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Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,537 ratings  ·  105 reviews
In this lively look at quantum science, a physicist takes an entertaining and enlightening journey through the basics of subatomic physics

Along the way he examines the paradox of quantum mechanics—beautifully mathematical in theory but confoundingly unpredictable in the real world. Marvel at the Dual Slit experiment as a tiny atom passes through 2 separate openings at the
Paperback, 280 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Orion Publishing (first published 2003)
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 ·  1,537 ratings  ·  105 reviews

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Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nice introduction to the main elements of quantum mechanics. The part about the different interpretations of quantum mechanics is really interesting and masterfully accomplished; it should also be pointed out that this is one of the few very books on the subject that do not fall into the usual trap of only considering the Copenhagen interpretation. Being myself particularly attracted to the De Broglie-Bohm interpretation, I found the treatment of this item by the author particularly interesting ...more
John Jeffcoat iii
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Quantum Physics"... the term causes many people to either roll their eyes in an expression of pointlessness, or to just fall asleep for lack of seeing any applicable use, or to drift into apathy from an assumption that the subject is far beyond their ability to grasp. That is unfortunately because quantum physics is at its heart the study of the nature of reality, in a way that far transcends the esoteric realm of philosophy... but in a way that is not quite classic "science" either.
What I lov
Anita Pomerantz
Jul 06, 2012 rated it liked it
This book made my brain hurt. Seriously. I simultaneously realized how smart and creative theoretical physicists really are, and my little brain pales in comparison.

I really couldn't rate this book in all fairness because I'm way too conflicted about it. The author had a wonderful voice, and the book is beautifully illustrated. I seriously give him five stars for effort. He really, really tried to make this stuff understandable. He used examples. He used pictures. He didn't use sophisticated lan

Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
after discussion of the double slit experiment, the author talks about the birth of quantum physics and who should be credited with what. interesting....

Al-Khalili argues that the tradition wave-particle view being the main feature of quantum physics is limited (and has somewhat poisoned the water in picturing quantum physics)

The author talks about the different schools of thoughts / interpretations of which none are perfect .He adheres to the shut up and calculate school of QP.

Some feel. if two
Abdullah Diab
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book that introduces you to Quantum Physics, and as usual Jim's way is amazing, simple, clear and beautiful. You will not get bored with this book, not even if you haven't heard of Quantum, and on the other hand this book answers so many questions that you might have if you heard those stories about Quantum that make no sense (spoiler alert: they do make sense once you finish the book). The essays in the book are a good addition, they enriched the book and explained other ideas without l ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
my brain hurts
Firas Ghomraoui
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As an avid fan of physics since my adolescence, this book is impressive as a gate to the mysterious (and somewhat new) world of quantam physics. Throw all classical Newtonian physics aside and stare in awe and wonder as the author/theoretical physicist helps you find some solace in this intriguing world- after he stumps all logic and reason with the simple double-slit experiment, leaving you to ponder thoroughly as you decipher Schrödinger's equation for the "wavefunction", or look at the many a ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was fortunate enough to see Jim Al-Khalili speak about quantum mechanics a few months ago. The lecture hall was full to bursting, so I sat on the cold hard steps. An hour later I'd been treated to a fast-paced tour through fundamental physics and its possible applications to other sciences; and yet my head hurt less than my hind. I choose to interpret this as evidence that Jim Al-Khalili is an excellent speaker, able to get across complex ideas with clarity and enthusiasm. Or I might just have ...more
Pap Lőrinc
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very professional, well written, with good humor: a no-nonsense, in-depth intro to the world of quantum weirdness.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I used to be quite fascinated with UFOs, paranormal, conspiracy theories and such like. While Forteana still interests me the utter banality and fantasy (or nowadays unpleasantness) of the rest has lost its appeal. Fortunately I discovered the world of Quantum Physics which offers more empirical weirdness, tales of the unexplained and just downright outrageous improbability than a library full of UFO lore and conspiracy ever could. Things like this: "Unless actively observed most physicists beli ...more
Chris Esposo
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book, although it is sold as an overview of "quantum theory", it goes over some relatively deeper concept examples I've not heard in other conceptual summaries of this subject, like the Zeillinger fake diamond detection scheme, which is a variant of the Eltzur-Vaidman bomb detection procedure, both of which could be thought of as a type of non-adversarial game, whereby there exists a "best" deterministic strategy guaranteeing success say 1/10 for detecting either the bomb or the non ...more
Joseph Schrock
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed” proved to be the best book I’ve read concerning the mysterious world of quantum mechanics. The author, Jim Al-Khalili, has an engaging style of presenting the technical aspects of theoretical physics. I found myself better able to understand quantum phenomena than I ever had been before. Of course, this does not remotely imply full understanding on my part – even the most expert physicists disagree about some aspects of how best to interpret quantum propertie ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Obviously there is almost no mathematics in this (it's a popular science book, of course). But if you're seriously studying quantum mechanics, and you don't have access to labs to do experiments with lasers and atoms, then this book will definitely help. It describes the experiments that set up the basic empirical facts about quantum mechanics, like blackbody radiation, photoelectric effects, light spectra etc. Not only that but it also paints the historical background and scientific reasoning o ...more
Jun 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fabulous book. And totally over my head, alas.

