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The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

The Quantum Magician (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Derek Künsken (Author), T. Ryder Smith (Narrator), Recorded Books (Publisher)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1297152,938 (3.88)2
"An audacious con job, scintillating future technology, and meditations on the nature of fractured humanity" - Yoon Ha Lee   "Technology changes us--even our bodies--in fundamental ways, and Kunsken handles this wonderfully" - Cixin Liu   THE ULTIMATE HEIST Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse--an uncontrollable, even suicidal drive to know, to understand. Genetically flawed, he leaves his people to find a different life, and ends up becoming the galaxy's greatest con man and thief.  But the jobs are getting too easy and his extraordinary brain is chafing at the neglect. When a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of secret warships across an enemy wormhole, Belisarius jumps at it. Now he must embrace his true nature to pull off the job, alongside a crew of extraordinary men and women. If he succeeds, he could trigger an interstellar war... or the next step in human evolution.… (more)
Title:The Quantum Magician
Authors:Derek Künsken (Author)
Other authors:T. Ryder Smith (Narrator), Recorded Books (Publisher)
Info:Recorded Books (2018)
Collections:Your library

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The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken (2018)

Recently added byMadLudwig, battlinjack, whami, dharding, private library, tashillia, SakiBergh, Evamaren, bradleyhorner



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» See also 2 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
@antao I really don’t understand the reason for all your scientific criticism of this book. Quantum mechanics is not in even straight forward for the scientists who study it. This is fiction, and fiction means made up, not real. I have a base understanding of the quantum world and maybe not even that, but I love sci-fi, most types, but mostly just good stories and this is one hell of a story with great characters. If someone was writing a book about tennis but said tha the characters were playing the game with cricket bats I would call them out and read until I discover that’s what’s going on. But for 99% of people who read sci-fi the science doesn’t have to 100%, it is after all fiction and make believe ( )
  SakiBergh | Jun 8, 2020 |
I have no problems raving about this book. It has everything I love about SF and then I get the best things I love about the thriller/mystery genre.


At first, I believed this was written as a homage or a more accessible version of Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, and I was right... to a degree. It forwent the truly odd stuff and gave us a readable and full explanation of quantum mechanics and name-dropped a few more while throwing us into a more widespread future that never quite touched the singularity.

In other words, it had odd cultures and odder branches of humanity but it still felt a lot like everything we know. Bruisers coming in the form of gene-modded humans able to withstand punishing pressure, a technician in the form of insane AI who think he is a Saint from three thousand years ago or an inside man who is a part of a whole people modded to worship everything about self-torture as a religious experience.

Add our mastermind who is a broken quantum computer (in the old sense) who ought to be able to go into a fugue state and savant his way through any difficult problem except for the tiny detail that it hospitalizes him, and we've got an MC who needs a social challenge big enough to tax his brain without busting it.

There's a lot of great gallows humor here. A truly wild backdrop of space-opera with wormholes, big space-fleet conflict, and empires who all think they're the most formidable foes in the playground. What could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, a lot, but the ride is fun as hell. After all, it's a HEIST! :) :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
A Quantum brain! I don't think evolution would have ever be able to produce such a complex computer, made of tissue. Think about how a Quantum computer work; it's happening in our heads! I swallowed a transformer toy back in the eighties so I'm ahead of the curve on this one.

