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

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  3,735 ratings  ·  207 reviews
Quantum theory is weird. As Niels Bohr said, if you weren’t shocked by quantum theory, you didn’t really understand it. For most people, quantum theory is synonymous with mysterious, impenetrable science. And in fact for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly written ...more
ebook, 448 pages
Published May 24th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published March 5th 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Loraine
Whether the science in this book is light or heavy depends on who you are. For me, the science was heavy, as my fascination with science has always been greater than my knowledge of it. I am not a scientist.
That said, I loved this book. Did I understand all the theories, experiments and discussions? No. But I understood enough to follow the narrative and get excited or saddened by events and to share the passion of these giants and marvel at their tenacity and their genius.
Years ago, When I sta
...more
BetseaK
In this work the author managed to give a superb account of the development of thought about quantum by bringing to life all the great physicists involved (Planck, Einstein, Born, Bohr, Schrödinger, de Broglie, Wien, Pauli, Heisenberg, Dirac, Boltzmann, Compton, Bohm, von Neumann, Bell) through vivid vignettes of their scientific accomplishments, interpersonal relations and the historical background. As it is evident from the title, the aim of the book was to present the clash of philosophical v ...more
Jafar
I’ve read a few books on Quantum physics and its incredible quirks and its implications about the nature of reality. By comparison, this book is light on the science, but provides an excellent history of quantum physics. There are historical fact that I had never heard of, such as the rivalry between Schrodinger and Heisenberg. Any book on quantum physics makes you think that Schrodinger was one of the pillars of the quantum community, but in fact he was an outsider and at odds with Bohr/Heisenb ...more
Adam
Well-written and engaging. Clarifies and explains concepts and events in 20th-century physics in ways that enable the scientific imbecile to better comprehend what the big deal is and why it's (still) such a big deal. Also works to arm said scientific imbecile with ways to humiliate people in the humanities who just love to bullshit about stuff they understand even less than someone who read a pop-science history does.

Oh, and there's fun stuff in here about the personal lives of major figures in
...more
Roger
There are a lot of popular science books on quantum theory but this one is different in that its aim is to question what's meant by reality. Manjit Kumar achieves this objective admirably. He also provides what I've found to be the best and most coherent account of the history of the development of quantum theory that I've read, managing, at the same time, to bring alive many of the key physicists and mathematicians involved, and not just Neils Bohr and Albert Einstein who are in the book's titl ...more
Nilesh
Many good books are written to simplistically explain the theoretical revolutions brought about in The first half of the tweNtieth century. Great biographies are published on the protagonists. But this book is something just different, wonderfuLly different.



Sidestepping relativity is never easy while talking about Einstein. The book manages this. His opposition to Quantum theory is often either trivialised or made ridiculously philosOphical. The book masterfully traverses the landscape.



But the b
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Steve
Like a good novel, this kept me gripped to the very end thanks to a perfect balance between hard science and human interest. The first thing you notice about the book is the detail. Copiously researched, Kumar has pulled together a truly impressive array of material, both personal and professional, constructing a rich history that transports you to the subject's golden age and to the lives of the key players. He tells a story so engrossing and so detailed that I felt surprisingly moved towards t ...more
Mike W
This is a good recounting of the historical development of quantum physics. It tells the story through a series of biographies of the major players--Planck, Bohr, Einstein, Schrodinger, etc...

The book contains a lot of interesting information about the confusion felt by these great physicists as they tried to understand the implications of their experimental results and mathematical theories. It became clear over time that the assumptions of classical physics were not valid at the subatomic lev
...more
Raghu
Manjit Kumar's book is a fascinating history of one of the most fundamental areas of science.Just as the title says, it is a history of the great debate about the nature of reality with Einstein and Neils Bohr leading the opposing views. Quantum Mechanics has always been a fascinating subject for me, mainly because I could never hope to understand it enough, however much time I spent on it. This brilliant work takes you through the history of the ideas behind quantum mechanics from the late 19th ...more
Irene
Although I study chemistry and I love science, I've never been good at physics. This time I decided to make an exception and read this book. I found it absorbing like a novel, really well written and clear in explaining scientifics notions.

I especially appreciate the way the author combine science, history and scientists personal lives. As a student I often heard Einstein, Bohr, Rutherford, Planck, Shroedinger, Heisenberg, Pauli, but I never stopped thinking about them just as persons.
This book
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Rohan
This book provides simplistic and yet excellent history of Quantum Physics. I particularly liked the part which mentions rivalry between Schrodinger and Heisenberg. I was finally able to understand though still not clearly, why Einstein is considered as the father(if you call Max Planck the grandfather) of quantum theory.

