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Brilliant, July 18 2010
Manjit Kumar's "Quantum" is an absolute page turner. I could hardly put it away and wanted
to read it all over again once I came to the end. There is not a lot of new content which
cannot be found in biographies or other expositions of the quantum struggle, which ended
with Copenhagen. What makes this book unique is a high-pace narrative style pulling the reader
from one chapter with one fundamental discovery into the next combined with an almost
uncanny ability of the author to unfold most complex physical and philosophical concepts
at that same high pace. The narrative also makes the discussions, tensions and emotions so vivid
that one feels compelled to jump right into the scenes to hear the debates first hand.
Like David Winneberg, I relived my own struggle with Quantum Theory as a student, the
alienation I felt by Bohr's ad-hoc postulates of what I expected the theory should
actually deliver, the psi which yielded results, but didn't seem to have its own meaning, the
interference of possibilities, which affect results without actually having to materialize,
up to the abandonment of objective reality. Back in the 80th, Copenhagen was still the
the dogma and had to be swallowed without objection in order to become a physicist.
I became a mathematician...
Many commentators see the book as a rehabilitation of Einstein. I felt the same way, but
this feeling is actually not justified by the last chapter about the most recent experimental
disproofs of Bell's and Leggett's inequalities, which would have confirmed Einstein's position
(Leggett's at least partly). Copenhagen has once again prevailed. Maybe it's my bias
aganst Copenhagen, but maybe it's Kumar's narrative that instills the desire in the reader
that somewhen, somebody will come to free us from the Copenhagen prison.
For those who enjoyed the Kumar's book and want to experience the struggle with Quantum
Theory first hand, I can recommend Richard Feynman's book "QED". Masterfully, Feynman
lets concrete physics emerge from the absurdity of the quantum. No math required
to witness that miracle.