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The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,081 ratings  ·  90 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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4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,081 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Nate Hansen
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very, very good. Gilder does an excellent job of capturing the personality, fervor, and excitement of a bunch of men who reinvented the universe. This book gives a cogent and smart account of how we got some very complex ideas. Read it.
Jan 26, 2009 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
Jim Coughenour
May 05, 2009 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,
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
May 10, 2009 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
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-physics
Why did it take so long to discover entanglement after quantum mechanics was developed? This question is examined in light of 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 wa
Aug 28, 2011 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
Hershel Shipman
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physics, science, history
Great history of quantum mechanics till about the last decade. As usual for books of the type it mentions subjects very close to my interest area and adds significantly to my reading list
Aug 03, 2011 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
Sara Jamshidi Zelenberg
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
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology
What were you doing seven years out of college? Writing a page-turner, science history book like this one? No slacker she, Louisa Gilder was polishing off this page-turning narrative of ninety-six years of the development of the Quantum Theory. You'll need to read parts of this book three times to understand the mysterious science displayed here . . . but keep at it: the intellectual rewards provided by this book are real and lasting. I'm eager to read her next work and appreciate the hours of m ...more
Alison Berry
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book when I read it several years ago, and enjoyed it even more on a recent reread. The author does a masterful job of weaving human characters, personalities, and historic background together with the revolutionary ideas the protagonists were pursuing. The physical and quantum mechanical concepts are very well explained. This is one of my favorite books and I look forward to more from this author.
Jon Thomas
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have a layman's fascination with quantum mechanics. I loved this book because it introduced me to the concepts in quantum mechanics in an understandable way and it is a charming story of the interaction between the great physicists of the 20th century.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a few years ago. But I liked it so much that I have gone back to it from time to time to reread some of the more interesting sections and chapters. As someone who wanted to be a physicist or astronomer when I was in high school, but eventually went in other directions, I have had a lifelong fascination with both. Some reviewers have complained that this book did not explain the science thoroughly enough. However, that was not the main purpose of the book, and since most physicis ...more
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
The concept of taking fragments of meetings, papers and conversations and creating a historical-fiction from it to teach us about both the physicists and their concepts was an interesting idea. It gave an entertaining view of how we got from here to there introducing many of the main players along the way. However, it didn't excel at either being a biography of any particular physicist, nor delving into their theories deeply enough to make me understand them. I guess it's kind of like one of tho ...more
Matt Heavner
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fantastic human and scientific history of quantum mechanics. The author obviously (and admittedly) took a large number of liberties on the "details" of historic conversations, but it humanized the history in a very nice way. I found it somewhat repetitive, but this is realistic - once someone coins a good turn of phrase, they tend to use it several times. I haven't read a "human history of quantum" in a while, but this is one of the best from those I remember.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fantastic read. Rich narrative and vivid description of a complete arc of epic debates in the Physics community helps unveil the curtain on how the biggest and now mainstream ideas came to be despite all the struggle and long periods of being profoundly misunderstood. Getting a glimpse into the nature of personal relationships between the biggest scientific names is an added bonus.
Arvind Balasundaram
May 02, 2014 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
Jan 23, 2016 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
George Gilder
Dec 01, 2008 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
Jan 04, 2015 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
Apr 24, 2010 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
Scott Brooks
Nov 11, 2013 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 14, 2012 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
shaz rasul
Jan 07, 2012 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
Mike White
Jan 10, 2009 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
Anastasia Hobbet
Aug 17, 2012 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
Oliver Hodson
Mar 20, 2015 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
Jim Good
Dec 17, 2009 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
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
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