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The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  409 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in whi ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 15th 2011 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published February 24th 2011)
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Bob Nichols
Jul 12, 2011 Bob Nichols rated it it was ok
The audience for this book might be the second or third year physics student. The book's detail obscures the story for those who need an introduction.

This book begins by describing rival theories of physics in the early 1900s between the atomists and those who saw a continuous and harmonious flow of energy in the cosmos. The rest of the book is a blow-by-blow account of how quantum physics has brought these two theories closer together. Toward the end of the book, the author writes about "closed
Peter Mcloughlin
Historical development of Quantum Mechanics through 40 historical snapshots taken from the twentieth century. Not sure I found the format very engaging but I am more interested not so much in the story of its development as its consequences. So this format doesn't exactly do it for me. Anyway it is ok and does talk about the history but it wasn't my cup of tea.
Aug 31, 2012 Aaron rated it it was ok
I paid for this book, therefore I felt compelled to read it till the last page. If it was a library borrow I would had returned it.

I was expecting a plain and simple explanation of Quantum theory for the non-physicist but this book goes into a lot of detail that a physics student could benefit from.

In total honesty, I couldn’t wait for it to be over but I’m glad I made it to the last page the same way as running 0.2 miles after running 26 miles before for the whole 26.2 of a marathon.
As a historical overview of the development of quantum physics, this book was worth reading and, regarding the exposition of the quantum concepts and phenomena, it may be that it is good enough if you’re a physicist or someone already well-versed in confusing technical terminology and the underlying mathematics.
However, my experience with this book is that the technical terminology (though probably conventionally accepted) is too loose and too vaguely defined for the layperson. So, to my sorrow
Oct 20, 2011 Nilesh rated it liked it
Too ambitious and too complex. The author has a good concept in mind but in the chronological recount of the development he never could reach where the theory is now (after all the bumblings and Eureka moments) and the meaning of it all. The book is extremely complex in parts and completely loses its readers in ascribing the meaning to all the mathematical innovations (or may be he says somewhere, there is no meaning). That said, a decent book to go through for anyone with interest in the subjec ...more
Charles R
Jun 13, 2011 Charles R rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is a nice little popular history of quantum physics, from Planck's introduction of the quantum in 1900 to the present day. The best part of the book is probably the first half or so, which deals with the creation of quantum theory, up to the establishment of QED as a complete theory around 1950.

Although there is not really any mathematics in the book, the author does go into a bit more technical detail than is usual in popular histories of this sort. Since I have a mathematical background,
Jan 25, 2015 Bojana rated it really liked it
although i loved it, as a physicist i think that you have to be one in order to really enjoy it. there are scarcely any equations, but the concepts may be overwhelming for a layperson. baggott mentions that the 40 moments are subjectively chosen, but i believe he did an amazing job with them. being somewhat obsessed with the whole "copenhagen movement", i though i knew all there is to know about this circle of physicists, but baggott gave me a few stories i knew nothing about. overall, a great r ...more
Mar 18, 2017 Julian rated it it was amazing
Many readers have given this book 2 stars because they were expecting a book that explains the math and science of quantum physics. This book doesn't do that. The purpose of the book is to zero in on the fascinating historical and social episodes of the growth of quantum physics from 1900 - near present. To fully appreciate and enjoy the book, some background knowledge is needed. I find the appropriate audience to be those who have knowledge congruent with courses in modern, quantum, and particl ...more
Jun 08, 2017 Michael rated it really liked it
Just finished "The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments" by Jim Baggott. This is a history of Quantum Mechanics and is highly readable by anyone with am interest and moderate scientific background. While most of the 40 topics weren't new to me it was enlightening to learn how they intertwined down through the years and who did what. Fine book.
Jun 12, 2017 Brian rated it really liked it
I was able to easily follow this up to the years leading up to and shortly after WWII. After that I found it increasingly hard to follow, but that might be simply because my background in this subject and subatomic particles is not up to it, just yet.
Zah Ra
Mar 16, 2017 Zah Ra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
یرای فهمیدن این کتاب نیاز است حداقل کارشناسی ارشد فیزیک داشته باشید.این کتاب یه کتاب مربوط به علوم عامه نیست. تخصصی است و برای فیزیکدان ها بسیار مفید می باشد.لطفا اگر این فیزیکدان نیستید این کتاب را نخوانید به زبان ساده و همه فهم نوشته نشده است.
Feb 28, 2017 Gydo rated it it was amazing
The Quantum Story by Jim Faggott is a great book on the evolution of quantum theory. It starts with the initial crisis at the end of the 19th century and follows up all the way to 2010. This includes relativisitic quantum theory, the interpretation of quantum theory, QED, QCD, the Standard Model, quantum loop theory and superstring theory.

Its is easy to read through, though it requires knowledge of the topics in order to maximally savour the events described.

I greatly enjoyed this book and give
May 18, 2014 Toni rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A (very) robust and interesting history on discoveries in quantum mechanics and particle physics, and the physicists involved. Starting with Planck's work with black body radiation, and moving through general relativity, the wave function, field theory, chromodynamics, and ending in contemporary work in string theory and loop quantum gravity, the book really mixes a heaping helping of the science itself with the historical narrative - sometimes a little too much. I'm reasonably well versed in qu ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Alina rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book presents an overview of quantum mechanics by relating 40 crucial episodes in the development of the theory. I thought that sounded like a good approach for someone like me, who loves science and is fascinated by the implications of quantum mechanics but doesn't have the math chops to understand anything more than a top-level conceptual approach -- if that. It explores the theory through personalities and events. I'm not sure I gained much more insight than I had before, but the format ...more
Geo Collins
Mar 06, 2014 Geo Collins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been massively interested in quantum physics for a number of years now, and last December I picked up this book. Due to the demanding nature of my A-level courses, and part laziness, I kept it kind of as a 'casual read' for whenever I was a bit bored. However very recently I decided to plough through the rest of it.

