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Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great…

Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality (2008)

by Manjit Kumar

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6271723,523 (4)1 / 36
Recently added byJeremyHardie, private library, utopia2021, strangefate, ckadams5, Jainam, Floyd3345, JackBurton



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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Einstein, Bohr... et le débat sur la nature de la réalité
  guyotvillois | Oct 15, 2018 |

In the 15th chapter the key to Quantum Mechanics (QM). It was Richard Feynman who said, “I think it is safe to say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics.”

This book does not help either.

Quantum mechanics is the spookiest theoretical framework ever devised by man. Cats that are at the same time alive and dead ("Superposition" = "We do not know"; "Collapsing the superposition" = "finding out" whether the cat is alive and kicking), objects that are both particles and waves, etc.

The subject is very interesting, the book not so much. The framing of the debate is way off the mark. A few notes:

1. Faraday is strangely absent;

2. Gravitation is depicted as a space-warp. Unfortunately the alternative of a field supporting gravitational waves is nowhere to be seen;

3. QM is not relativistic - yet this issue, critical to causality, is missing;

4. It's ridden with unexplained concepts like electron ‘spin’ and exclusion rule. Schrödinger’s wave mechanics was a huge advancement, but relating the wave function to real probabilities was formulaic;

5. The collapse of the wave function and the measurement process is not properly explained;

6. The last years of QM's developments are hardly mentioned, maybe to the high esoteric nature of the subject (eg, quantum gravity). Still it would have been interesting to have at least an appendix dealing with this;

7. It does not draw any philosophical conclusions. Everything seems quite bare;

8. The overuse of amusing stories, anecdotes and quotations breaks up the narrative flow.

Einstein’s main objection to QM was directed at the notion that there's something in nature that allowed "ghostly action at a distance" ("spukhafte Fernwirkung" in Einstein's own words), meaning that faster-than-light speeds had to be possible in QM. He was also quite adamant in denying that an underlying reality existed (through the so-called ‘hidden variables’). Still in his lifetime, he was able to "demonstrate" that the measurement of separated systems could not influence each other directly. If only that were possible (ie, at a distance influence), magic would also be possible...

There are a few SF books that were able to capture the duality of nature in a more interesting fashion (eg, "One, True Platonic Heaven: A Scientific Fiction of the Limits of Knowledge by John L. Casti").

The last quote in the book by German playwright and philosopher Gotthold Lessing: “The aspiration of truth is more precious than its assured possession”, also epitomizes for me the quest for the ultimate TOE (Theory of Everything).

3 stars for the 2 chapters dealing with the 1927 and 1930 Solvay conferences.
" ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
My thoughts on Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality

http://meganeasleywalshauthor.blogspot.ie/2015/03/writer-wednesday-quantum.html ( )
  Megan.Easley-Walsh | Dec 9, 2016 |
This was a tough read but if you are interested in the subject matter it is worth your time. The first few chapters are both dry and a tad too technical. Hang in there. It does get better. ( )
  NewLiz | May 26, 2015 |
Is quantum mechanics a complete description, or is there something missing? At the sub-atomic level, is there something real, independent of the observer, or does it only have a tangible existence when we observe it? These are the questions that Manjit Kumar focuses on, in his biography of quantum mechanics, from Planck and Einstein as its progenitors at the start of the 19th century, to those like Heisenberg, Schrodinger and Pauli, the young Turks that shaped it into a modern theory in the 1920's. The people, their lives and stances, are described at least as much as the science, and the book definitely comes alive with this human element. At its heart is the battle between Neils Bohr on the one side, the father of quantum mechanics, who readily accepted the pragmatic approach that observation shapes everything, and that quantum mechanics is a supreme, and on the other side sits Albert Einstein, the most influential physicist of the modern age, who accepted that quantum mechanics fit the data, but refused to accept that it was a complete, final theory.

One of the main strengths of the book is to raise Einstein's stock. There is a general public perception that he wasted the last few decades of his life rejecting quantum mechanics and chasing a grand unified theory without much connection to evidence or current physics. Kumar clearly shows that Einstein was passionately concerned with the quantum from his first proclamation that light is a photon (a quantum of energy) in 1905, and that he took a very active role in advising and shaping the physics of quantum phenomena right up until the 1920's. When quantum mechanics then took shape as a fundamentally statistical theory, Einstein still was tremendously influential in his criticism of the theory, with a paper he co-wrote (known as EPR, for its coauthors) becoming one of the most astute challenges to the theory.

Kumar ends by asserting that many modern physicists are now sympathetic to Einstein's negative stance, as they view quantum mechanics as a half-baked theory, presumably with superstring theory ready to take its place.

On the whole, Kumar's writing is extremely clear and engaging, despite the complex subject matter covered. Occasionally I think some more figures would have helped enormously, and there were a very few places where jargon needlessly crept in and clarity took a hit. I was half expecting, given the title, that later aspects of quantum mechanics, like quantum electrodynamics and quantum chromodynamics, would also have been covered, and I felt a tiny bit cheated that no advances quantum mechanics beyond the 1920's was really covered. Still, as a description of the philosophical battles that raged as the theory was being shaped in the early decades, this is a tour de force. ( )
  RachDan | May 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Kumar writes a conventional narrative history, focusing on the long-running debate between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, which took place from the mid-1920s through to the mid-1950s, over the adequacy of the quantum theory as a framework for fundamental physics.
added by jlelliott | editNature, Don Howard (pay site) (Dec 11, 2008)
Manjit Kumar's book is an exhaustive and brilliant account of decades of emotionally charged discovery and argument, friendship and rivalry spanning two world wars. In what also has to operate as a kind of group biography of Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac et al, the quasi-novelistic character sketches occasionally have a comic quality ("The son of a tax collector, Ludwig Boltzmann was short and stout with an impressive late 19th-century beard"); but the real meat of the book is the explanations of science and philosophical interpretation, which are pitched with an ideal clarity for the general reader. Perhaps most interestingly, although the author is admirably even-handed, it is difficult not to think of Quantum, by the end, as a resounding rehabilitation of Albert Einstein.
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"For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. In this book, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its core." "Quantum theory looks at the very building blocks of our world, the particles and processes without which it could not exist. Yet for 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existence of reality itself. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar shows how the golden age of physics ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393078299, 0393339882

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