I read this one right after How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, so this review is sort of a part 2.

The strength of Orzel was his heroic attempts to provide concrete analogies to help us understand quantum mechanics in relation to, well, things we can relate to.

The strength of Al-Khalili, on the other hand, was to make painfully clear that quantum mechanics only makes sense as math and can not be related to reality as we think we know it in an
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, audiobook, 2017
This short book focuses clearly and succinctly on the confusions and difficulties of understanding the world created by quantum mechanics. With clarity beyond any other meditation on the topic I've encountered, the author quickly tackles and dissects what a strange world we live it at the very small scales.

The author doesn't spend too much effort to come up with complicated metaphors as that would defeat the purpose of the book, to explain and elucidate. The author stresses "this doesn't make in
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should be a book to be read not only by people wanting to have a glimpse of understanding about quantum physics, but also by physics students. Why? Because having an overall vision of the field, what was and what are the assumptions of the theory, its limitations, its interpretations, is so important that you can reasoning better and deeper without studying in a "theological" way.
Most of the physicists fully understand the mathematics behinds quantum theory but they refuse to think on it,
Charles Victus
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating discussion covering both entry level, to mid level conceptual topics of quantum mechanics, and quantum physics. It was a great read because I feel it covered the basics pretty well, and then dove even further without any fluff. The more interesting part was the authors views on the implications of quantum research, and the potential (no pun intented) outcomes of those implications.

For anyone looking to understand quantum theory, mechanics, and research just a bit further,
Doram Jacoby
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying that I'm not a scientist.
I see myself as a science enthusiast but can't speak numbers myself.

I found this book heavier than my usual cup of tea but have enjoyed it none the less.
It took me on a very confusing journey of understanding.
From understanding very little, to suddenly getting some of it and back to seeing how little I actually understand.
What I can tell you after finishing this book is that I understand Quantum mechanics better than I did before :)

A bit fr
John Jessee
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is a good introduction for those of us that aren't fully versed in the intricacies of physics. I couldn't quite breeze through it due to the difficulty of the subject matter but the examples given and particularly the great design of the materials really helped me to feel like I walked away with a conversational grasp of the material. It's definitely one that I may pick up again in the future to help cement my understanding.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clear descriptions of mindblowingly complex phenomena.
This is definitely not a light and easy read, as the subject is completely removed from our usual understanding of the world.
It is the most in depth explanation of quantum physics that I may hope to half understand.
Excellent writing as usual.
Catriona Kelch
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic-reading
I listened to the audiobook version and the recording is superb. This book is clear and easy to understand as long as you have higher GCSE or A-level experience of physics. It is not too technical but at the same time it does not talk down to you.
Han O'Connor
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, physics, quantum
An excellent introduction to the field for anyone with an interest in Quantum or Physics more broadly. Al-Khalili writes in a style that is both accessible and engaging, which is thoroughly entertaining throughout.
Aris Catsambas
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Very good introduction for someone like me (i.e. those with practically zero understanding of physics). However, I think that the author's wording was a bit clumsy at times, and so I am left with way more questions than when I started!
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Trying to understand quantum mechanics by reading a book meant for the general public... yeah, nice try... But joking aside, it was really a nice try and overview of quantum mechanics and quantum theory.
Francis Shaw
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Quantum Physics can be quite perplexing and the author does a good job of trying to explain complex ideas and what we have discovered so far about the quantum world. For the non-physics thinkers like me some areas need to be read more than once.
Dennis Littrell
Apr 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
Al-Khalili, Jim. Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed (2003)
I'm still perplexed

I love quantum mechanics. I just don't understand it. It is to me like embracing yes and no at the same time, like believing and not believing in the same instant, like being and not being as one. Yes, Virginia there is something beyond our understanding. And the wonderful thing about the postmodern world is that we know for a certainty (in as much as we can be certain about anything) that we really don't understand thi
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still perplexed, but impressed with the communicative skills of the author. Recommendable for anyone who want to venture into the intricacies of the topic.
Vamsi Illindala
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not any less perplexed now, but I do understand a tiny bit more about the weird world of quantum physics.
Alan Newton
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent physic book on a highly complex but fascinating topic - Quantum!
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very clear and concise guide to a subject I didn't at all understand in advance.
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Jim Al-Khalili(born Jameel Sadik Al-Khalili) is an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and science communicator. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He has hosted several BBC productions about science and is a frequent commentator about science in other British media venues.

(taken and modified from Wikipedia

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