It starts by introducing quantum theory, what it is, and the famous first interpretation suggested by Niels Bohr. To my surprise, it didn't mention the second most famous interpr
Mar 04, 2015 Chris rated it liked it
Interesting read about the history of quantum physics. Started out strong with all the classic players, Planck, Bohr, Einstein, Maxwell and the progressed through the early years of the 20th century describing how the classical physics model was breaking down under the experiments and observations currently being made and the theories that were developed to try and explain what was going on. The middle part of the book got bogged down in the minutiae of competing theories, endless different prop ...more
Oct 25, 2015 Nick rated it it was ok
As others have pointed out, this book just doesn't know what its audience is. Perhaps a physics enthusiast looking to deepen his historical knowledge? I don't know. I do know that as an interested party without a physics background, I was increasingly lost. I would much rather have read a book which skipped broadly over some parts, but then actually fully explained others, instead of giving every discovery this not-quite-enough treatment. Further, the theory was always front and center, with mos ...more
Satyajit Nadkarni
Jun 07, 2012 Satyajit Nadkarni rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Lucid to the point of interesting and historically revealing. Of course, it would help if the reader were interested in physics in general - the history of particle physics, quantum mechanics and such. As a lay person reading this book, there were times when I wished I was a physicist or at least knew the mathematics to truly follow what was going on, in depth. But even if I do not know the math, i still understood the basics of each concept and more importantly, the history behind those concept ...more
William Schram
Aug 29, 2015 William Schram rated it really liked it
An excellent account of 40 of the most important developments in Quantum Physics. While not written for the layman, it is still possible to understand what Baggott is talking about. That's what Wikipedia is for in my opinion.

It covers everything from the Black Body Radiation of Max Planck to the "Particle Zoo" of the 1960s and 70s to the ideas underlying Quantum Gravity and Hawking Radiation. Of course, there are some things that still need to be sorted out in terms of the Theory, but it is a ve
Sep 30, 2012 Gregg rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the way the author told the story. Picking 40 moments and using them to bring the reader along the path of discovery was a great way to provide the background and evolution of the quantum theory. I listened to the audiobook version so I did feel a little lost later in the book as the author was describing some of the math involved so I may go back and re-read some of the chapters with a hard copy of the book. However, I still followed the main concepts and don't feel that I lost ...more
Gene Sewell
Sep 04, 2012 Gene Sewell rated it really liked it
I'm about halfway through and find the book very enjoyable. I have enough math and physics to stay with the audio book. I would say this book would be difficult for someone without a reasonable background in physics and related math. That being said, this book is very approachable for a layperson interested in the subject.

It's almost impossible to find a book explaining the quantum story - in part because the story is still in flux.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in understanding quan
Shankhayan Dutta
A difficult read, though it might be expected given the subject matter. Had to skim at times, but still managed to learn a lot about developments in modern physics. It also offers tantalizing hints at some deeper metaphysical questions.. but doesn't really talk about them much.

Read if you liked Physics in school.
Jun 22, 2012 Benjamin rated it really liked it
Very interesting account of the evolution of quantum physics, which includes the human element of how various theories were constructed and experimental discoveries were made. Drags a bit in the middle while focusing on the classification of particles (so many particles), but once I got through that it picked up again.
Sep 10, 2012 Terry rated it really liked it
I do not have either the understanding or background to appreciate the technical aspects of the book. But for one who is not versed in physics, I felt I was still able to understand the outlines of the issues involved in the development of Quantum Theory. I also felt that the book really demonstrated the interaction between theory and experimentation in scientific discovery.
Katherine Cowley
Nov 14, 2011 Katherine Cowley marked it as to-read
I got through the first 40 pages and thought it was brilliant... however, I don't have a strong (or recent enough) physics base to read the rest at this point. One of my goals is to learn more about physics... once I do, I'll come back to this book.
B Kevin
May 28, 2012 B Kevin rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-pop
I loved the earlier chapters and would have helped when I was studying QM as an undergrad. The later chapters got a bit tedious and bogged down with sub atomic particles. Dammit, seen one boson, seen em all.

Don't worry, no math involved.
Fran Caparrelli
Jun 22, 2011 Fran Caparrelli rated it liked it
liked it but couldn't understand a lot of it. I find the quantum theory fascinating - just wish I could really understand it. From a historical viewpoint the book was good - I found the background of the development of the theory interesting.
Nov 03, 2014 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This rating does not imply that I know or understand anything about Quantum Physics. But, the history parts (which I could understand) were very interesting. So I figure no need to lower a rating on a book just because I'm too dumb to comprehend all (... okay, most) of the contents.
Edward Schaul
Sep 05, 2016 Edward Schaul rated it really liked it
An interesting read, the author did not include enough mathematics to really be able to explain some of the interesting aspects of quantum theory. Things are not as they seem to our senses, i find that very intriguing.
Jan 24, 2015 준혁 rated it really liked it
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Jim Baggott completed his doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of Oxford and his postgraduate research at Stanford University.
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“we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” 1 likes
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