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The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  692 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
A brilliantly original and richly illuminating exploration of entanglement, the seemingly telepathic communication between two separated particles—one of the fundamental concepts of quantum physics.

In 1935, in what would become the most cited of all of his papers, Albert Einstein showed that quantum mechanics predicted such a correlation, which he dubbed “spooky action at
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Knopf (first published 2008)
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Jan 26, 2009 Mazola1 rated it really liked it
In The Age of Entanglement, Louisa Gilder sketches and humanizes one of the most baffling ideas of modern science -- the concept of entanglement in quantum mechanics. Einstein famously called entanglement "spooky action-at-a distance, and battled fruitlessly for the last two decades of his life to rebut it. Entanglement implies that particles, even if separated by large distances, can "communicate" with each other simultaneously. It also implies that photons, electrons, atoms, indeed all matter, ...more
Aug 28, 2011 David rated it really liked it
"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself."

- Albert Einstein

Even after reading this book, I don't understand quantum physics - but that wasn't the author's purpose. She focused on the history of the research and the relationships between the scientists. This book isn't for everyone. You don't have to know a lot of math or physics, but I can't imagine you would enjoy this book without a significant math and physics background. In case you aren't going to read i
Jim Coughenour
Jul 10, 2009 Jim Coughenour rated it did not like it
Shelves: unreadable
I'm sorry to say I abandoned this book for something as ridiculous as the way it was written. I'm sorry, because the subject is fascinating; and sorry because Louise Gilder is obviously an intelligent scholar. But for some reason she decided to write this history as a series of conversations – and it's this determined quirk that put my teeth on edge from the start. Here's an example from p. 103:

"We have always said so glibly," Heisenberg told his frustration, or the trees, or Bohr, or Einstein,
Charlene Lewis- Estornell
Gilder chose an interesting way to relate material that is often unrelatable. Many famous physicists are known for asserting that no one understands quantum physics. My favorite Feynman quote is, "There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lo ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Ed rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics, my-reviews
In 1989, the year before he died, John Bell gave the "speech of his career" to his fellow physicists, taking issue with the standard interpretation of quantum physics: "It would seem that the theory is exclusively concerned about 'results of measurement' and has nothing to say about anything else. What exactly qualifies some physical systems to play the role of 'measurer'? Was the wavefunction of the world waiting to jump for thousands of millions of years until a single-celled living creature a ...more
Jun 03, 2009 Blarg rated it really liked it
(This is a cross-post of my review at

“This quantum question is so uncommonly important and difficult that it should concern everyone.”

-- Albert Einstein, 1908.

The concepts of quantum mechanics have fascinated me for a great many years. I’ve read dozens of books on the subject but am no closer to grasping the concepts underlying a mystery that perplexed Einstein himself until the day he died.

Einstein spent his entire life wrestling with the issues raised
Jan 19, 2014 Sara rated it it was ok
I felt a little frustrated with this book. First, let me say that it is such a great idea. Exploring the history of the theory of quantum mechanics via the difficulties surrounding entanglement is brilliant. I also think this book does a good job discussing some of the serious personal and political dramas these researchers faced (e.g. the rise of the Nazis and the second red scare in the US).

That being said, I didn't like that the science was often skipped. When it wasn't, I thought it was con
Nov 17, 2014 Cara marked it as abandoned
This book is written in an interesting way, as mostly made-up conversations between some of the major players in early quantum theory. At the beginning I thought this might work, but as the book went on it because increasingly annoying, to the point where I could no longer continue. I've noticed a lot of physics books written for a popular audience using these cutesy methods to try to explain things, but for me it just makes everything more confusing. If I wanted to read a novel, I would.
Feb 07, 2016 Wolfgang rated it liked it
History of the development of the Quantum Theory.
The book takes an unusual approach of recounting the history by letting all the main actors speak. The dialogs between Rutherford, Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, Pauli etc etc have been derived from letters, biographies and other sources.

The idea is great to tell this story through the words of the main players. However, the way Louisa has done is VERY uneven.

