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The Quantum Astrologer's Handbook: a history of the Renaissance…

by Michael Brooks

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392494,860 (3.7)None
A book of science like no other, about a scientist like no other. This is a landmark in science writing. It resurrects from the vaults of neglect the polymath Jerome Cardano, a Milanese of the sixteenth century. Who is he? A gambler and blasphemer, inventor and chancer, plagued by demons and anxieties, astrologer to kings, emperors and popes. This stubborn and unworldly man was the son of a lawyer and a brothel keeper, but also a gifted physician and the unacknowledged discoverer of the mathematical foundations of quantum physics. That is the argument of this charming and intoxicatingly clever book, which is truly original in its style, and in the manner of the modernists embodies in its very form its theories about the world. The Quantum Astrologer's Handbookis a science book with the panache of a novel, for readers of Carlo Rovelli or Umberto Eco. It is a work of and about genius. 'The most original nonfiction book I've read in years.' -Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Natureand Founding Gardeners 'Jerome Cardano is my all-time favourite mathematical rogue. Michael Brooks has brought him vividly to life in entertaining, informative, and highly original conversations about frontier physics, held across a gulf of centuries. A daring and successful experiment and a new kind of popular science writing.' -Ian Stewart 'Michael Brooks is a magician in the old sense - both scientist and artist. He uses both disciplines to create a compelling, fresh look at the quantum world. A fantastic read for students of reality.' -Gwyneth Lewis, author of Sunbathing in the Rain… (more)
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What’s in a name? Not everything that you expect. In our case, there’s very little about imaginary numbers and probability. Michael Brooks meanders between the life of Geronimo (Girolamo) Cardano and the current state of affairs in quantum mechanics. As far as they serve quantum physics, probability and imaginary numbers are subjects Brooks deems fit to discuss. Brooks is well known from his books “13 things that don’t make sense” and “free radicals”, the latter a book about anarchic thinking and acting in science, often leading to progress - albeit sometimes with a twist.

Despite the sober description of probability and imaginary numbers, The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook really works well. The story of Cardano seamlessly merges with the ideas of Brooks about quantum mechanics. He has his preferences, and the Copenhagen interpretation of Niels Bohr is not one of them. Brooks emphasizes that Bohr might have been a nice guy, but also way to dominant in the discussion about the interpretation of the wave/particle duality in quantum mechanics.

Cardano’s story is told from a nifty perspective: the author visits Cardano in his prison cell as his “guardian angel” Cardano mentions in his writings. Cardano is locked up by the Inquisition. The author “interviews” Cardano about his life and decisions, and when Cardano mentions a key question, Brooks switches to the current time and quantum mechanics. It often concerns the reality of the above mentioned duality coming from the Schrödinger wave equation, of which the imaginary unit is an important part, next to probability.

For those well versed in the populair version of quantum mechanics the book offers little new knowledge; at most another way of explanation about how to interpret the theory. If you’re one of those, the from time to time sad story of Cardano and his family will be the most interesting pieces. But the way Brooks makes a connection between the story of Girolamo and Schrödinger’s equation is well worth your time. ( )
  jeroenvandorp | Jul 31, 2018 |
It’s not often that non-fiction gains a spot on my leisure reading pile. But the moment I read the synopsis for this new release, I knew it was something I’d enjoy. The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook is narrative non-fiction, with a very interesting twist involving the debate surrounding time as the fourth dimension. Author Michael Brooks’ passion for his subject matter shines from these pages. An engaging storyteller, he personalises science. Read full review >> ( )
  BookloverBookReviews | Nov 5, 2017 |
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A book of science like no other, about a scientist like no other. This is a landmark in science writing. It resurrects from the vaults of neglect the polymath Jerome Cardano, a Milanese of the sixteenth century. Who is he? A gambler and blasphemer, inventor and chancer, plagued by demons and anxieties, astrologer to kings, emperors and popes. This stubborn and unworldly man was the son of a lawyer and a brothel keeper, but also a gifted physician and the unacknowledged discoverer of the mathematical foundations of quantum physics. That is the argument of this charming and intoxicatingly clever book, which is truly original in its style, and in the manner of the modernists embodies in its very form its theories about the world. The Quantum Astrologer's Handbookis a science book with the panache of a novel, for readers of Carlo Rovelli or Umberto Eco. It is a work of and about genius. 'The most original nonfiction book I've read in years.' -Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Natureand Founding Gardeners 'Jerome Cardano is my all-time favourite mathematical rogue. Michael Brooks has brought him vividly to life in entertaining, informative, and highly original conversations about frontier physics, held across a gulf of centuries. A daring and successful experiment and a new kind of popular science writing.' -Ian Stewart 'Michael Brooks is a magician in the old sense - both scientist and artist. He uses both disciplines to create a compelling, fresh look at the quantum world. A fantastic read for students of reality.' -Gwyneth Lewis, author of Sunbathing in the Rain

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