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Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,272 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
In trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in science and the basis of one-third of our economy. They found, to their embarrassment, that with their theory, physics encounters consciousness. Authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain all this in non-technical terms with help from some fanciful stories and anecdote ...more
Paperback, 2nd edition, 287 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Oxford University Press (first published 2006)
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Justin Holiman Absolutely. I had no prior knowledge of the subject and I was able to understand all of it. I'm sure knowing something would make it easier, but it is…moreAbsolutely. I had no prior knowledge of the subject and I was able to understand all of it. I'm sure knowing something would make it easier, but it is a great introductory book.(less)
Mond perhaps some of the theories, concepts, how it is used in electronics...
“There is a mathematical underpinning that you must first acquire, mastery of…more
perhaps some of the theories, concepts, how it is used in electronics...
“There is a mathematical underpinning that you must first acquire, mastery of each mathematical subdiscipline leading you to the threshold of the next. In turn you must learn arithmetic, Euclidian geometry, high school algebra, differential and integral calculus, ordinary and partial differential equations, vector calculus, certain special functions of mathematical physics, matrix algebra, and group theory. For most physics students, this might occupy them from, say, third grade to early graduate school—roughly 15 years. Such a course of study does not actually involve learning any quantum mechanics, but merely establishing the mathematical framework required to approach it deeply.”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark(less)

Community Reviews

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I've read a lot of physics books, always trying to get a better handle on these bizarre concepts. Each new book I read seems to take me closer to that "Okay, now I get it!" moment that I wish would come. According to the best scientists working in that field, though, there's really no way for our primate brains to accept some of the genuinely strange ideas. How can particles be in multiple places at once? How can they apparently move through time in different ways than we do? How can the laws of ...more
Mar 02, 2012 Shane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this book after finishing the previous one I posted (From Science to God) because I wanted a more thorough explanation of the Quantum "Mystery." It seems that movies like "What the Bleep do We Know" have taken some of the more bizarre observations about quantum physics and allowed their imaginations to run wild with their claims, giving the less discerning public a less-than-accurate idea about what's really going on here.
This book, written by two widely-respected Physicists, presents
Apr 21, 2010 Jon-Erik rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scientia
If you liked this book, did you like it because the subject matter was fascinating, or because the book was well written? I doubt it was the latter.

Ever see a cartoon where after a few scenes, you realize that the animation is just the same frames spliced over and over? This book is about 5 minutes worth of footage to make an hour cartoon. You can read the last two or three chapters and get the whole thing, and I can sum it up nicely here: physicists have trouble with the observer problem and ge
Thelbert Dewain Belgard
Apr 30, 2016 Thelbert Dewain Belgard rated it it was amazing
I've read this book several times -- first edition and second. It's not really hard to understand at all. The authors have a clear and to-the-point writing style--unusually entertaining for a non-fiction idea-oriented book of this sort. It is hard to accept. What it says is so disturbing to the prevailing world-view that I'm sure many people just shut it out by saying, "Oh this is too hard to understand." That means they've probably understood it. Other readers may say, "This is all old-hat. Not ...more
Sep 01, 2008 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't recommend this book enough. It describes quantum mechanics in a mostly understandable way and it very cautiously examines some of the proposed ramifications of its weirdness. Awesome, awesome book.
Marcha Fox
Sep 27, 2015 Marcha Fox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I have a bachelor's degree in physics, I'm reasonably familiar with quantum theory and the mystery it presents with regard to the influence of an observer. I've even written a few blogs on the subject you can find here: I keep reading about quantum theory hoping for a deeper understanding but all I seem to discover is that no one really knows what's going on, even several decades after its first discovery. However, this well-written book did explai ...more
Aug 03, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be real food for thought. Rosenblum points out that Quantum probability tells us not the probability of the state of a system but rather where an observer will measure it to be. The system wasn't in that state until it was observed to be there. Quantum cosmologist John Wheeler puts it concisely: "No microscopic property is a property until it is an observe property." Quantum mechanics thus requires a conscious observer to produce physical properties.

