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The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in whi The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in which physicists developed weapons with the capacity to destroy our reality, whilst at the same time denying us the possibility that we can ever properly comprehend it. Almost everything we think we know about the nature of our world comes from one theory of physics. This theory was discovered and refined in the first thirty years of the twentieth century and went on to become quite simply the most successful theory of physics ever devised. Its concepts underpin much of the twenty-first century technology that we have learned to take for granted. But its success has come at a price, for it has at the same time completely undermined our ability to make sense of the world at the level of its most fundamental constituents. Rejecting the fundamental elements of uncertainty and chance implied by quantum theory, Albert Einstein once famously declared that 'God does not play dice'. Niels Bohr claimed that anybody who is not shocked by the theory has not understood it. The charismatic American physicist Richard Feynman went further: he claimed that nobody understands it. This is quantum theory, and this book tells its story. Jim Baggott presents a celebration of this wonderful yet wholly disconcerting theory, with a history told in forty episodes -- significant moments of truth or turning points in the theory's development. From its birth in the porcelain furnaces used to study black body radiation in 1900, to the promise of stimulating new quantum phenomena to be revealed by CERN's Large Hadron Collider over a hundred years later, this is the extraordinary story of the quantum world. Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallized big ideas, and shaped the way we think.


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The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in whi The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in which physicists developed weapons with the capacity to destroy our reality, whilst at the same time denying us the possibility that we can ever properly comprehend it. Almost everything we think we know about the nature of our world comes from one theory of physics. This theory was discovered and refined in the first thirty years of the twentieth century and went on to become quite simply the most successful theory of physics ever devised. Its concepts underpin much of the twenty-first century technology that we have learned to take for granted. But its success has come at a price, for it has at the same time completely undermined our ability to make sense of the world at the level of its most fundamental constituents. Rejecting the fundamental elements of uncertainty and chance implied by quantum theory, Albert Einstein once famously declared that 'God does not play dice'. Niels Bohr claimed that anybody who is not shocked by the theory has not understood it. The charismatic American physicist Richard Feynman went further: he claimed that nobody understands it. This is quantum theory, and this book tells its story. Jim Baggott presents a celebration of this wonderful yet wholly disconcerting theory, with a history told in forty episodes -- significant moments of truth or turning points in the theory's development. From its birth in the porcelain furnaces used to study black body radiation in 1900, to the promise of stimulating new quantum phenomena to be revealed by CERN's Large Hadron Collider over a hundred years later, this is the extraordinary story of the quantum world. Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallized big ideas, and shaped the way we think.