The first half recounts the early story and ends roughly in the 50's around the time when Ei
Arvind Balasundaram
Jun 05, 2014 Arvind Balasundaram rated it it was amazing
In this fascinating account of the topsy-turvy world of quantum mechanics, Louisa Gilder conveys the attempt of the human imagination to logically wrestle with the sometimes bizarre, as experienced and narrated by the theories' most famous protagonists. Relying almost entirely on actual conversational material between these scientists, or else the correspondence between them, this book provides a glimpse into how physics experienced a transformational change as the everyday perceptual world and ...more
Oliver Hodson
Apr 10, 2015 Oliver Hodson rated it it was amazing
I've read a few books about quantum mechanics, and they sort of stop at the paradoxes of complementarity- which are obviously interesting, but leave everyone a bit hamstrung. Oh and leave Einstein lamenting his inability to get a unified field theory. This book is a great book. It traces science to the next step and I hadn't found any account of this previously. I was thoroughly rapt by the story of Bohm, who I thought was about mysticism, rather than trying to make quantum more realistic or mat ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Jesse rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I think that my feelings on this book are largely shaped by the fact that I have a PhD in physics. Despite the fact that I know little about the history and development of quantum mechanics (only what you learn in passing by learning quantum mechanics), much of this book still felt familiar. So many of the central figures are characters in physics lore and legend, that they weren't that surprising. Even those I didn't know, I still mostly recognized the names (if only in connection with this equ ...more
George Gilder
Dec 01, 2008 George Gilder rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in science and technology
Early last century, Einstein and Bohr, the two grand masters of quantum theory, debated its meaning. Einstein declared, based on the clear implications of quantum mathematics, that quantum effects were non local, entailing "spooky action at a distance," correlations at faster than the speed of light, and thus he challenged the completeness and coherence of quantum theory. Bohr responded by citing the correspondence principle, which says that at larger scales quantum phenomena assimilate to class ...more
Apr 28, 2010 Charles rated it liked it
I really really wanted to like this book a lot. It is copiously, even obcessively referenced. Rather than following each of the giants of quantum thory as independent lines, the author tries to demonstrate the discussions and interdependence of these geniouses, due to training, personality, and creativity. The time covered is from about 1920 to 2006.

This is one of the most exciting periods of physics history, fundamentally forcing scientists to question all previous notions of mechanics, and to
Blair Dowden
Jul 10, 2014 Blair Dowden rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
This is the story of why it took so long to discover entanglement in quantum mechanics, as seen from the personalities of the scientists and the conversations between them. As for the physics itself, consider this comment about the Schrödinger equation:
"The wave function ψ described an electron in in three dimensions: perfect. But it described a pair of electrons as a single wave in six dimensions: nonsense."
Nonsense was the prevailing point of view at the time, which was "fixed" by Max Born int
Scott Brooks
Nov 11, 2013 Scott Brooks rated it did not like it
I'm not a physicist, but I get the sense that even if I did have the deeper understanding of physics, I'd bet that this book would still leave my head spinning. The problem, for me, was that the author really never wove a strong story throughout the progression of the interesting discoveries within the field of quantum physics. The book jumps around throughout history in a dizzying fashion and fails to center strongly on it's central figures, continuously deviating to the mundane details of each ...more
Pedro Gil nieva
Aug 27, 2012 Pedro Gil nieva rated it really liked it
Un libro complejo, presentado de una manera interesante pero que lo hace un poco lento hasta la mitad del libro.

La historia del "Entanglement" es posiblemente igual de importante que el concepto por si mismo y como los cientificos mas brillantes de nuestra época tuvieron tanto problema aceptando que es un fenómeno que sucede, pero no sabemos por que y lo que es peor, pone en entredicho uno de los conceptos clave de la relatividad ya que se "demuestra" que algo viaja más rápido que la luz.

Los con
Mike White
Jan 10, 2009 Mike White rated it liked it
The book got much, much better towards the latter half.

I didn't like the reconstructed historical conversations of the early players in quantum mechanics (too often it felt like a cut-and-paste substitute for analysis or explanation by the author). Towards the end, when Gilder relied more on her own interviews with scientists, the book became much, much stronger. The second half of the book proves that Gilder can be an excellent science writer.

