Synopses & Reviews
Quantum theory is weird. As Niels Bohr said, if you weren't shocked by quantum theory, you didn't really understand it. For most people, quantum theory is synonymous with mysterious, impenetrable science. And in fact for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. In this tour de force of science history, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly written account of this fundamental scientific revolution, focusing on the central conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of reality and the soul of science. This revelatory book takes a close look at the golden age of physics, the brilliant young minds at its core--and how an idea ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century.
"With vigor and elegance, Kumar describes the 'clash of titans' that took place in the world of physics in the early 20th century, between physicists who did and those who did not believe in the quantum the strange concept that we now know to be the underpinning of reality. The titans in Kumar's account of the conflict are Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. In 1900, Max Planck discovered that electromagnetic radiation and the energy of light are transmitted not in a continuous flow but in small packets called 'quanta' (singular, quantum). Bohr applied the idea of quantum to electrons, leading to the development of quantum mechanics. Bohr's theory explained experimental results that were inexplicable in classical theory. Einstein rejected Bohr's theory overturning reality in dangerous but also thrilling ways. The clash culminated at the 1927 Solway conference. Kumar, founding editor of Prometheus and a consulting science editor for Wired UK, recounts this meaty, dense, exciting story, filled with vivid characters and sharp insights. With physics undergoing another revolution today, Kumar reminds us of a time when science turned the universe upside down. 16 pages of photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"As a fairly innumerate non-scientist, I am perversely drawn to books about maths and science and usually abandon them with ignorance intact. However, by Manjit Kumar ... is so well written that I now feel I've more or less got particle physics sussed. transcends genre--it is historical, scientific, biographical, philosophical." The Guardian
"One of the best guides yet to the central conundrums of modern physics."--John Banville
Kumar is an accomplished writer who knows how to separate the excitement of the chase from the sometimes impenetrable mathematics.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.A super-collider of a book, shaking together an exotic cocktail of free-thinking physicists, tracing their chaotic interactions and seeing what God-particles and black holes fly up out of the maelstrom… Provides probably the most lucid and detailed intellectual history ever written of a body of theory that makes other scientific revolutions look limp-wristed by comparison.Lively....a wide-ranging account, written for readers who are curious about the theory but what to sidestep its mathematical complexities....fascinating.
About the Author
Manjit Kumarwas the founding editor of Prometheus, an arts and sciences journal. He has written and reviewed for various publications, including The Guardian, and is a consulting science editor at WiredUK. He lives in London.