Thursday, 17 December 2009

Quantum reviewed by Words of a Wandering Mind

This blogger in India has some very nice things to say about Manjit Kumar's book:

'The book went as far as permanently changing my outlook in many fundamental aspects. Brilliant, entertaining, informative, insightful and thought-provoking are only a few words that come to my mind. Sit back and enjoy. It will be on the list of ten best things you did this year.'

The full piece is here.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Quantum - best of the year in the Scotsman

Andrew Crumey picks Quantum as one of his best books of the year in the Scotsman:

'Two popular science books particularly impressed me this year. Manjit Kumar's Quantum (Icon, £9.99) ably recounts the early history of a theory that continues to intrigue and baffle people a century later, while In Search of the Multiverse (Allen Lane, £20) by John Gribbin explains why some physicists believe the parallel worlds of science fiction could really exist.'

The full piece is here.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Quantum - now available as an ebook!

After a long wait, Manjit Kumar's bestselling Quantum is finally available as an ebook in the UK.

Buy the version for your Sony Reader at WHSmith here for £5.59.

And you can buy the version for Amazon's Kindle reader here for $11.60 (despite the dollar price this edition is only available to UK residents)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Quantum review by Institute of Physics press officer

J.O. Winters, press officer at the Institute of Physics has posted this great review of Quantum on Amazon:

'The history of quantum physics is the story of a group of physicists with minds capable of grasping horribly counter-intuitive truths about how the very smallest components of matter behave. The problem with trying to convey the wonder of what was achieved to the uninitiated (most of us!) through a popular science book is that you have to take them on a journey through those discoveries; requiring the reader to make the same leaps of faith that even Einstein wouldn't make. The sort of leaps of faith that have previously, think Earth going 'round the Sun or flat Earth, taken centuries to become common parlance.'

'Kumar offers a masterclass in how to help readers through, possibly, the most difficult field of physics out there. He entertains with a wonderfully illuminating narrative, telling the life stories of not only Bohr and Einstein, but also Planck, Rutherford, Schrodinger and many more. The most remarkable thing about this book however is that you don't, as with so many popular science books, skim the meat of the science, hanging onto the thread of the book through the more easily-accessed narrative. You relish and look forward to grasping the science. I dare say I've read physics books that tackle innately easier physics topics less well than Kumar takes on quantum physics.'

'To understand a fraction of quantum physics will increase ego by degrees of magnitude. To understand as much as Kumar offers (and to enjoy it, which you will) might give you a couple of sleepless nights (thinking about how your wave-particle coffee table is actually solid enough to hold your laptop) but you will end up feeling an intellectual colossus vis a vis anyone who hasn't read it and isn't actually a quantum physicist.'

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Quantum - Hindustan Times review

A great review of Quantum in Indian newspaper The Hindustan Times:

'That science is a many-splendoured sexy thing is the radiating message that comes out of this fabulous book. Manjit Kumar writes a pulsating narrative about the history of modern science’s most fundamental revolution in Quantum (Hachette, Rs 495). The great debate about the nature of reality — between Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr where they and their ‘two schools of thought’ face each other off reads like Corleone-Tattaglia feud from the Godfather minus the machine guns, plus the atom-smashers.'

'Even in the prologue of this historical journey of science, Kumar knows how to hook the reader. “Paul Ehrenfest was in tears. He had made his decision. Soon he would attend the wee-long gathering where many of those responsible for the quantum revolution would try and understand the meaning of what they had wrought. There he would have to tell his old friend Albert Einstein that he had chosen to side with Niels Bohr.... In a note to Einstein as they sat around the conference table, Ehrenfest scribbled: ‘Don’t laugh! There’s a special section in purgatory for professors of quantum theory, where they will be obliged to listen to lectures on classical physics ten hours every day."'

'Kumar brings lucidity and a sense of drama to what is usually considered by lay readers as an esoteric, bubble-chambered subject. He does this without sacrificing the ‘science of it’ at the altar of readability. The triumphs and the tribulations, the politics and the physics, the humanity and the genius of the protagonists all collide to produce the sort of energy that we usually expect in a Le Carre thriller.'

