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Einstein's Unfinished Revolution

The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum
Written by: Lee Smolin
Narrated by: Katharine Lee McEwan
Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Physics
4.5 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A daring new vision of quantum theory from one of the leading minds of contemporary physics.

Quantum physics is the golden child of modern science. It is the basis of our understanding of atoms, radiation, and so much else, from elementary particles and basic forces to the behavior of materials. But for a century, it has also been the problem child of science: It has been plagued by intense disagreements between its inventors, strange paradoxes, and implications that seem like the stuff of fantasy. Whether it's Schrödinger's cat - a creature that is simultaneously dead and alive - or a belief that the world does not exist independently of our observations of it, quantum theory challenges our fundamental assumptions about reality. 

In Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, theoretical physicist Lee Smolin provocatively argues that the problems that have bedeviled quantum physics since its inception are unsolved and unsolvable, for the simple reason that the theory is incomplete. There is more to quantum physics, waiting to be discovered. Our task - if we are to have simple answers to our simple questions about the universe we live in - must be to go beyond quantum mechanics to a description of the world on an atomic scale that makes sense. 

In this vibrant and accessible audiobook, Smolin takes us on a journey through the basics of quantum physics, introducing the stories of the experiments and figures that have transformed our understanding of the universe, before wrestling with the puzzles and conundrums that the quantum world presents. Along the way, he illuminates the existing theories that might solve these problems, guiding us toward a vision of the quantum that embraces common-sense realism. 

If we are to have any hope of completing the revolution that Einstein began nearly a century ago, we must go beyond quantum mechanics to find a theory that will give us a complete description of nature. In Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, Lee Smolin brings us a step closer to resolving one of the greatest scientific controversies of our age.

©2019 Lee Smolin (P)2019 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"A tantalizing glimpse of the theoretical possibilities beyond Einstein's grasp." (Booklist)

“The best explanation yet of what has yet to be explained.” (George Dyson, author of Turing’s Cathedral

“Lee Smolin has written a superb and sweeping book. He takes us to Bohr, Bohm, Everett and far beyond in a masterful assessment, then on to the struggle to go beyond quantum mechanics towards quantum gravity. Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution is truly a fine work.” (Stuart Kauffman, author of At Home in the Universe

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Fantastic, interesting, inspiring.

I had a great time wrapping my mind around the concepts in this book. I didn't feel like skipping even the most basic parts, which I already knew but now it's even better. That's a great sign. Thank you. I feel like this work will affect my future thinking a great deal.

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We need more books like this

Too few people are aware of the problems with quantum mechanics. Every time I hear QM cited it's accompanied with words like "now that we know for certain that QM is undeniable" and "face it, we are living in a quantum world" and "it has to be so, because quauntum uncertainty" and "the most rigorously tested theory ever"… few people, including physicists, realize that it's not understood. Maybe because it took 100 years for science to finally accept it that we now see people invested so deeply that it's as if the case were closed and there were nothing left to explain.

I used to enjoy the fact that Einstein was "wrong". It made him human. But more and more it seems like we have to see why Einstein was so skeptical.

For sure, quantum mechanics isn't going to be "wrong". Just like how Relativity didn't make Newton wrong, it just made it more precise and explained the mechanism. The current interpretation of QM is just one of many that used to be equally debated. For example, some people are still looking for hidden variables or some other explanation to why QM has uncertainty at its heart. Let those people speak so that we may possibly learn more about gravity and how to reconcile QM and Relativity. Let people shed light on the problem of measurement and the observer.

And please somebody look into The Randell Mills Unified Theory. I want to hear what great minds have to say. When QM theorists can only say "shut up and calculate", it's an admission that there's still work to do.

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  • Richard E Seeger
  • 2019-08-26

A Brave Defense of Local Realism

Quantum Theory is the most comprehensive and accurate model of physics ever conceived, yet there are still no satisfying answers to: "Why is it so bizarre?" A modern-day physicist will likely respond "Don't ask", whereas we get a plethora of answers from the mystics like Deepak Chopra who profit off this misunderstanding of nature with fairy tales, satisfying as they are. Is there some satisfying middle ground that a scientifically-minded person can appreciate?

In this book, Lee Smolin promotes the more satisfying (albeit fringe) theory of local realism. Do particles really exist in multiple places at once? Do we really need a multi-verse (or other strange) models to interpret the consequences of Quantum Theory? No and no. Local realism says there is one objective universe "out there" that can be measured and that particles are "real" things with properties, not just ghostly consequences of an abstract mathematical model.

I respect Smolin's attempt to elucidate alternate theories that would be otherwise swept under the rug (as he does in his other books). Science would be less interesting without these alternate interpretations.

