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Properties of Light: A Novel of Love, Betrayal, and Quantum Physics

3.43  ·  Rating Details ·  180 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
With Properties of Light, the award-winning author of The Mind-Body Problem gives us “one of the magnificent performances in contemporary fiction, a fusion of the imagination and intellect . . . achingly beautiful, moving, and intriguing on every page” (Charles Johnson). This mesmerizing tale of consuming love and murderous professional envy carries the reader into the ver ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 14th 2001 by Mariner Books (first published 2000)
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Jul 18, 2015 msleighm rated it really liked it
4.5 stars rounded down.

By page 10, I found the use and placement of words in sentences and paragraphs cunning. I would often find myself go back to savior a well structured turn of phrase.

Reading this when sick, perhaps not the best idea.

If you enjoy the philosophy of physics, quantum physics, tantric / kundalian sex, or wave function (psi), you will find something in this book.

This will require a 2nd reading when I am "of sound mind". I have determined to add a contemporary philosophy section
Ari Landa
Sep 14, 2016 Ari Landa rated it it was amazing
I gave this one five stars, even though I was leaning towards four when I finished the book, because upon further reflection, I found more and more complex ideas deftly hidden within the storyline. This isn't a novel in the traditional sense, it's a philosophical novel--through and through about science, which means that the primary purpose of the events and characters is to make philsophical points (raise philosophical questions) about existing philosophical arguments and not necessarily to rai ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Jul 10, 2013 Elliot Ratzman rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Poets interested in physics.
Shelves: book-club
Did I like this book, a romance and mystery around physics and the nature of reality? Yes and no, like a wave/particle. The wowzer physics didn’t move or intimidate me. Not that I understood it more than in gestures and outlines, but the presence of wacky quantum mechanics and debates over its counterintuitive conclusions seemed gimmicky. So too the discussion of tantra yoga and the hasty references to cosmic theology. I was surprised that the pot brownie connections between Eastern thought and ...more
William Kirkland
Sep 30, 2013 William Kirkland rated it liked it
Shelves: science, fiction
The great hope of the three principle characters is to reconcile quantum mechanics with the bed-rock theory of relativity — the holy grail of physicists since Einstein. Goldstein’s great effort is to unify an often poetic diction with the thorny vocabulary and concepts of physics. If velumen, ergodic, relativistic, pyrophoric are words you’d rather not grapple with, then don’t. If references to Schrodinger’s Cat or the wave function psi leave you baffled then reach for lighter stuff.

If hatred as
Whitney Archibald
Mar 29, 2008 Whitney Archibald rated it it was ok
I'm glad I read this book, mostly because it was so unique, but I wouldn't really recommend it. As it says on the cover, it really is about love, betrayal, and quantum physics -- heavy on the quantum physics. It was really slow reading, especially at first, probably because it's written from the perspective of a physicist. Even the sentence structure is complicated.

I did appreciate the way the author made up words such as “deloonied” (as in, proved to not be loony) and “entragicked” (as in, emb
Eric Aiello
Nov 11, 2010 Eric Aiello rated it liked it
Here is an equation. (Shakespeare - Brilliance) + Contemporary Physics = Properties of Light.

The characters in this book were so freaking dramatic. The situations were so ridiculously serious (without really seeming all that serious). I hated the main character. In fact, the only character I liked, the only character I thought was even a little bit sane was dead.

I would never have read this if not for a book club. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. But that isn't to say it's a great nov
Jun 25, 2014 Mary rated it liked it
Mixed reaction to this book. The beginning was hard for me to get into. In the middle I was intrigued and by the end I was getting bored again. The book explores the tension between the mind/soul and the brain. Is there something separate from the brain? Does the soul/spirit have a place in science? Unfortunately, the characters are all pretty irritating. And the main character is very undeveloped.
Mar 13, 2011 Kelly rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2008

For nearly every book I have picked up, where I was whilst reading it comes back to me easily. Where the reading (or trying to read) this book took place makes me laugh now. I cannot recall any shuddering passages of literate genius, but I can remember the freshly-flattened skunk on the side of the 99 just beyond my walking path. Expecting a grand and sweeping story of science was too much for me to not be disappointed, but something tells me I should go back to judging a book by its publisher.
May 24, 2015 Joshua rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For all the brilliant moments this book had, it also had ridiculous moments. Most of this has to do with the style. Sometimes it was mandarine, but sometimes it was byzantine to the point of meaningless. The perspective also changed from chapter to chapter, which wasn;t confusing, but also served no purpose for the story.