See the full piece here.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Quantum - bestselling In India

We've just seen this bestseller chart in The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, which shows Manjit Kumar's book in sixth place:

1) The Idea Of Justice by Amartya Sen – Penguin Allen Lane Rs. 699

2) Jinnah- India – Partition Independence by Jaswant Singh – Rupa Rs. 695

3) Sociobiology – The New Synthesis by Edward O. Wilson Rs. 2376

4) Authentic Happiness – Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman , Ph.d – Nicholas Brealey Rs. 295

5) Think India – The Rise of The World’s Next Superpower by Vinay Rai & William L. Simon – Plume Rs. 399

6) Quantum – Einstein, Bohr And the Great Debate About the Nature Of Reality by Manjit Kumar – Hachette Rs. 495

7) Stop the Excuses! – How To change Lifelong Thoughts by Dr Wayne W. Dyer – Hay House Rs. 295

8) Cricket Biryani – The History of Hyderabad Cricket by P.R.Man Singh Rs. 1500

9) Romance of The Golconda Diamonds by Omar Khalidi Rs. 1400

10) A Better India A Better World by N R Narayana Murthy – Penguin Allen Lane Rs. 499

Monday, 21 September 2009

Quantum: well reviewed in India

'As an introduction to a fiendishly difficult branch of science it is hard to improve upon Quantum. This is one of the finest accounts of the 20th century’s greatest intellectual adventure' Express Buzz, India.

See the full review here.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Quantum - now big in India, too!

Hachette have just recently published the Indian edition of Quantum and its first review is just in:

'If theoretical and often boring physics can be delivered in an exciting novel style, Manjit Kumar has done it. His Quantum Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality is an engrossing account of the high caliber intellectual and academic debates, sometimes acrimonious, on the then evolving concept of Quantum, in the 20th century.' The Organiser

Read the full review here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Quantum reviewed by R.D.Brislin

Reader R.D. Brislin had these nice things to say about Quantum on

'I have always been fascinated by how 'it' all fits together, but struggle to find the time to concentrate on dry theoretical texts. It was therefore with great delight that I found myself engrossed in Quantum on the tube, the bus and even occasionally the walk in between. Manjit Kumar's writing eases you effortlessly into the some of the most complex ideas in physics by juxtaposing the personal stories of the authors playing out through the 20th century with the theories themselves. Sufficient detail is provided to challenge all but the most experienced reader, and a comprehensive references list encourages further exploration for those who need to dig even deeper. While having to admit to only momentary glimpses of both the elusive beauty, and the black hole enveloped by quantum theory, I felt strangely comforted that even Einstein struggled to fully embrace such a world.'

Read more reviews on Amazon at the book's page here.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Still searching for God's dice

A great review piece here on Quantum by Vikram Johri on his blog:

'Kumar’s real achievement is not in throwing light on quantum mechanics per se, which descriptions are often mired in thick scientific jargon, but on a time when the thrill of discovery was so palpable it could slice through butter like a hot knife.'

Read the full piece here.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Quantum mention on

Nice to see that it's far from just geeky men who are reading Quantum - a reader at this post on says:

Right. I have finished Quantum by Manjit Kumar and have come to the conclusion
that quantum physicists are nutters!

How else can you explain beleiving that something only happens if you observe it? I used to think that when I hid my eyes when playing hide and seek as a very small child. And the cat thing is a bit daft, not to mention cruel .

I really enjoyed the book though. But wish I understand a bit more

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Quantum - reviewed in The Sunday Times

Robert Collins, writing in The Sunday Times at the weekend, had this to say about Quantum:

'Kumar seamlessly interweaves history and biography with clear explanations of the insights that Einstein and others made into the behaviour of matter at the subatomic level. The result makes you feel that you’ve grasped not only some of the revolutionary concepts of 20th-century science but sensed the thrill these physicists must have experienced as they made their world-changing breakthroughs.'

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Quantum - the latest reprint

Our latest reprint of Quantum has arrived today. We've altered the cover slightly to mention some of the more recent press quotes, and of course the Samuel Johnson Prize shortlisting.

Quantum on the BBC Culture Show

Quantum missed out on winning the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2009 last night but the brilliant short film about the book, featuring Manjit Kumar, almost makes up for it - see it at the BBC here.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Quantum extract in the Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph have an extract of Manjit Kumar's Quantum online today - read it here.

Quantum - Paperback of the Week in the Observer

'A feat of true scholarship interspersed, thankfully, with moments of more accessible entertainment. The result is a book of such ambition that it has been shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.'

Read the full review here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Quantum - brilliant review on Amazon customer Louis Ryan has just posted the fabulous review of Quantum below. Read it in situ here.

A brilliant account of a fundamental subject

The development of quantum physics through the 20th century is one of the great adventures of science, and here at last is a book aimed at the layperson which clearly explains its key concepts, while situating the scientific development in its broader setting. The result is a challenging and enthralling read.

Quantum is appropriately sub-titled, Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality. The long theoretical duel between these two giants of modern physics is a recurring theme of the book, but the story starts before them with the build-up to the discovery of Planck's constant at the turn of the century, and continues beyond their deaths (in 1955 and 1962 respectively) to take in Bell's Theorem and Everett's "many worlds" interpretation. Along the way we meet other great physicists such as Rutherford, Heisenberg, Pauli, Schrödinger, Dirac and Bohm.

