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

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