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The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty by [Crease, Robert P., Goldhaber, Alfred Scharff]
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The fascinating story of how quantum mechanics went mainstream.

The discovery of the quantum—the idea, born in the early 1900s in a remote corner of physics, that energy comes in finite packets instead of infinitely divisible quantities—planted a rich set of metaphors in the popular imagination.

Quantum imagery and language now bombard us like an endless stream of photons. Phrases such as multiverses, quantum leaps, alternate universes, the uncertainty principle, and Schrödinger's cat get reinvented continually in cartoons and movies, coffee mugs and T-shirts, and fiction and philosophy, reinterpreted by each new generation of artists and writers.

Is a "quantum leap" big or small? How uncertain is the uncertainty principle? Is this barrage of quantum vocabulary pretentious and wacky, or a fundamental shift in the way we think?

All the above, say Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber in this pathbreaking book. The authors—one a philosopher, the other a physicist—draw on their training and six years of co-teaching to dramatize the quantum’s rocky path from scientific theory to public understanding. Together, they and their students explored missteps and mistranslations, jokes and gibberish, of public discussion about the quantum. Their book explores the quantum’s manifestations in everything from art and sculpture to the prose of John Updike and David Foster Wallace. The authors reveal the quantum’s implications for knowledge, metaphor, intellectual exchange, and the contemporary world. Understanding and appreciating quantum language and imagery, and recognizing its misuse, is part of what it means to be an educated person today.

The result is a celebration of language at the interface of physics and culture, perfect for anyone drawn to the infinite variety of ideas.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4424 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (13 October 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00J8R3ERC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #270,931 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.1 out of 5 stars 36 reviews
74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (Mostly) Accessible Physics 27 October 2014
By William Blackburn - Published on
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This is one of the most accessible yet soundly informative books I have read on the mysterious world of the quantum, the divide between orderly Newtonian classical/causal physics and the strange probabilistic and seemingly random subatomic world of quantum mechanics. The authors discuss pioneering physicists such as Planck, Einstein, and Bohr, and disputes between them over the completeness of the quantum theory. Concepts such as entanglement, complementarity, conjugate variables, the Uncertainty Principle, and the wave/particle duality are presented in a fresh and engaging manner. For the layman, like this reader, who has struggled through more arcane works, such as A Brief History of Time, this book is a welcome assurance that these concepts are not completely out of reach for non-specialists. Nevertheless, I am reminded that Descartes said something to the effect that one can touch a mountain but cannot put one's arms around it as one could a tree, and that to know something it is sufficient to touch it with your mind, but to grasp it is necessary to embrace it with your mind. Some of the discussion in this book I did in fact grasp, but much I confess to have merely touched upon, especially the mathematical equations.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At a time when it seems like each month brings forth some new book on quantum ... 14 December 2014
By Sobosage - Published on
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At a time when it seems like each month brings forth some new book on quantum physics, this one stands out for its readability, reference to modern literature and art, and even a bit of sly humor. Nice companion piece to Louisa Gilder's excellent, "The Age of Entanglement."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read and a great exposition of an important topic 26 March 2015
By Robert Marcus - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A “must read” book for those interested in the quantum physics - classical physics dichotomy born in the beginning of the 20th century and still very much with us. Both authors are physicists at Stoney Brook, and Crease is also a philosopher with an uncanny ability to explain difficult concepts in a practical, level-headed way.

The focus, ultimately, is on the Bohr-Heisenberg approach and the growing dissatisfaction of others who refuse to accept the coexistence of two basically incompatible theories of nature. Other culture-based influences are also treated as they made their appearances - Eastern mysticism, the anthropic principle, EST, and others.

A great read and a great exposition of an important topic.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get over your old ways of thinking...... 14 February 2015
By prodarwin - Published on
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Well written for the neophyte. Wish this book had been written when I first started studying quantum mechanics. It would have saved me some time and a great deal of dismay.

I have been studying quantum mechanics now for about 20 years and have to keep going over and over the material. Yes, after all this time I count myself a neophyte. You have to open yourself to an entirely new way of thinking. There has been many a night when I got out of bed, went to the library and reread pages I'd read the day before. You'll say to yourself, "that can't possibly be what I read." What did that page really say? And, you'll find you've recalled correctly. Close your mouth and accept your incredulity as a constantly returning visitor as long as you stick with this topic.

I diagram sentences and draw flow charts. You've really got to want to know this stuff.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Questioning uncertainty 26 April 2015
By Ron Bohr - Published on
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A great summary of the history of quantum mechanics. The concepts are philosophical as well as scientific. It's interesting to see how Heisenberg's uncertainty principle has been used, misused and popularized.

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