One might suspect that a book of such scope would be in danger of being overcrowded with theories and theorists, yet Kumar rises to the challenge, displaying a novelist's sense of pacing allied with an impressive scientific clarity and succinctness. Clearly he has taken to heart the famous injunction attributed to Einstein to "make it as simple as possible, but no simpler!" He also strikes a judicious balance between scientific explanation and human context. This provided for me a welcome alternation between the physics and the lives of the physicists, with each stimulating an interest in the other.

What is so powerful and inspiring about this book is the way it conveys the passion for truth of those great pioneers. No doubt ego played its part as well, they would hardly have been human otherwise, but it is always secondary to the great quest to fathom the nature of sub-atomic reality. Characteristic of this passion is the anecdote of Bohr and Einstein on their first meeting in Copenhagen, straightaway so engrossed in debate that they repeatedly miss their bus-stop. Kumar evidently resonates to this passion, and conveys it vividly in his narrative. Here is an extract from his account of Bohr's first meeting with Schrödinger, one of Einstein's key allies in the great debate:

"After the exchange of pleasantries, battle began almost at once, and according to Heisenberg, `continued daily from early morning until late at night'... During one discussion Schrödinger called `the whole idea of quantum jumps a sheer fantasy'. `But it does not prove there are no quantum jumps,' Bohr countered. All it proved, he continued, was that `we cannot imagine them'. Emotions soon ran high... Schrödinger finally snapped. `If all this damned quantum jumping were really here to stay, I should be sorry I ever got involved with quantum theory.' `But the rest of us are extremely grateful that you did,' Bohr replied, `your wave mechanics has contributed so much to mathematical clarity and simplicity that it represents a gigantic advance over all previous forms of quantum mechanics.'

"After a few days of these relentless discussions, Schrödinger fell ill and took to his bed. Even as his wife did all she could to nurse their house-guest, Bohr sat on the edge of the bed and continued the argument. `But surely Schrödinger, you must see...' He did see, but only through the glasses he had long worn, and he was not about to change them for ones prescribed by Bohr."

This book is a brilliant and compelling account of the genesis of quantum physics, but it is more than that. In the midst of today's pervasive cynicism and disorientation, it is an inspiring reminder of what the human spirit is capable of when it devotes itself passionately to the highest aim, that of understanding the truth of our reality.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Quantum longlisted for Royal Society Prize for Science Books 2009

Manjit Kumar has made it two prize nominations in as many weeks today with the announcement of the longlist for this year's Royal Society Prize for Science Books, on which Quantum is included.

The Royal Society's press release is here. Congratulations once again to Manjit!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Quantum - BBC Samuel Johnson Prize shortlisting media coverage

News of Quantum's shortlisting for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2009 has mentioned been in various places today.

The Guardian covered the announcement here, and trade organ the Bookseller published this story. Bookbrunch, a book trade website, had this.

Icon's press release about the book is available to readhere.

We await the 30th June with all fingers tightly crossed!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Quantum shortlisted for the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize

Quantum has been shortlisted for this year's BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction!

Read the Evening Standard's piece here.

The winner is announced on 30th June.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Quantum longlisted for the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize

Excellent news this - Quantum is on this year's Samuel Johnson longlist.

Read the press release here and an associated story in the Guardian here and keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Quantum paperback reviewed in Nature

In this popular history of quantum mechanics, Manjit Kumar focuses "on the long-running debate between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, which took place from the mid-1920s through to the mid-1950s, over the adequacy of the quantum theory as a framework for fundamental physics", explained reviewer Don Howard (Nature 456, 706–707; 2008).

See the full article here.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Win a chat with Manjit Kumar!

In association with Icon Books and The School of Life, Waterstones are offering holders of their loyalty card the chance to win one of five School of Life 'expert conversations' in London with Manjit Kumar.

See the full competition here and good luck!

Quantum - out this week in Paperback

Quantum is published on Thursday this week in paperback, priced £9.99 and available from all good bookshops

Nicholas Lezard reviewed the book in the Guardian on Saturday, saying:

'This is about gob-smacking science at the far end of reason; as Rutherford said after one experiment involving alpha particles, "it was almost as incredible as if you had fired a 15-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it had come back and hit you" - and with extraordinary implications for the nature of reality. Take it nice and slowly and savour the experience of your mind being blown without recourse to hallucinogens.' Read the whole review here.

Buy the Quantum paperback from Amazon using the link on the right or with these other retailers:

The Book Depository

Monday, 2 March 2009

Quantum - reviewed in Astronomy Now

‘Kumar’s rich and intensively researched text tells of the development of quantum theory from the perspective of the scientists who worked on it. This qualitative, narrative method is a great way to get your head around the most extraordinary and intellectually demanding theory ever devised. Kumar brings to life the wide spectrum of personalities involved in the development of the quantum theory, from the quiet and thoughtful Bohr, to the lively and womanising Schrodinger. This was a time of the greatest scientific minds in history – unsurpassed before or since.