30 review for The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    The audience for this book might be the second or third year physics student. The book's detail obscures the story for those who need an introduction. This book begins by describing rival theories of physics in the early 1900s between the atomists and those who saw a continuous and harmonious flow of energy in the cosmos. The rest of the book is a blow-by-blow account of how quantum physics has brought these two theories closer together. Toward the end of the book, the author writes about "closed The audience for this book might be the second or third year physics student. The book's detail obscures the story for those who need an introduction. This book begins by describing rival theories of physics in the early 1900s between the atomists and those who saw a continuous and harmonious flow of energy in the cosmos. The rest of the book is a blow-by-blow account of how quantum physics has brought these two theories closer together. Toward the end of the book, the author writes about "closed loops of force" that form a lattice, resulting in intersecting loops that stitch "together the very fabric of the universe." This sort of observation stimulates interest but, unfortunately, Baggott doesn't 'dumb it down' for the novitiate. With this book I had hoped for a story but got a detailed, technically-oriented account instead.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    It’s hard to believe that an author can provide such interesting commentary on a subject which so many people consider difficult, but that’s what Jim Baggott does in The Quantum Story. Can’t slog through the conference notes of the debate between Bohrs and Heisenberg with Einstein and Schrodinger? Baggott does it for you, putting Einstein’s “dice-playing” comment in the context it deserves. Only aware of the term, “uncertainty principle,” but not its context? This is your source for an explanati It’s hard to believe that an author can provide such interesting commentary on a subject which so many people consider difficult, but that’s what Jim Baggott does in The Quantum Story. Can’t slog through the conference notes of the debate between Bohrs and Heisenberg with Einstein and Schrodinger? Baggott does it for you, putting Einstein’s “dice-playing” comment in the context it deserves. Only aware of the term, “uncertainty principle,” but not its context? This is your source for an explanation. Only have the vaguest sense of the significance of the two-slit experiment (and related gedankenexperiments, thought experiments)? Baggott walks you through the evolution of the body of knowledge surrounding this study. Not being a student of science myself (okay, make that “being a lazy student throughout my undergraduate years and not majoring in a scientific subject”), I hadn’t realized of the resistance certain famous physicists had to the initial suggestions of quantum theory. I was particularly intrigued by Prince Louis De Broglie’s correlation of quantum behavior with musical notes built on wave behavior (pp. 38-39) and the general categorization of his work as “la Comedie Francais” (p. 41). It never registered to me that Neils Bohr was as adamant as when he wrote: “There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description.” (quoted on p. 110) In considering the ongoing debate, I realized that my personal position was more in line with Peirce’s “pragmatism” (“what we know is not limited by what we can see, but by what we can do” – also p. 110) than with the “positivism” inherent in science since the time of Auguste Comte (“what we know is limited by what we observe” – also p. 110). Even prior to reading the book, I was aware of quantum theory’s recognition that observation impacts the reality observed. This is touched on several times in the volume, including Bohr’s insistence that quantum mechanics had to be based on observation without interference (p. 120) and Bohr’s response to Einstein’s photon box thought-experiment (which involved the theoretical idea of being able to use a clock mechanism to open a shutter in the box at a specific time and then, reweighing the box after the proton escaped) where he used Einstein’s general theory of relativity against his experiment. He said, “The very act of weighing a clock effectively changes the way it keeps time.” (p. 138) I was also unaware of how long these concepts were speculated upon, proposed, and accepted or abandoned prior to experimental evidence. Of course, in the 1960s, things began to change. The names of particles (observed and speculated upon) had proliferated so much that Fermi (for whom the nuclear research facility in Chicago is named) was asked if he could identify all of them. He answered, “Young man, if I could remember the names of all these particles, I would have been a botanist.” (p. 214) I hadn’t realized that Schrodinger’s “cat” was originally a “tongue-in-cheek” thought experiment aimed at quantum physicists (p. 156). Another surprise was realizing that the original “quork” was changed to “quark” as a result of a line from Finnegan’s Wake (p. 222, “Three quarks for Muster Mark! / Sure he hasn’t go much of a bark. / And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.”) Of course, I was intrigued to note that politics and competition played an important role in certain quantum discoveries. For example, researchers at SPEAR (Stanford Positron Electron Asymmetric Rings) heard a rumor that hadron/kaon events took place more rapidly around 3.1 GeV, so they wanted to run further tests right around that measurement. Since the accelerator was now capable of pushing 5 GeV, this seemed like an inopportune time to take a step back on the basis of a rumor (p. 271). When they discovered the creation of many such events at 100x baseline, they proceeded to name the newly discovered event the “psi” particle. Brookhaven Laboratory, the ones who originally discovered the preponderance of events at 3.1 GeV and hadn’t wanted to risk publishing as yet, had called it the “J” particle. After both labs published their results, the particle was eventually known as the “J/psi” particle (p. 274). And if I ever doubted the efficacy of abstraction, I was corrected by noting the impact of converting quantum numbers into “colors” for advancing the model (p. 259). The physicists still had to go back to the math, but the abstraction showed them what they should really be seeking. The real key, which would become more decisive at later points was the strong force keeping particles from experiencing real separation despite “asymptotic freedom” (pp. 261-262). It appears that even quantum theories conform to the rule of three as the so-called “Standard Model” recognized three (3) types of neutrinos balanced by three (3) particle generations (p. 288) along with three (3) angles in the CKM (Cabibbo, Kobayashi, and Maskawa) matrix (p. 289). Later, string theory would be applied to a concept presented by Calabi in 1957 and Shing-tung Yau in 1978. They posited that, for each of the three physical dimensions in which we work, there are six Calabi-Yau shapes. These, in turn, produce three (3) families of vibrational patterns (p. 389). I was amused by Robert J. Oppenheimer’s vehement rejection of “hidden variable” theory as “juvenile deviationism” which, if it could be disproved should be ignored (p. 305). That’s hardly scientific rigor, but the reaction to such theories helped to prove other aspects of quantum theory. But warnings have their place. Einstein’s caution about not continuing to seek the answers, even when perplexed, is quoted: ”Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott. Aber Boshaft ist Er nicht.“ It’s usually translated as “The Lord is subtle, but He is not malicious.” (p. 326n) It could also read, “The Lord is crafty, but He is not spiteful.” I personally like “crafty” because it suggests a role in creation while the “not spiteful” suggests what we discover in the natural order is not arbitrary. Similarly, I appreciated Heisenberg’s warning: “…we have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our nature of questioning.” (p. 356) In one sense, that says that we find what we are looking for. Not being a physicist, I had only heard of string theory before reading The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments, but as I approached the end of the book, I encountered an idea about which I hadn’t paid sufficient attention—loop quantum theory [A brief description in Carlo Rovelli’s book, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, was my only exposure. Wilson Loops (developed by mathematician Kenneth Wilson—no relation) proved to be a springboard for understanding quantum gravity. As refined by Smolin and later by Rovelli, “…this was not a theory of loops existing in space and time. Rather the relationships between the loops define space.” (p. 394) Later, the researchers discovered some commonality with Roger Penrose’s “spin states” (Again, my only exposure was a brief explanation in his The Emperor’s New Mind and I didn’t realize the applicability to loop quantum theory when I read that.) in recognizing that each of Penrose’s “spin networks” was a quantum state of reality formed by combinations of loops (p. 397). This, in turn, allowed them to assert that the nodes (intersections) represented (in their totality) the quanta of volume and that the links characterize the quanta of area (that may be an overly simplistic restatement – p. 397). Finally, one of the solutions for merging classical theory with quantum theory is to suppose multiple worlds/realities. In one, you would observe the world “spin-up” and in another “spin-down.” Having been deeply influenced by the work of Rudy Rucker on multiple dimensions, I am attracted to this portion of the theory. Yet, when this idea was first suggested, physicists called it: “…cheap on assumptions and expensive with universes.” (p. 402) Many scientists refuse to even consider superstring theory because of the inability to achieve experimental results. That may be so, but if so, The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments should remind physicists of the many times the theories worked before the capability of accumulating data was there but led to real results. Nevertheless, near the book’s conclusion, there is a surprising consensus. “Science is not philosophy. Yet, without recourse to experiment, it is perhaps inevitable that science becomes more speculative and metaphysical.” (p. 408)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    I paid for this book, therefore I felt compelled to read it till the last page. If it was a library borrow I would had returned it. I was expecting a plain and simple explanation of Quantum theory for the non-physicist but this book goes into a lot of detail that a physics student could benefit from. In total honesty, I couldn’t wait for it to be over but I’m glad I made it to the last page the same way as running 0.2 miles after running 26 miles before for the whole 26.2 of a marathon.