All in all, I'm glad I read this, but I think it could have been a lot better with a little more restraint from the writer.
Elise Weaver
Mar 19, 2011 Elise Weaver rated it it was amazing
I really liked this one, not only because it harkened back to my undergrad physics days, but because I met David Bohm (aka Mallach in the book). It was only to shake his hand and say "it is all about perception" as he looked at me, wise and amused, like I was some kind of puppy sliding awkwardly on a linoleum floor. But he wasn't nuts or miserable. He was busy talking to eastern mystics and writing about it. I didn't know he was bitter about the fate of his hidden variable theory. Anyway, the bo ...more
Charlotte mann
Apr 10, 2014 Charlotte mann rated it really liked it
timeline was a bit hard to follow. I don't mind guessing what/when/where some of the time, but the indefiniteness in this story line seemed to me to be a bit excessive. But I did enjoy the story and the intellectual premise.
Oct 29, 2010 Jgknobler rated it liked it
I wish the physics had been clearer in this novel about a depressed, neglected and unappreciated physicist who briefly comes to life again under the solicitations of a young faculty member who not only "gets" his concepts but falls in love with and brings out the genius in his daughter. I found the writing overwrought and the psychological explanations pat and unbelievable. I did like learning about Tantric sex, which somehow had escaped me previously!
Apr 03, 2010 Marta rated it really liked it
I really got engrossed in this book after I got used to the references to quantum mechanics and relativity. But, as happens often to me, I was baffled by the ending of the book. I finally read a review from the NY Times only to find that the things that baffled me were, in fact, left unresolved.
Aug 10, 2010 Allison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The language and wordplay and musing on physics and poetry and the poetry of physics are all lovely. I just sort of feel like the whole old-genius-mentor-with-beautiful-daughter enter-the-young-genius-to-be-mentored-and-seduced thing has been done to death, so that took away from it a bit for me.
William Mann
May 19, 2015 William Mann rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Not much of a fiction reader but this book was quite fun to read and ponder. Plot evolves very slowly and this is not a quick read, but if you are looking for something out of the ordinary and a little brain bending I recommend this. Not for the beach!
Mar 26, 2011 Alyosha rated it it was ok
Lots of razzle-dazzle here but way, way too much esoteric stuff about physics that is neither enlightening in itself nor that furthers the story - and indeed, what IS the story? Why exactly does Justin profess - so vehemently - to hate Dana Mallach?
Dec 14, 2008 Dana rated it liked it
I was disappointed in this book, particularly after the luminousness of Goldstein's "Mazel." The language and word-play seemed overly self-conscious, and though I could discern what she was trying to do, I didn't find her technique effective.
Jan 07, 2009 Gilly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I just re-read this. It's a beautiful book, romantic & thought-provoking. As you read, you slowly realize that the story, as well as the way it is told, reflect the modern physics discussed in it.
Jan 20, 2009 lucas rated it liked it
i'd like to read this again. from what i remember, i thought it was the strongest of her novels i'd read. i'll take another look someday.
Oct 14, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
I'm glad I didn't dismiss this as a melodrama and give up; the ending was more rewarding than I had anticipated.
Jun 24, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kim by: Connie
I thought this book was amazing. It's one to talk over with a friend who has read it...and there are very few who have.
Mar 04, 2009 Rachel rated it liked it
a very strange novel -- fragmentary, with perhaps excessive vocabulary, but somewhat addictive.
Apr 02, 2013 Amy rated it did not like it
Didn't really like this book. It did not offer what I thought it would.
Karl W.
Dec 23, 2010 Karl W. rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The plot is interesting but the but the prose is just too precious...
Nov 07, 2007 Ariella rated it liked it
Physics, philosophy, and twisted romance all in one short novel.
Sep 26, 2008 Joshua rated it really liked it
Is a ghost story about love, betrayal, and quantum physics.
Cynthia Reeser
Review in Fort Polk Guardian, Aug. 1, 2008
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Rebecca Newberger Goldstein grew up in White Plains, New York, and graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, receiving the Montague Prize for Excellence in Philosophy, and immediately went on to graduate work at Princeton University, receiving her Ph.D. in philosophy. While in graduate school she was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship and a Whiting Foundation Fellowship.

After e
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“We each carry our own designated end within us, our very own death ripening at its own rate inside of us. There are insignificant people who are harboring unawares the grandeur of large deaths. We carry it in us like a darkening fruit. It opens and spills out. That is death.” 7 likes
“I've got access to your mysterious body but not your mysterious soul. Souls seem to me the loneliest possibility of all.” 4 likes
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