Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review - Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness

In the book: Quantum Enigma, physicists Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain the enigma of the most successful theory in science: the quantum theory.  It’s the same enigma that drove Albert Einstein to search for an answer in his later years.  Unfortunately, Einstein wasn’t able to do so; in his dying years, he urged others to not give up finding the truth behind the theory.  Let’s see if this book could answer Einstein’s call.

A history lesson on science:  Before 1700s, the preferred term for the study of nature was natural philosophy.  It was also around that time that the father of physics, Isaac Newton, was active and changed the way the masses viewed the world ever since.  The book summarizes how science came to be from Isaac Newton to recent discoveries.  It shows us how far we’ve come (which is not very far) and where the common worldview of today came from.

Welcome to the quantum world, noob:  The quantum enigma was discovered by an accident and it wasn’t until years later that scientists started picking up on it.  They then started arguing against each other until one of the nonbelievers worked out the calculation for it to form the basic structure of quantum theory.  The fight between scientists didn’t stop there; Einstein started challenging Niels Bohr year after year looking for an explanation that the quantum theory couldn’t give him.  The book explains those important development times of quantum theory for those new to the subject.

In other words:  For us without a PhD in physics, the book explains quantum mechanics in nontechnical terms without any headache-driving equations.  At the same time, the book does go deep in details on some of the concepts.

Not so good
Again, again, and again:  On the first ¾ of the book, the authors kept teasing me on how mind-blowing and unbelievable the enigma is.  The problem is, I already knew about the enigma before reading the book.  The second problem is, they basically explained the enigma in a little story on chapter three, 17 pages into the book.  So I don’t understand why they just kept telling me how stunning it is.  It got annoying the third time around and I think they said it ten times, if not more.

No more, a little less:  The book’s idea doesn’t exceed the book’s title.  The last big discovery it talks about in-depth is in the 1970s.

Quantum Enigma is a great introductory book on physics and quantum mechanics.  If you want to read about what Einstein and other famous scientists thought of quantum mechanics, you won’t be disappointed.  However, if you want more than the questions brought up by the enigma, this book is not enough.

Score: 7/10

Related links:
History of Quantum Mechanics (Youtube video)
Quantum Enigma Explained in Cartoon (Youtube video)
Video Mix on Quantum physics (Youtube video) WARNING: It will confuse you 
Quantum Mind (Wikipedia)

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