He next deals with the ve
Mar 27, 2016 Tim rated it it was amazing
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did when I started reading it. The clearest history and exposition of quantum physics I have ever read. Additionally, it doesn't shy away from examining the various speculations about what it might mean. An interesting, level headed, and thought-provoking read.
Dec 18, 2010 Shani rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
Generally a good and easy read but some concepts are over-explained and some (I guess the more complicated ones) are not explained well or left unexplained. Only in the end do they get to concsiousness and their points are not as good as I expected.
Jan 01, 2009 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best nonfiction book I’ve read in awhile. This book is a fascinating and an easy-to-visualize introduction to concepts that fuel current scientific debate around the implications of quantum theory and its reliance on a conscious observer.

Written by two UC Santa Cruz physics professors, short chapters include humorous analogies and non-technical descriptions of Newtonian physics, general relativity, and quantum mechanics. The quantum enigma emerges from experimental evidence that shows what
Ergun Coruh
This book deals with quantum enigma and consciousness, the fact that at microscopic (quantum) scales weird things happen that our conscious mind cannot comprehend.

The authors take their time to explain the quantum enigma (and I must admit they do this well), the fact that observation creates reality, and the reality (or experimental outcome) depends on the observation, contrary to our intuition originated from classical Physics that observation alone cannot affect reality.

It is the final chapter
Feb 13, 2011 Raven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, perhaps more than any of the others that I have read, brings the concepts of Quantum Mechanics out of the strict academic in into a more reader friendly world. I would go so far as to label it a 'primer' on the subject.

Perhaps its most significant contribution is how well it illustrates that place where Consciousness and Quantum Physics meet. A place that established Psychiatrists and Physicists all over the world fear to go.

I highly recommend this book.
Dr. Barrett  Dylan Brown, Phd
I was taught by these two authors of this book at UCSC and got to have several conversations with them regarding how Quantum Mechanics effects our current theories of Parapsychology. Dr. Fred Kittener is an absolutely stubborn old clod and fool, but Dr. Bruce Rosenblum is a gem of a human with an open mind and good nature about him. Dr. Rosenblum is also cited briefly in "Unbelievable: The Duke Parapsychology Lab"
Frank Jude
Sep 15, 2008 Frank Jude rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone.
Shelves: science-physics
This is one of the most clear-headed, accessible, and straight-forward accounts of Quantum Mechanics and the 'measurement problem' I've read. Based upon their course at Santa Cruz for liberal arts students, they manage to convey the implications of Quantum Mechanics with nary an equation. Good job!
Roberta Grimes
Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner are adventurous academic physicists, and they here give us a handy summary of their understanding of the consciousness issue in quantum physics. This book is plainly written and highly accessible for non-physicists, and it is flat-out fun to read.
Sep 20, 2009 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative. excellent introduction to quantum physics. At times I was falling asleep, but it keeps it entertaining enough. I feel smarter for having read it. Search youtube for "quantum double slit experiment" for a good animation explaining interference patterns.
Vish Ramabhatta
Jul 18, 2007 Vish Ramabhatta is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I am still reading this book.... my hope is that this book bridges the gap between physics (observable world) and spiritual underpinnings as expounded by Advaita Vedanta (Hindu philosophy) for the totally scientifically inclined.

Apr 26, 2011 Jeffery rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I got this book with the hopes of obtaining tools to help me understand -- and to help me help others to understand -- some of the concepts and popular [mis-]conceptions of quantum mechanics. It's become almost de rigueur among New Age spiritualists to pilfer bits of quantum theory for use in fortressing and promoting their ideas and books and DVDs and seminars ad nauseum. (see "What the Bleep do We Know?" and "The Secret" and huge sections of book stores). Ideas such as "our consciousness creat ...more
Sep 09, 2008 George rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner's, book, Quantum Enigma, is an interesting read, but if you’re looking for answers into the enigma of quantum events, you will be disappointed. There are no sure answers into the perplexing world of the quantum or for that matter why anything exist at all! In this publication and others like it. So in the final analysis, which may even be your own, is probably as good as anyone else’s. If you want to get a clear understanding of the wave-particle dilemma, this bo ...more
Dec 22, 2014 Neil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reads
A slightly frustrating book. Thirteen chapters taking us from quantum physics to consciousness and then just four chapters exploring the reverse journey. These last four are by far the more interesting - hence the frustration. Interesting, though. If you think you understand this book, you haven't read it properly. If you read it properly, it will give you food for thought that will more than slightly scramble your brain. I did a course in Quantum Theory as part of my degree, but that was over 3 ...more
Alan Fuller
Feb 25, 2016 Alan Fuller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Wow! This book is an eye opener for me. I thought of Quantum Mechanics (QM) as a theory that produced strange results on the microscopic level that would eventually be understood rationally. QM has been around a hundred years and its predictions have always proven correct. One third of our economy is generated by discoveries that rely on QM. QM isn't just for the microscopic world, but all of physics rests upon it.

