Tuesday 26 April 2011

Quantum in paperback in French and German

Quantum is now available in French and German paperback editions and on sale, as they say, in all good bookshops in France and Germany.

You can buy the French here and the German here

Monday 25 April 2011

Solvay 1927 - A film clip

If you want to see some extremely rare footage of some of the participants leaving the Solvay conference in October 1927. Shot by the American Irving Langmuir, its just under 3 minutes long and shows Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Pauli, Born, de Broglie, Dirac and others after a day discussing quantum mechanics. The commentary is provided by Nancy Thorndike Greenspan, the author of an excellent biography of Max Born called The End of the Certain World.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

'An Enlightening Book on Einstein and the Quantum Theory Debate'

Jay Lehr, science director of the Heartland Institute reviews Quantum:

'While I was a student at Princeton University in the early 1950s I had a literally nodding acquaintance with Albert Einstein. During my freshman year he walked past my dormitory every day on his way to the Institute for Advanced Study. I often found myself on the sidewalk as he passed by, and we nodded to each other. I have read many an interesting biography of his life since, but none more interesting than Quantum, by Manjit Kumar.

Quantum is a biography not just of Albert Einstein’s life but also his thought processes. It also provides insight into the dozens of famous theoretical physicists who influenced and aided him in his work.

Complex Science Explained
Quantum theory, which attempts to describe the atomic and subatomic worlds, is for most people a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. For many years it was equally baffling for the world’s most brilliant physicists. Here the author gives us a dramatic and superbly written account of this fundamental scientific revolution and the divisive debate at its core.

Simply reading Quantum may not make one an immediate expert on quantum theory, but the chronology of every great contribution to the physics of quantum theory—beginning in 1858 and continuing to the present—will be worth the price of the book.

The most complex and difficult-to-understand intricacies of quantum theory in no way reduced the joy I felt in reading this book and following the journey of so many great scientists as they researched and published their discoveries. Interestingly, these discoveries were not often verified in a laboratory, but they were agreed upon because they accorded with physical observations and allowed for reasonable mathematical solutions.

Interesting Narratives, Theories
In one of the most compelling discussions in the book, Kumar describes a conference held in Belgium in 1927. Of the 29 people invited to the conference, 17 went on to receive the Nobel Prize. At times Kumar made me feel like I was in the room. Heisenberg, Planck, Born, and Schrödinger came alive for me as I read these passages.

In an enlightening scientific discourse, Kumar explains the concept of entanglement, a quantum phenomenon in which two or more particles remain inexorably linked no matter how far apart they are. He also explains the intriguing quantum theory in which Dr. Schrodinger’s cat can be simultaneously dead and alive.

Quantum is not a book for everyone. But if you have a great deal of scientific curiosity and enjoy reading about some of the greatest scientific minds in history, you will certainly enjoy this book.'

Original review can be read here.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Edinburgh International Science Festival

A review of my talk at the Edinburgh International Science Festival by Keir Liddle of The 21st Floor:

'In front of a packed auditorium Manjit Kumar takes to the stage. Behind him is displayed an image of the “first team” of physics: Einstein, Bohr, Dirac, Planck, Curie, Schrödinger, Heisenberg and the other luminaries that attended the famous Solvay conference in 1927. Arguably the greatest minds working in the field gathered together in one place. Einstein alone being the most famous and well known physicist since Newton for his theory of relativity.

This conference was a pivotal point in quantum physics and one at which quantum theories two prize-fighters, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, did battle with various thought experiments to test Bohrs Copenhagen interpretation. According to this interpretation of quantum physics you can only say a particle exists when you try to measure and observe it. Einstein took exception to this as he believed that the universe did not simply go away when you did not observe it.

“I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.”

Manjit weaved together the intriguing tale of the people who were behind the biggest discoveries in the physics of the incredibly small with an affable style and a genuine affection for the subject. Too often science and scientists can appear cold, distant and removed from human endeavour and it is valuable and important that Manjit reminded us that scientists are driven by human motivations, ambitions and that there is a very human joy in exploring and understanding the fundamental principles of the universe.'