I have to admit I need to go through this book one more time to completely understand the technical arguments, though they were very few throughout the book. Overall, I would sa
...more
Nick Gotch
Quantum was an excellent history of the quantum revolution that began in the early 20th century. It touches on all the main characters in the development of quantum theory and subsequent development of quantum mechanics. There's a good bit of biographical and world history in the mix and you really get into the lives of these pivotal scientists, their passions, theories, interests, and lives.

There is a fair bit of math and physics along the way, some parts get pretty heavy into it, but mostly th
...more
Jose
Fascinating book. I've heard many anecdotal stories about quantum physics but this a great book that paints the broad strokes as told through the lives of the scientists who invented it. This book specifically focuses on the metaphysical debates between Einstein and Bohr and the fundamental implications it has for the nature of reality itself. It is great stuff. It is also heavy stuff, but a good escape for nerds like me. I think it would be interesting for anyone who has wondered about "Schrodi ...more
Chris
If you have little to no familiarity with quantum physics, this might be a tough one for you. But even if the concepts are flying over your head (as a couple did for me, despite a fair amount of familiarity with quantum mechanics and particle physics), the history and discussion of the various personalities and relationships will still be worth your time. And, perhaps more importantly, the end--and heart--of the book is concerned less with physics per se than with two competing *philosophical* v ...more
Tim
I really liked this book, but it's probably not a good book for most people. While it starts out with roughly high-school level physics being discussed, the later portions aren't quite as simple so that likely limits the potential audience. All that said, it takes its time building up to the fundamental debate between Bohr and Einstein on Quantum Mechanics and I think it does a pretty good job in presenting both sides.

It's a very well written book on the history of an important field in science
...more
Dan Cohen

I re-read this book and have upgraded my rating from a 3 to a 4. It really is a very good book and I was perhaps a little mean in my prior rating. Slightly worrying that I re-read it accidentally and didn't realise until I was half-way through, but that's a feature of my decrepit memory rather than the book!

Original review below:
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Worth reading. The core of the book is the material on Einstein's repeated attempts to show that the Copenhagen interpretation was wrong, or at least incomplete,
...more
Laura
Fascinating story of the development of and controversies of quantum physics. Nicely grounded in the scientific and political context, and it's always fun to hear about scientists bitching at each other (and salacious details of their personal lives; I'm looking at you, Schrödinger.)

Also, great diagrams, and beautiful explanation of the Actual Science. A number of the things I learned during the quantum physics module of my A-level suddenly made much more sense. Only 13 years too late. :D

Extreme
...more
Patrick
Amazon review:
With vigor and elegance, Kumar describes the clash of titans that took place in the world of physics in the early 20th century, between physicists who did and those who did not believe in the quantum—the strange concept that we now know to be the underpinning of reality. The titans in Kumar's account of the conflict are Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. In 1900, Max Planck discovered that electromagnetic radiation and the energy of light are transmitted not in a continuous flow but i
...more
Benjamin  Berman
This book is very accessible to a non-science person such as myself. The early chapters focus on the early development of quantum mechanics, and Kumar is really good at describing these developments in terms any reasonably intelligent person could understand. Obviously, important things are lost in the details i am sure, but i do feel like i learned something during these chapters. I do have a very basic background in psychics, including very elementary light and heat and perhaps that did prepar ...more
Susan
Hmmm... On the whole this book was fair to middlin', however it suffered from several flaws.

The main issue I had with the book was that it didn't seem to know what it wanted to be. It flitted from biographical history of the 'key players' to one that attempted to explain the science behind their theorems and proofs. However, it did not seem to do either with any great amount of success. In both cases the length of time spent on the subject did not seem to display any consistency and left me want
...more
s.m. k.

This was an introduction to the discoveries that led to quantum mechanics and the philosophical debate(s) about its interpretation. Some aspects of well-known ideas are made more clear, but I can't help but wonder if they could have been presented more clearly and precisely. The scientific explanations sometimes seem sloppy and the science overall seems unevenly presented.

