy not why it works.) In addition, some particle physics is covered, an overview of quarks and stuff, the effort toward a unified field theory (including a bit on string theory), some really cool discoveries, some unexplainable discoveries (like negative energy), why transistors and MRI's work, and quantum computers.

I would like to have this book on my shelf so I could offer it to my friends to read. I will probably re-read parts of this book in the future. I wish I read this book 35 years ago.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
One of the best books for those with novice to intermediate knowledge Jan. 29 2006
By PaulC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book has one of the best presentations of Quantum Mechanics that I've read. It explains three to four questions deep on most all concepts. The author seems to anticpate your next question and then deals with it a few pages later. The historical background leading up to the current theories is excellent without getting bogged down. He cuts to the heart of the priciples and allows you to understand the difference between wave probability and actual quantum behavior at any given instant. He then goes on to practical applications that take advantage of this strange behavior. Now I won't have to go to my grave without a decent understanding of the current state of the theory of matter.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
No Going Back Sept. 29 2005
By Starcadia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I knew just about as much as the next person regarding quantum physics before reading this book, and after reading it I feel I know a lot more. It's this kind of book that tends to turn my world upside-down for a little while, but after that discomfort fades I'm glad to know a little more (and that I know less) about the universe and can apply that knowledge, or lack of, to my own perspecive on things.

The book starts out with a quantum "magic trick" to hook the reader - and hook me it did - then proceeds to discuss the history, framework, and future of quantum physics. I found that the magic from the beginning tended to fade by the end of the book, but I still made it all the way through, which for me is saying a lot about whether a book is good or not. I'm not able to grasp mathematics very well - I'm more of a concept person - so the portions of the book that were mathematical were somewhat lost on me. However, the concepts got across to a certain extent. I will say that the Michio Kaku books I've read - Hyperspace and Visions - as well as Carl Sagan's books, did a lot more for me in terms of total amazement, but Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed I feel was a very solid introduction to the quantum world for those like me who know a little and want to know more.

I really enjoyed the graphic nature of the book; the illustrations are wonderful, and magical in themselves. The general feel of the book is nice, too. A lot of work was obviously done on the design in general, which I feel helped excite the material.

One thing is for sure: Now that I've read this book the universe will never appear the same. There's no going back to thinking classically after learning the truths of what's really going on behind the curtain.

I'm giving the book four stars, subtracting a star for the second half or so of the book that became a little more dry, cumbersome and forced than the first half.

Very recommended.


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