Roughly speaking, quantum information is unique: you cannot destroy it, you can teleport it, but you cannot clone it. The superposition of quantum states has a range from zero to fully entangled in the context of many measurements. The states are associated with the range of energies. The superposition speaks about the collective, correlated dynamics of the states in the context in which the energies of the states are defined. A thing or two on the unknowns: sometimes, physicists don't know what these particle really do from the mechanics perspective, but they have energy levels and fall to the lowest states. A correlated state may be additionally unstable (more dynamical). The description of that dynamics (the system as a whole) is so huge, that this amount of information cannot be used by itself. Finally, when an interaction occurs, randomness is combined with the states of particles, so you may not obtain any relevant calculation from the quantum computer. In addition, entanglement goes beyond the classical space and time, while this window into weirdness closes exponentially nonetheless. Künsken, uses the Copenhagen Interpretation notion that the full information at the micro-level doesn't even exist until nature has to commit to a choice regarding whether a classical bit is 1 or 0 (experiments by Anton Zeilinger, too busy to look it up now). There are some ideas on recovering "full determinism" even with QM (papers by t'Hooft of all persons), but these hurt my philosophical feelings: Künsken’s take on QM explores, in a SFional, Nature's way of having to avoid dealing with an infinite number of bits (and maybe Nature computes using symbolic expressions using x's anyway; Even in a Newtonian Universe, "perfect information" could not be achieved even in principle).

Künsken drives at setting up a SF novel a la Penrose and Hameroff, i.e., using quantum vibrations in microtubules. I don't see any problems with Penrose and Hameroff (“The Emperor’s New Mind” makes ample use of this) and when you look at photosynthesis, it's microtubules that help transmit information to the reaction sites via a quantum walk which makes it more efficient. I think this is a good thing as well because if you ask me quantum consciousness is a no brainer. Nature has figured out how to shield coherence long enough to use things like quantum superposition to be more efficient. Why would this efficiency be prohibited from the human brain? The too wet and warm excuse went out the door with quantum biology. The brain seems to work on a classical and quantum level. A few years back I read a very interesting book by James Tagg called “Are the Androids Dreaming Yet?” True artificial intelligence will need quantum circuitry added so A.I. can do what's called a quantum walk. So A.I. will need a quantum aspect to try and mimic the human brain. The idea is to label a set if molecules which later will propagate throughout the brain in order to transmit some information. If these molecules were tagged by binding with other molecules (i.e., just chemically), once these have propagated to different sites, any change in state of a single one will not affect the rest. And this is where quantum entanglement gets interesting, because if one of these changes its label, then the rest of the set also will change it, because of entanglement. There is no need for an explicit connection (axon, dendrite, APs code) to do that, what implies that quantum entanglement would propagate any change in state immediately. Thus, different mechanisms can be switched on or off almost instantaneously (assuming a two state entangled system). This adds another dimension to information processing in the brain, certainly worthwhile to investigate, and Künsken’s Homo Quantus takes form. Künsken built a novel around the concept of us being able to create our own reality through our thoughts, expectations, beliefs, intentions, desires, etc. But we are all "entangled", connected in some deep way, so that our desires, intentions, beliefs, etc. interfere and exert force on each other's realities? This may be what makes the next state of reality chaotic, indeterminate, and probabilistic. Is reality some type of de-coherence, in which one unified, coherent reality is de-cohering and experiencing the inevitable conflict? The problem is that some of Bayesianism and randomness overlap. So determinism, objectivity, and dependence become a choice. The solution won't be all-or-nothing. Some mechanisms of olfaction use quantum properties, yet some aspects of psychology probably just have noise. Now which Markov processes are bootstrapped or emulated because a more interesting inquiry. Where are maps, references, reactions, and faithful mirrorings of the territory used and for what kind of real time contexts are we still learning shortcuts? We are cognitively lazy in automation, yet forever curious and exploratory to the point of neuroticism...

“’They’re entangled particles,’ Belisarius said. ‘They can be used to transmit one bit of information pretty much instantaneously, across any distance. When you signal me, this one bit will tell me that the warship made it through safely, that you’re free and we’ve received our down payment. That will be our signal to send the rest of the warships through.’”NO! NO! Why did you do that Künsken???

