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Quantum

A Guide for the Perplexed
Written by: Jim Al-Khalili
Narrated by: Hugh Kermode
Length: 7 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Astronomy
4.5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From Schrodinger's cat to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, this book untangles the weirdness of the quantum world.

Quantum mechanics underpins modern science and provides us with a blueprint for reality itself. And yet it has been said that if you're not shocked by it, you don't understand it. But is quantum physics really so unknowable? Is reality really so strange? And just how can cats be half alive and half dead at the same time?

Our journey into the quantum begins with nature's own conjuring trick, in which we discover that atoms - contrary to the rules of everyday experience - can exist in two locations at once. To understand this we travel back to the dawn of the 20th century and witness the birth of quantum theory, which over the next 100 years was to overthrow so many of our deeply held notions about the nature of our universe.

Scientists and philosophers have been left grappling with its implications ever since.

Read by Hugh Kermode.

©2003 Jim Al-Khalili (P)2016 Orion Publishing Group

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  • Michael
  • 2017-05-02

Run of the Mill QM Primer

This is mostly a history of the important experiments and personalities involved in the history of QM. This book does not teach how to think about QM so as not to be perplexed. The basic premise seems to be it is perplexing, live with it. This book firmly in the "shut up and calculate" camp of QM. If may familiarize you with a few important QM experiments and people, but it not prepare you to understand the trouble with QM and it might (unfortunately) convince you that the universe is queerer than you can suppose.

The author feels he has an advantage over the reader in that he has concluded there are no simple explanations for quantum mechanics. I find this both silly and sad. Simple explanations in science generally seem unlikely (and are denied by all reasonable scientists) until they are uncovered. Deciding no reasonable explanation is possible seems limiting and foolish. I find books that describe quantum mechanics as weird, mysterious, strange, irrational, or beyond understanding to be tedious. What should be presented is the results of QM measurements with minimal interpretation or complication and without discussion of what might be happening between measurements. This book does just the opposite, focusing on the oddness between measurements.

On the upside, this book describes several "interpretations" of quantum mechanics and (unlike most books on this subject) includes (and does not totally trash) De broli Bohm theory.

There are lots of primers of QM and I have read many. This one is not one of my favorites, but it does present the basics in a traditional way. The narration is particularly clear and easy to understand. Up to now I generally recommend Lindley’s Uncertainty and Smolin's The Trouble with Physics.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Alexandra Hopkins
  • 2016-10-23

Best ever intermediate book on quantum physics

I have read or listened to about 10 books on quantum physics, and this is the BEST by far.

It’s both accurate and clear. It includes virtually no math. Achieving accuracy and clarity in this field while avoiding math is quite a feat. The book is suitable for readers who have a good basic knowledge of the concepts of quantum physics. It is probably not for raw beginners. However, mathematical knowledge is not required.

Among many other aspects of quantum physics, the book elucidates Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the true source of which is often mischaracterized, even in quantum mechanics textbooks.

This book might also be quite interesting to those who have a good mathematical understanding of quantum physics but may lack thorough understanding of quantum theory. For those who have studied the “shut up and calculate” school of quantum mechanics, this book might be extremely informative.

Jim Al-Khalili, the author, is an accomplished nuclear physicist who has made important contributions to the field. He's also a superb communicator of difficult scientific concepts. He has created and hosted numerous popular science documentaries.

The narration is also superb, the best of the 10 or so Audible books that I've listened to.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Philomath
  • 2016-05-17

The fascinating world of the quantum

So many books about quantum physics but no one ever explains it, they only describe the science.

In a typically captivating Al-Khalili style, even that that cannot be understood is explained easily. "Those who think they understand quantum science, don't understand quantum science" don't ask why, just do the math that works.

The author explains why quantum science is so accurate yet defies intuition and any type of reason. Most scientists in this field only care that the science works. Why quantum physics works in the way it does is something they usually run away from, and for good reason. It makes no sense and defies logic.

Great author, great book, highly recommended for those that still don't understand why we don't understand the quantum world.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Kelly R. Potter
  • 2016-11-02

Actually perplexed.

I love it when a new book can leave me scratching my head by the end. I have read so many books like this and they usually go over stuff I already have a pretty good understanding of, but this book was actually perplexing.

6 people found this helpful

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  • eric mathieu
  • 2016-08-19

I loved it. when I learned to use the rewind 30s

I loved it. when I learned to use the rewind 30s. not because of the narrator. just because it the complexity, my lack of understanding the subject or being sure to understand it all.

6 people found this helpful

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  • AJ Rothman
  • 2016-05-01

So far so good. It's not going to let down.

Covering the basics and keeping it technical. Do not dive into this thinking you're going to know it all. Though it does start at the beginning if you don't have a grasp on the standard model good luck.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Louis Shaffer
  • 2017-01-02

Loved it.

A really clear explanation of quantum physics without trying to convince the listener that the actually of what is physically occurring can be explained. He does however, tell us why this is the case. Even better, he goes on to show why this is still extremely important science and everyday useful applications.

Very well read as well. I was never bored.

I am a science geek, so this review might not apply to all. But, you can always return it if not for you!

4 people found this helpful

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  • chemprof
  • 2016-06-04

Nice listen

Balance between known and speculative, historical, current and possible future. Still perplexed! Wavefunction covered well. Entanglement done justice. Computing still a complete mystery.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Tim S.
  • 2018-02-26

Great non-mathematical coverage of quantum physics

Excellent coverage of a wide range of topics in quantum mechanics. I enjoyed learning about the history of quantum mechanics and who was involved in it's development. It was surprising to me how long it actually took to describe the theory from its first hints in the description of black body radiation to full quantum mechanics. Personally, I hoped for a little more about the mathematical basis for quantum mechanics, but since it did not go deep into the math, I do think this book is accessible to more people. I also enjoyed hearing about real world physics experiments and just how much more there is to learn.

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  • Daniel Temple
  • 2017-03-12

best layman's guide to the quantum wirls

great metaphors, author does not condescend and makes the material accessible. looking forward to learning more on the subject after this

2 people found this helpful