I am undecided about the quality of the writing overall. It's as if the book was much longer and was slashed in order to meet
...more
Bobby
More history than science, though there is enough of both in the book to keep fans of both happy. Some of the physics went over my head but for the most part Manjit Kumar does an outstanding job of breaking down complex concepts re the quantum theory into lay terms (relatively speaking). One of the best explanations of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle I've come across is in this book. Though everybody know what a physics god Einstein was, this book helped me appreciate the contributions made b ...more
Marcus Lira
Apr 05, 2015 Marcus Lira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of physics, philosophy of science, and drama
Shelves: physics, history
Disclaimer: This is about actual physics, peppered with some philosophy of science. And, thank goodness, Manjit Kumar does a good job in both fields.

I really liked his smooth writing, and he kept me interested throughout the whole book - it often felt like a novel, and I caught myself engaging emotionally with the "characters", such as Ernest Rutherford (who seemed to be a lot of fun), Max Born (who was something of a Leonardo DiCaprio of Nobel Prizes), and Ralph Kronig (who had a brilliant idea
...more
Barry
I can't pinpoint what makes this book so enjoyable, so it's tough to explain why I give this book a 5-star rating. All I know is that whenever I wasn't reading this book, I wanted to be. I looked forward to reading it, and when I finished I felt like I had accomplished something. Those are signs of a good read.

Mr. Kumar gives what seems to be a good recollection of the history and mystery surrounding quantum mechanics. I'm not up on the latest developments relating to quantum blah blah, so I re
...more
Scott
"Quantum" deftly pulls off a nifty trick: it simultaneously explains the scientific development of quantum mechanics while also telling the stories of the scientists involved. Quantum mechanics is probably the most difficult scientific concept to explain, but Kumar does an admirable job. Not only are the details of these discoveries often hard to understand, their significance can also be difficult to grasp. Kumar covers both topics well. The personalities of the characters are just as fascinati ...more
Lisa Wolf
I used to munch my way through any book I could find on Relativity, Quantum Mechanics or any similar topic. I've been out of that for a few years, but recently I picked up Quantum, by Manjit Kumar. Subtitled "Einstein, Borh and The Great Debate About The Nature of Reality", it's partly a book describing the "story" of Quantum Mechanics, and partly about how the theories relate to "reality".

I can't seem to finish many books these days, so any that drive me to finish them deserve a special mention
...more
Rama
Quantum : Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality

The great Einstein-Bohr debate about physical reality is interesting not only to physicists, but also to great many readers interested in understanding the nature. This discussion between Bohr and Einstein over the interpretation of quantum theory began in 1927 at the fifth Solvay Conference. The debate over the ability of quantum theory to describe nature was fueled by many leading physicists of the time, some of whom dir
...more
Andrea Ratti
La teoria quantistica sempre stata per me un campo totalmente ignoto e oscuro. In passato ho cercato di interessarmi alla fisica moderna e contemporanea, senza tuttavia giungere a risultati degni di nota. I libri divulgativi sono sempre stati troppo superficiali mentre i libri specialistici erano troppo difficili e noiosi.



Tuttavia, Kumar riuscito a fare breccia in mezzo a questo mare di lettura inconcludente; l'autore riesce, delineando in maniera avvincente e assolutamente accessibile la stor
...more
Gary
"Personality to explain quantum physics"

Uses the personal interaction of the main discovers of quantum physics to understand physics. The book reads very excitingly due to the personalities involved. Even someone who is not fully interested in the quantum physics would enjoy the story.
John Champneys
Jul 11, 2011 John Champneys is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, science, skiffy
I found this book whilst being driven over the fields, on the way to attend a lunch invitation. What a find, and at 99 pence what a price!
This could well be the science find of the year for me, and with over 10,000 locations where, I wonder, could you possibly go wrong?
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“After Elsa’s death, Einstein established a routine that as the years passed varied less and less. Breakfast between 9 and 10 was followed by a walk to the institute. After working until 1pm he would return home for lunch and a nap. Afterwards he would work in his study until dinner between 6.30 and 7pm. If not entertaining guests, he would return to work until he went to bed between 11 and 12. He rarely went to the theatre or to a concert, and unlike Bohr, hardly ever watched a movie. He was, Einstein said in 1936, ‘living in the kind of solitude that is painful in one’s youth but in one’s more mature years is delicious’.” 5 likes
“Although it might be heuristically useful to bear in mind what one has actually observed, in principle, he argued, 'it is quite wrong to try founding a theory on observable magnitudes alone'. 'In reality the very opposite happens. It is the theory which decides what we can observe.” 0 likes
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