This book would have been better if the author had c
Derek Daigle
Jan 27, 2015 Derek Daigle rated it really liked it
Loved this. What really makes this book great is the 'gonzo- biographical' approach, really captures the personalities of the grandfathers of the golden age of physics like no other - in particular
the voice of Pauli was my favorite. His borderline cynicism that kept the abstraction of each theory in check really did wonders for such a new field of science where 'anything can happen' he made sure this wasn't true and really kept physics grounded to earthbound realism. What would have really helpe
shaz rasul
Jan 29, 2012 shaz rasul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, five-star
Gilder manages to weave the science (and its evolution), personalities, and the histories of the day together to present the most extensive (and engrossing) history of quantum physics that I could imagine. Notably, she goes much deeper into the controversies and interplay between the greats, and their intellectual heirs. I particularly liked that she took the work well beyond Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schroedinger - all the way to the present day discussions about quantum computing and enc ...more
Anastasia Hobbet
Aug 17, 2012 Anastasia Hobbet rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I've gone on a cosmology bender in recent months, trying to get beyond my OMG mentality about the subject, and this kind, generous, humane book was a gift. It wasn't easy for me to keep all the personalities separate, but I came to see these famous physicists as a big, happy, quarreling family that I only wish I could be a part of. I'm up for adoption, guys! --And Einstein...well, that's next, a really good biography of The Man.

PS: When a cousin visited earlier this summer, I waxed eloquent on
Jim Good
Dec 17, 2009 Jim Good rated it liked it
Told through recreation history where quotes from different scientists are put together and composed as artificial conversations when they historically met. Interesting from that perspective, but can be a little distracting at times. The main concepts in the book are the Bohr and Einstien camps of quantum theory during development and how each side framed their argument and how entanglement and action at a distance have further carried that argument. The discussions are technical and at times re ...more
Jan 22, 2016 Ed rated it really liked it
A good history of quantum physics. The math is beyond me but the author explained things very well. Though it should be noted this is a history book and not a math book which makes it very accessible to the lay reader.
Jishnu Bhattacharya
I loved this book. I am a science enthusiast, and history of science fascinates me. This book is an absolute gem for people like me, you get such an amazing introduction into the lives of the best scientists, and so many of them are covered. From Heisenberg cycling through Bavaria hillsides to Schrödinger's mistresses, the story weaves across decades and still maintains the central theme, the progress of quantum theory. The ending with John Bell and Alain Aspect is very apt, as they are the fore ...more
Heather Denkmire
Oct 18, 2010 Heather Denkmire rated it really liked it
This book, I will blog about. This book I can not sum up quickly and I have no time now. The thought I will share, beyond recommending it highly, is that I found myself thinking regularly that I was in a quantum sort of state where I was entirely understanding it while at the same time the meanings were entirely lost on me.

It was a brain bender, a mind-stretcher, and I really dug how it was about the people involved, though it's misleading to say it makes physics understandable for the lay perso
Scott Smith
At first I thought this book was a mess, and just sloppily written, but on finishing it I think it is written the best way it could have been for the material. It covers the story of quantum mechanics and the discovery of entanglement with lots of detail and anecdote, incorporating the different views of the people investigating yet also with a confident eye on the big picture. This isn't the first book I've read about this stuff, but this one gets extra points for making me feel like I understa ...more
Phil Lawless
More of a historical biography of the contributors to qunatum mechanics, it nonetheless clarifies the thinking about the foundations of quantum mechanics that gets confused in most treatments.
I'm not usually one to quit a book. I was excited when I saw it, and purchased it on an impulse. The concept sounded great, but in the first few chapters it is extremely silly.

The young scientists take a bike ride, tra-la-la, and then picnic. The dew on the grass reminds one of them about some concept in physics. This inspires some idea of his, which is not explained in much depth. Of course, the bike ride never happened, and the dew never inspired him, but wouldn't it be swell if it did?
Aaron Q
Jun 25, 2011 Aaron Q rated it it was amazing
An excellently written treatise on the evolution of quantum mechanics. Compelling for its imaginative reconstruction of historical dialogues between some of modern science's great minds. Conveys some of the depths of characters many would recognize solely through theories in textbooks (Heisenberg, Einstein, Bohr). I expect it would be enjoyable for even the casual admirer of science-writing while not shying from engaging some very complex problems of modern quantum mechanics.
Bill Nobes
Jan 22, 2011 Bill Nobes rated it really liked it
Only made it through half of this book. It was more history and biography than science. What I did read was very interesting but I found myself choosing to read other books instead so I gave up and put it on the shelf.

That said, it does great of job placing the history of quantum physics in context. If you're interested in the history and the process of discovery, or if you are passionate about physics, it is a must read. If you mostly want the physics it may not be the best choice.
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