Here, it doesn't matter if the reader already has convictions about Quantum Theory that conflict with Smolin's - his attempt to square the circle of Quantum Physics with some more rational explanation still serves to inform the reader further about why this is so hard to do. The reader may come away a believer in local realism, or perhaps with an better appreciation for the still-yet-to-be explained inherent weirdness of Quantum Theory, but will be more informed either way.



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  • Michael
  • 2019-05-14

Awesome Smolin

This is my favorite Smolin book so far. Most of the book is yet another historical survey of modern physics. There is much more focus on Bell and Bohm than in most such physics books. The last two chapters are the most awesome and leaves Bell and Bohm behind proposing a compelling causal network theory. This is the most interesting theory I have read in a very long time. There is often quite a bit of hand-waving and spinning of tall tales in popular physics books. This book keeps it as down to earth as a QM book can be.

QM foundations has seemed stalled and/or flailing for decades, this seems to me to be the first rational and coherent theory I have seen that has real potential to actually complete Einstein's Unfinished Revolution.

This is a must read for anyone who believes there must be an underlying reality beyond QM and the world is not curiouser than we can imagine.

The difficult narration was excellent with clarity and great pacing.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew harnden
  • 2019-06-14

Good history, good explanations

Lee Smolin does a good job of presenting the less popular historical interpretations on quantum mechanics that fell by the wayside before coming to the current mainstream understanding. He shows their comparative strengths and weaknesses and uses them as a springboard for possible future realist theories. Chapters 14 and 15 are worth listening to at least twice because he covers a lot of ground and the details matter. I am very happy wit this book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Market Maven
  • 2019-06-05

Keepin Up with Quantum Physics

For those that like to follow current updates on quantum physics, this book is for you. Lee Smolin clarifies the issues that still remain in the weird quantum world, and suggests new areas of inquiry to get to the bottom of it all. This book is not too technical, and can easily be read by someone with basic familiarity of the landscape. Smolin asks tough questions, and challenges those currently in the field to go beyond our current understanding/lack of understanding.

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  • Brian W. Veit
  • 2019-10-10

Lee Smolin’s unique brand of deep musings

If you enjoy reading different approaches to trying to understand the “measurement problem” and other quantum weirdness, Lee Smolin is your iconoclastic “realist” guide. I hafta admit I didn’t quite follow all of this, particularly Lebniz’ “monads” but it’s well worth a listen because he is so open to various branches (e.g., Everett-ian many worlds) that he argues their case well enough to provide a primer, while also disagreeing with them. Then the last couple chapters summarize his view which seems more like a lighthouse than a road map. Fascinating read.

PS I am TOUGH on narrators and this one is very good.

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  • Don Dean
  • 2019-07-12

Lee Smolin's Best Book

Smolin has done an extraordinary job of challenging some physicists obsession in telling the public stories of "quantum weirdness " rather than doing the hard work of trying to move forward with our understanding of the universe.

Smolin' does a very nice job in explaining to the non-physicist the pilot wave theory as championed by David Bohm. This is one of the very few books written for non-physicists that has explained the pro and cons of the pilot wave theory.

While not for the neophyte to this type of science literature, you will find the book well written with good metaphors for understanding the foundations of physics.
Best wishes

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  • L. Carter
  • 2019-08-08

Great content but narration was monotonic

A fantastic, thought provoking book but very monotonic narration that I found difficult to get through.

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  • Lucas
  • 2020-05-04

Delightful and Informative

Smolin is a romantic, and that is my favorite kimd of scientist from which to learn science.

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  • James S.
  • 2019-12-07

I finally got through it!

I had a few false starts listening to this audible, but I finally got through the entire thing. It takes 2-3 times as long as it should for Smolin to get to the point, if he ever gets there. And the narrator's voice was a constant shrilling screech as if someone had been scraping their fingernails along a chalkboard for 10 hrs straight. I didn't give the narrator lower marks because maybe I'm the only one who is bothered by her voice, and her horrible British accent.

But it was worth finishing, in the end, due to the overall depth, though subtle, in the development of the foundational physical concepts regarding time and space. I particularly enjoyed the parts about Causal Set Theory, which is also given probably an entire chapter in another great physics audible called "Spooky Action at a Distance", one of my favorites! (See the part about quantum graphity.)

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  • Voyajer
  • 2019-09-24

Excellent book on the latest in Quantum Mechanics

Having written a book on Quantum Foundations myself, I found this book particularly interesting. It explains in layman’s terms the latest theories including Many Worlds, Decoherence, and Spontaneous Collapse. Well worth a read for anyone interested in how the atomic world works and the possibility of a theory for quantum gravity. The author is well recognized in physics for his own work and has worked with the greats.