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The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn
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The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  597 ratings  ·  74 reviews
In The Age of Entanglement, Louisa Gilder brings to life one of the pivotal debates in twentieth century physics. In 1935, Albert Einstein famously showed that, according to the quantum theory, separated particles could act as if intimately connected–a phenomenon which he derisively described as “spooky action at a distance.” In that same year, Erwin Schrödinger christened ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Vintage (first published 2008)
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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
"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
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,
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
(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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Arvind Balasundaram
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
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
George Gilder
Dec 01, 2008 George Gilder rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
May 18, 2009 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Jonathan
This really is, uh, fun stuff. ...Really, it is, if you are the type of nut who thinks it's fun to read about impossible-to-understand math equations and way-over-your head scientific concepts. The author takes you on a readable, blow-by-blow account of the development of quantum physics, told mostly through the letters and conversations of the field's not-all-that-luminescent luminaries. The personal connections are revealing and amusing, and it's possible to come away with an understanding of, ...more
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
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
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
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
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.
"Using historical development for understanding"

A good historical survey of the early pioneers in quantum physics to "spooky action at a distance". I enjoyed this book but I had previously just read "Quantum" by Manjit Kumar who covers the early story slightly better. Later I ended up reading "How the Hippies Saved Physics" which covers the entanglement part better. The book is a good read especially if you haven't read the other two books.
Catherine Woodman
I really loved this book about quantum mechanics--juxtaposed with the emergence of relativity, the collaborative nature of physics before WWII, and so much more. The story gets even better in the second half of the book than the first (some things in the first half have been well chronicled, whereas I know next to nothing about the experimental aspect of what goes on at CERN, and the shift from theoretical to experimental physics).
Really interesting book about the history of the development of quantum theory. Author draws on letters and other historical documents to recreate conversations between famous physicists throughout the book. The book does a wonderful job of showing the intellectual work (and play) involved in the development of the theory and showcases the role that social interactions played in moving it forward. Really fascinating book.
The history of the problem of entangled photons in quantum mechanics, traced from the early Einstein-Bohr differences on the nature of quantum mechanics throught the EPR experiment, Bell's inequality And all the experimental attempts to shed light on the problem (no pun intended). My friend, Mike Horne and his work with Shimony, Clauser, Zeitlinger and others is prominently mentioned.
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