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Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Scienceby David Lindley
Synopses & Reviews
Werner Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle" challenged centuries of scientific understanding, placed him in direct opposition to Albert Einstein, and put Niels Bohr in the middle of one of the most heated debates in scientific history. Heisenberg's theorem stated that there were physical limits to what we could know about sub-atomic particles; this "uncertainty" would have shocking implications. In a riveting account, David Lindley captures this critical episode and explains one of the most important scientific discoveries in history, which has since transcended the boundaries of science and influenced everything from literary theory to television.
"Brilliantly captures the personalities and the science surrounding the most revolutionary principle in modern physics. This book is...truly thrilling." Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
"Charmingly written and a delight to read....Highlights the human element of science." The Economist
"Provides a useful précis of the mind-blowing progress of physics in the early 20th century." The New York Times
"Far and away the best popular account of the development of quantum mechanics I have encountered." Michael D. Gordin, American Scientist
"Readers will find less scary science in Uncertainty than in most other studies of physics for the general reader, and more good old-fashioned narrative and quirky characters." Providence Journal
The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.
That God would choose to play dice with the world is something I cannot believe.
Nothing exists until it is measured.
The remarkable story of a startling scientific idea that ignited a battle among the greatest minds of the twentieth century and profoundly influenced intellectual inquiry in fields ranging from physics to literary criticism, anthropology and journalism
In 1927, the young German physicist Werner Heisenberg challenged centuries of scientific understanding when he introduced what came to be known as “the uncertainty principle.” Building on his own radical innovations in quantum theory, Heisenberg proved that in many physical measurements, you can obtain one bit of information only at the price of losing another. Heisenberg’s principle implied that scientific quantities/concepts do not have absolute, independent meaning, but acquire meaning only in terms of the experiments used to measure them. This proposition, undermining the cherished belief that science could reveal the physical world with limitless detail and precision, placed Heisenberg in direct opposition to the revered Albert Einstein. The eminent scientist Niels Bohr, Heisenberg’s mentor and Einstein’s long-time friend, found himself caught between the two.
Uncertainty chronicles the birth and evolution of one of the most significant findings in the history of science, and portrays the clash of ideas and personalities it provoked. Einstein was emotionally as well as intellectually determined to prove the uncertainty principle false. Heisenberg represented a new generation of physicists who believed that quantum theory overthrew the old certainties; confident of his reasoning, Heisenberg dismissed Einstein’s objections. Bohr understood that Heisenberg was correct, but he also recognized the vital necessity of gaining Einstein’s support as the world faced the shocking implications of Heisenberg’s principle.
About the Author
David Lindley holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics and has been an editor at Nature, Science, and Science News. He is the author of The End of Physics, Degrees Kelvin, Where Does the Weirdness Go?, and Boltzmann's Atom. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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