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In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality Paperback – Aug 1 1984

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reissue edition (Aug. 1 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553341030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553342536
  • ASIN: 0553342533
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #151,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Part history book and part remedial physics text for those who lost interest when the equations started getting unintuitive, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat explains quantum physics in a way that's not only clear, but also enjoyable.

Gribbin opens with the subjects that most physics professors have just started to examine at the end of the semester: The mysterious character of light, the valence concept in Nils Bohr's atomic model, radioactive decay, and the physics of life-defining DNA all get clear, comprehensive, and witty coverage. This book reveals the beauty and mystery that underlies everything in the universe.

Does this book claim to explain quantum physics without math? No. Math is too central to physics to be bypassed. But if you can do basic algebra, you can understand the equations in In Search of Schrödinger's Cat. Gribbin is the physics teacher everyone should have in high school or college: kind without being a pushover, knowledgeable without being condescending, and clearly expressive without being boring. Gribbin's book belongs on the shelf of every pre-calculus student. It also deserves a place in the library of everyone who was scared away from advanced physics prematurely.


"A gripping account of the history of quantum mechanics and a clear description of its significance - and weirdness. Absolutely fascinating" -- Isaac Asimov "Precise yet mysterious... as beautiful as a poem and as exciting as a novel" The Sunday Times "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it" -- Niels Bohr --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read this book for the first time when it had just been published and I was about 14 years old. I found it easy enough to get an idea of the concepts in the first reading and then as I read it again when I was older I came to fully appreciate the wierdness of the quantum theory. The style of the book was interesting and not hard to understand. The book lets you grasp the basic ideas of the theory without getting too complicating and bogged down. I thought that the latter half of the book was interesting in the way that the author began to draw up new ideas and theories from the basic concepts of the beginning. The best thing I can say about the book is that it gave me a sense of wonder and excitement about science while at the same time giving me the information that I needed without turning me off by getting more complicatdd than a book like this calls for. Among the many books like it I have read, I still consider this one of my favorites.
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Format: Paperback
Look! At the photon! It's a particle! No, it's a wave! No, it's a... well, it's BOTH!!! And not only that, but it can interfere with itself, or with other consequential photons!
Welcome to the wacky world of quantum physics, the science so absurd that even Einstein couldn't believe it (and let's face it, after relativity, he was the MASTER of the absurd-but-true) where statistics are everything, specifics only happen when you're looking for them, and nothing is real at all, anywhere.
Again, WHAT?!?!?
In Schroedinger's Cat, John Gribbin not only explains all this nonsense, but he actually makes it understandable. This amazing book should be required of all college students, as part of a well-rounded education. Engineers and scientists will be amazed and think it's cool, but even "fuzzy majors" (i.e. everything else -- sorry, that's what we arrogant engineers called the denizens of that side of campus) will be able to understand it, and they too will be enlightened by it.
If you have any interest in science, in knowing what theoretical physicists really do, in knowing what a "particle accelerator" is, or even just want to have some idea about how much of Star Trek is based on real science, you MUST read this book. Not only that, but you must read THIS book before reading other books on quantum mechanics.
Ok, enough ranting. I think it takes a certain amount of Zen to grasp all this quantum non-reality particle-wave-duality possible-parallel-universe stuff. Gribbin, then, is the true Zen Master. Gribbin takes that which is not only beyond comprehension but beyond even Einstein's belief, and makes it understandable to the layman.
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Format: Paperback
If asked what the most significant technological achievement of the 20'th century was, most people will cite landing on the Moon. If asked what the most significant scientific achievement of the 20'the century was, most people will cite the discovery of DNA, or the theory of relativity, or advances in cosmology, or any number of other truly stunning achievements. However, John Gribbin provides a different and eminently more defensible answer: quantum mechanics.
This book is perhaps the best lay introduction to quantum mechanics I've come across. If you have a scientific leaning, and would like to be privy to one of the most shocking and influential scientific breakthroughs of all time (second, perhaps, only to evolution), then pick up a copy of Gribbin's "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat". It's a first-rate treatment of quantum mechanics (sans mathematics) that will instill an appreciation of just how wildly successful this theory has been, and why it justly deserves the accolade of the most significant scientific achievement of the 20'th century. You will also appreciate why even its founders would have been quite happy to see it overturned.
While the theory of evolution continues to be shocking to many, once understood it has a simple elegance and even an appealing intuition. It sheds light on previously mysterious aspect of our world. Not so with quantum mechanics! Even those who "understand" it are perpetually disturbed and/or baffled by it, as it seems to inject mysticism where once there had been seeming clarity. Neils Bohr, one of the original founders of quantum mechanics, famously quipped, "Anyone who isn't shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent explanation of the standard Copenhagen interpretation of the quantum world: in this world, events are governed by probabilities. A system (e.g. a photon) can behave as a wave or as a piece of matter. It is the act of observing that photon, that forces it to select one of these options, which then become 'real'. Otherwise, we have absolutely no idea what a photon is doing when we are not looking at it.
Into the bargain, the uncertainty principle of Heisenberg says that we cannot know the present in all its details, for an electron for instance cannot possess both a precise momentum and a precise position. There are only probabilities.
The philosophical impact of these 'facts' cannot be underestimated. Even Einstein could not accept it.
As always with Gribbin, this work is easy to understand, also for the layman. This was absolutely not obvious for that kind of subject. His writing stimulates to read further work about physics and cosmology. It is a real exploratory expedition.
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