The amazing thing about QM is that it doesn't teach a reality independent of cons
Buen punto de introducción a la mecánica cuántica para neófitos. Un poco reiterativo en lo que al 'secreto de familia mejor guardado' se refiere, que al fin y al cabo tampoco acaba por ser tan extraordinario si en el instituto aprendiste lo que es el principio de incertidumbre de Heisenberg y la propiedad onda-corpúsculo de la materia. El libro intenta ahondar en el escurridizo (y al parecer, tema tabú para los físicos) punto de unión entre materia y consciencia; explicando mediante fábulas más ...more
Chris Kemp
Mind boggling stuff. I thought it could have been presented a little better.
Christi Lupher
Apr 29, 2016 Christi Lupher rated it it was amazing
I've always enjoyed physics, both classical and all the "newer," weird stuff. I seldom pass up a chance to hear relativity or quantum mechanics or string theory explained AGAIN -- because after the initial "Huh. Wow. Really? That's weird..." the details usually slip away. This book has provided me a better foundation in quantum physics than I have ever before been able to build. Perhaps that's just because I've watched so many PBS shows over the years that the concepts are finally sinking in... ...more
Kenneth Bachmann
Jan 25, 2016 Kenneth Bachmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an very well written book. Both the non-mathematical descriptions of quantum theory and also of consciousness were thorough and careful. However, although the subjects are intended for non-physics majors, it must be said that substantial portions of the material were nevertheless very difficult to comprehend. It seemed as though the book had elements of bait and switch as well, since it easily created the perception that it might link the quantum enigma and consciousness. But in the end ...more
David Lever
Oct 01, 2011 David Lever rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a clear account of the strange workings of quantum mechanics. The book describes the history of the controversies, including the debates of Einstein and Bohr. The account of Bell's Inequality is a fascinating read. This book can be read by anyone, as it does not require specialized knowledge. I found myself wanting technical details, and perhaps that is a telling sign of the success of the author's purpose. I highly recommend this book.
Douglas Cosby
Nov 12, 2015 Douglas Cosby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the exact book that I was looking for -- it directly addresses the central dilemma about quantum physics and what it implies about our realty. In effect, QP says nothing really exists until it is observed; or I should say that everything only exists as some sort of probability wave until it is observed or becomes entangled with an observed macro process. And realize that QP is 100% proven to be correct -- it is not a question of if QP is right, it is a question of what QP's laws mean to ...more
Mar 01, 2016 Stophe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Implications of two different results regarding an experiment in quantum physics is pretty disconcerting when first discovered in the physics community, but when you understand that the reason there is a difference in experimental results is due to a conscious observation, it can really mess with your mind! This great book tries to sum up all the ideas/ theories out there to try and makes sense of all this.

Although they explain the basics of the expleriments, I would have liked a more in depth
Apr 29, 2009 Jeremiah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good introduction to quantum physics - the scientific field that completely redefines how we think about the universe. About as non-impenetrable as I think the topic can be. Helped me put my thoughts on the subject in order.
Mar 02, 2016 Rajesh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read during my undergrad days how light can be both wave and particle. I had done bits and pieces of the math. To me then all of this was just experimental results. Nothing fascinating.

This book, on the other hand, took me deeper into what it actually *means* for light to have dual nature. What did Einstein mean when he said "God does not like to play dice"? Why is Schrodinger's cat Erwin Schrodinger's enduring legacy in the popular mind? Read the fascinating book to get insights into thi
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“There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.” 0 likes
“Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” —Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass” 0 likes
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