Quantum’s subtitle is the hub of this book. After the spectacular success Bohr had explaining the nature of the atom (building on the groundwork of Rutherford and others), quantum theory began to get messy. In some experiments photons and electrons behaved like particles, and in others they behaved like waves. Should scientists just accept what could be objectively measured (as Bohr insisted), or was there a deeper reality, as Einstein believed? The intellectual arguments between the two kept the debate about quantum theory and the nature if reality fresh. Only now in the twenty-first century can we even begin to investigate the theory’s fundamental nature. As for myself, I had difficulty putting this book down, even when I should have been sleeping!’

Kulvinder Singh Chadha, assistant editor, Astronomy Now

Monday, 9 February 2009

Quantum - more Amazon reader reviews

Matthew Burns from Dover has this to say about Quantum on the book's Amazon page:

'I really enjoyed reading this book!
Excellent, interesting, story and subject.

I thought Kumar put it across in a very entertaining way, I did not get all of the minutia of the physics but that did not matter, I especially enjoyed the suspense and his sense of humour. I also enjoyed the way the story wove characters and events together, all the way through I was kept interested, he knows how to tell a story.

I got alot out of the information in the book; it filled in gaps for me in my knowledge about the subject as well as providing a really interesting back drop to the stuff I'd done at school. (I liked science till I got to the 6th Form.) The book worked on many different levels, as a history I became aware that there were quite often unintended results or consequences from experiments or ideas, some times others taking up something someone else had accidently stumbled across and looking at it in a new way, I liked that, I found it thought provoking.

This gave me an interesting insight in to the whole unfolding understanding of the science as it happened in time, this was one of the main areas focused on. Another aspect, the personalities and how they interacted what they got up to I enjoyed hearing about their interests and how they lived. 'Painting a picture' of the scientists as people really worked for me. '

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Quantum - an Amazon reader review

Amazon customer P.G. Harris has submitted this review of Quantum to the book's page on

Quantum is the unfinished story of the development of quantum mechanics. Unfinished? Yes, because the question which lies at the centre of the book is not yet resolved.

The story starts in late Victorian times when classic physics seems close to completion, to being able to explain the world fully. There seem to be just a few loose ends to be tied up. However, it is those few loose ends inside the atom, explaining the nature of the electron, being able to account for light behaving both like a particle and a wave etc which lead to the unravelling (at the atomic level) of previous world views.

Through the lives of Planck, Bohr, Einstein, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, Pauli, De Broglie and others we see how diferent strands of quantum theory were hotly contested and how it developed through analysis and synthesis.

One of the most exciting things about the book to me was the rigour and power of true scientific method. Quantum physics, despite being in some ways mind blowingly ethereal is subject to the most searching challenge and detailed research. We see two of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Einstein and Bohr sitting on opposite sides of the dispute, deploying their most powerful destructive intellectual weapons in order to test the veracity of each others ideas. If ever you doudt bthe superiority of genuine science over pseudo Science (are you listening Charles Windsor), read this book.

At the centre of the dispute is the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum mechanics, at the heart of which is the assertion that reality is not indepedent of measurement. (it would take too long to explain more, but Schrodingers famous cat is involved). Through the book we see Bohr besting Einstein, but one feels that the author is sympathetic towards Einstein and there is a sense of relief at the end of the book that the door remains open for the father of relativity.

Also fascinating is that roughly half of the book is about the major advances in the development of quantum theory in the first three decades of the 20th Century and thereafter debate switched to the interpretation, in a nutshell, is it reality or just a convenient model describing the effect of an underlying reality.

This is no dry science book however, one gets to know the people involved and the story has as its setting the major events of 20th Century history, the first world war, the rise of the nazis, the development of the atomic bomb, and the cold war.

Kumar is a clear and engaging writer, and my only two criticims would be firstly that in his efforts to be comprehensoible he maybe keeps too far away from the hard science at times. Secondly the odd summarising passage, showing briefly what the current state of play was would be helpful.

Overall, definitely recommended, it's a book for everyone, not just the scientifically minded.

Read various other Amazon reader reviews here.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Quantum - a reader's book of the year in the Guardian

Audrey Fogelman from Rutland had this to say about Quantum in the Guardian on 27th December:

'As a fairly innumerate non-scientist, I am perversely drawn to books about maths and science and usually abandon them with ignorance intact. However, Quantum by Manjit Kumar (Icon) is so well written that I now feel I've more or less got particle physics sussed. Quantum transcends genre - it is historical, scientific, biographical, philosophical.'

The full article is here.