You took me out of the Story faster than lightning! There’s a bunch of theorems in QM that deal with this: “no-communication” theorem, “no-cloning” theorem, and so on. The one that interests us here is the first one. You cannot send information (qubits) by using two entangled particles. To be able to, it would imply FTL messaging… What entanglement means is if you measure the state of a variable of one of the pair, you know the value of that state for the other. No information at play here! Wham! This felt like a whack to side of the head! The actual rule is not that nothing can go faster than light, the rule is information can't go faster than light. The problem with entanglement is no information actually moves faster than light; I will not try to explain why this is; there are plenty of great books out there that explain it a lot better than I could; the fastest you can get any information is at the speed of light, even using entanglement. The biggest role for entanglement looks now to be in certain information processing. In a nutshell:

1. We know the entangled particles must have undefined spins before we measure them because if they didn't they would sometimes give the same spin when measured in a direction perpendicular to their well-defined spins (and they never do);

2. We know the entangled particles can't have hidden information all along about which spin they will give in different directions because if they did we would measure different results at the two detectors >5/9ths of the time and we don't - we only get different results 50% of the time;

3. We can't use this behaviour to communicate faster than light because we can only pick the direction to measure in, we can't force the spin to be up or down - and it will be random with 50/50 probability. When the two detectors pick the same direction to measure in the results at one detector will be random but the opposite random of those measured at the other detector, which is a bit spooky.

Bell's inequalities uses 3 directions, but let's use two for simplicity. Let's say spin up/down is one direction and spin left/right is another that is orthogonal (aka perpendicular). If you measure spin up, then any subsequent measure of up/down spin will always be up. If you then measure spin left, any subsequent measure will always be left. BUT, if you measure spin up, then measure spin left, then measure spin up/down again, the result will be 50/50 and random between up or down. This is true for any two (or more) properties that are subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal. It isn't always 50/50, that depends on the details. I used the simplest example in which it would be truly 50/50 just to simplify the explanation. Randomness is key here...Adam Becker's book is a good place to start.

For a purported Hard SF novel, this is all quite lame. It reminds me of Liu Cixin’s also supposed Hard SF (vide the “Issue with the Pendulum”: glaring physics mistake at the end of chapter 19 of "The Three Body Problem"; Liu Cixin said that when the moon was overhead the pendulum had less weight and when it was at the other end (underneath) the pendulum had more weight... but in both cases he should have said less. Anyone who understands basic gravity and tides should know this. This an unforgivable considering the book's topic. People describe the book as "science-oriented". But with simple mistakes like this and so much "fiction", I would not put it in the "hard science" category. I'd place it on the really-really-soft-SF-category like Künsken’s)…I had to dock another star…

I read the rest of Künsken’s novel just for the heist itself…Greg Egan still reigns supreme when it comes to Hard SF (vide Schild’s Ladder). ( )
  antao | Oct 4, 2019 |
I was amazed that this book is from a first time novelist. The world building is excellent!

The division of humanity is well done. I was actually creeped out by the Puppets and the Numen. I found the Mongrels to be vulgar and annoying. I was fascinated by the Homo Quantus. Imagine being able to turn yourself into a quantum computer at will! There is also an AI who thinks he's a saint as well as a "normal" human woman who is a bit psychotic and enjoys blowing things up.

Belisarius Arjona is a Homo Quantus who has left his people and set out on his own. He brings together this diverse group in order to pull off a crime that no one thinks is possible. What follows is a great read that left me wondering if everything was planned to go as it did.

I recommend this to all sci fi fans. It's a bit of a heavy read but worth it! ( )
  Dragontears22 | Jun 20, 2019 |
likable characters - engaging plot - believable scenarios - good world building - plenty of room for further development
will read more by author ( )
  jason9292 | Mar 3, 2019 |
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Belisarius is a Homo quantus, engineered with impossible insight. But his gift is also a curse—an uncontrollable, even suicidal drive to know, to understand. Genetically flawed, he leaves his people to find a different life, and ends up becoming
the galaxy’s greatest con man and thief.

But the jobs are getting too easy and his extraordinary brain is chafing at the neglect. When a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of secret warships across an enemy wormhole, Belisarius jumps at it. Now he must embrace his true nature to pull off the job, alongside a crew of extraordinary men and women.

If he succeeds, he could trigger an interstellar war… or the next step in human evolution.
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