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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  8,204 ratings  ·  414 reviews
For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its heart.

For 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existe
Paperback, 360 pages
Published April 2nd 2009 by Icon Books (first published March 5th 2007)
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Randy Gardner I found my copy at a library surplus book store. I would gladly give it to you when I finish it myself.

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Quantum-Theory is a rather complicated matter of which I knew next to nothing prior to reading this book. Of course I heard of some players in this field, like Einstein, Bohr, Schrödinger, or Heisenberg, but it was all very vague and left me standing pretty much in the dark. Manjit Kumar was able to shed at least a little light (some photons if you like) on the topic, and I got a glimpse on this extraordinary achievement of human mind.

Spanning roughly the time between 1900 (Planck's constant) a
Manuel Antão
Nov 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

In the 15th chapter the key to Quantum Mechanics (QM). It was Richard Feynman who said, “I think it is safe to say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics.”

This book does not help either.

Quantum mechanics is the spookiest theoretical framework ever devised by man. Cats that are at the same time alive and dead ("Superposition" = "We do not know"; "Collapsing the superposition" = "finding out" whether the cat is alive and kicking), obj
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
I thoroughly enjoyed Kumar’s book. He traces the scientific discoveries leading to quantum theory and the relationships of the scientists with a focus on the Einstein-Bohr debate over the theory’s meaning. I found Kumar’s explanations of complex theories accessible and helpful. I remember in high school and college in the 1960’s always hearing about this strange quantum world that didn’t quite exist unless someone looked at it. Kumar really helps make sense of it. My notes below summarize the sc ...more
Jan 23, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Menglong Youk
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 stars

If you believe that quantum mechanics is complicated, then, to quote Walter White, you're goddamn right. However, it doesn't mean that quantum mechanics cannot be understood whatsoever. With persistence, patience, and attention, some level of understanding could be reached.

"Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality" written by Manjit Kumar is a book attempting to guide you through the rich history behind this revolution: from the quantization of energy,
Murray Ewing
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
It started with German physicists trying to make a better light bulb, and ended with the collapse of classical physics (if only at the subatomic level). Manjit Kumar’s Quantum is a history of the development of our understanding (if understanding is the right word for something nobody seems to understand) of quantum mechanics, looking into the lives of the key players as much as their discoveries.

The two major players are Einstein and Niels Bohr, who, while agreeing that the equations behind qua
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-non-fiction
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
Britta Böhler
A very interesting and detailed account of the development of quantum physics and the decennia-long discussion between Einstein and Bohr about the nature of reality. Not an easy subject but the author manages to make it accessible for non-scientist, (and he kept the mathematicas at a minimum). I listened to the audiobook (ca. 14 hrs), beautifully read by Nat Porter.
Ami Iida
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics
It's written about the quantum mechanics history. ...more
Mindy Mejia
Well written and engaging! Theory and biography combine to form a compelling story of twentieth century physics.
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Durvasa Gupta
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The title itself is enough to carry away someone who is a quantum nerd. The author presents the biography of not a person but a field of science “Quantum Mechanics” in a most fascinating way. It took over a millennium for people to believe that the Earth was round, not flat. It was a difficult leap for humanity. There was a similar leap needed when the quantum was discovered. All the while when people believed light was a wave and matter continuous they had to take a leap into believing light co ...more
May 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The aspiration to truth is more precious than its assured possession"
-Gotthold Lessing, German Playwright and Philosopher

As I read this final sentence in the book Quantum, I am left with a mix of emotions that I have never experienced from reading any thriller or philosophical writing. I am being dramatic by saying that a book about Quantum Mechanics touched my heart more that any other fiction out there, but my vindication lies in my personal association with Quantum Mechanics. During my post
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
I’ve ostensibly been reading ‘Quantum’ for nine months. Actually, I got about 70 pages in while on a train then let it sit on my bedside table for three quarters of a year. Then I took it along on another long train journey and got back into it, although it definitely benefits from the lack of distractions in a quiet carriage. The fact is, I am social scientist who hasn’t studied any actual science since I was 16 and only realised while reading this book that the word ‘nuclear’ refers to the nuc ...more
Teun Voost
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mandatory, and essential reading material for anyone who dares call himself 'curious'. ...more
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
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
Mar 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book gives a condensed history of the modern physics. Each chapter is dedicated to a scientist starting with Max Plank to Einstein to Bhor to and the final verdicts on quantum mechanics that world now agrees on. The author presents a nice proportionate view of different aspects (childhood, personal, professional) of the life of the scientists without every missing a rudimentary explanation of the physical principles each scientist unfolded with their discoveries of new things and how it even ...more
Anup Sinha
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Expertly written review of the development of Quantum Theory from both the scientific and historical perspective. Manjit Kumar did very well to make this a readable narrative that humanized the legendary scientists in describing their work. I have never seen anywhere such a survey of this era in research.

As a chemistry teacher, I drop the names of Bohr, Pauli, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Einstein, etc. quite often and it’s nice to learn about the men behind the laws and theories.

Much of quantum the
Harishankkar GK
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book gave life to most of the physics stuff I learnt. Stories behind all the amazing discoveries in the quantum world is vividly written. The struggles and contradictions among the brilliant scientists during the evolution of quantum mechanics are well-explained. It has been a wonderful journey. Even while keeping the weirdness of the quantum realm intact, this book will make the subject all the more likeable.
Mike W
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: natural-science
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
Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, favorites
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
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nick Gotch
Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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