  4. 4 out of 5

    BetseaK

    As a historical overview of the development of quantum physics, this book was worth reading and, regarding the exposition of the quantum concepts and phenomena, it may be that it is good enough if you’re a physicist or someone already well-versed in confusing technical terminology and the underlying mathematics. However, my experience with this book is that the technical terminology (though probably conventionally accepted) is too loose and too vaguely defined for the layperson. So, to my sorrow As a historical overview of the development of quantum physics, this book was worth reading and, regarding the exposition of the quantum concepts and phenomena, it may be that it is good enough if you’re a physicist or someone already well-versed in confusing technical terminology and the underlying mathematics. However, my experience with this book is that the technical terminology (though probably conventionally accepted) is too loose and too vaguely defined for the layperson. So, to my sorrow and regret, I do not feel I understand the most fundamental quantum concepts any better than before reading this book. For instance, I was unhappy with the explanation of Feynman’s diagrams that “the symmetry of the interaction is such that there is in principle nothing to prevents us from concluding that the photon is emitted by the second electron and travels backward in time to be absorbed by the first” because I think this explanation is misleading. And, regarding the Bell’s theorem, it seemed to me that the author was a little too satisfied with the simple interpretation that quantum mechanics involves some weird action at a distance. What about the backward causation/advanced action approach, as presented in Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time? Parts I,II, III and VI cover the birth of quantum in 1900, the debate between Einstein and Bohr about the nature of reality, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Schrödinger’s wave mechanics, hidden variables’ approach, Bell’s inequality and Aspect experiments in much more detail than in Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality, which I was lucky to read and from which I got a lot more. Unlike the Jim Baggott's book, Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality was written as if it were a thriller and drew me, indeed, into the excitement of the times and the debate, making the concepts more comprehensible to the layperson. Parts IV and V focus on quantum field theory and the standard model of particle physics. After toiling and moiling for some comprehension for quite some time, eventually I had to give up. Sadly, my (layperson) experience with the hunt for particles was like hunting without a catch. Part VII, titled ‘Quantum Cosmology’, gives a very brief overview of superstrings, many-worlds interpretation and quantum-loop gravity approach. Finally, I’d say that the lack of practically any mathematical backbone does not make this book more accessible to the layperson interested to get a better insight into physics concepts (whether they are classical, relativistic or quantum ones), which is why I loved and highly appreciated the approach to explanation of physics concepts as applied in Galloping with Light - Einstein, Relativity, and Folklore and Records of the Future - Classical Entropy, Memory, and the 'Arrow of Time'. P.S. Regarding the confusing terminology, I’d really like to figure out how ‘a massless particle’ can become ‘even more massless’ (as concluded by physicist Jeffrey Goldstone in 1961, while studying the effects of symmetry-breaking).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles R

    This is a nice little popular history of quantum physics, from Planck's introduction of the quantum in 1900 to the present day. The best part of the book is probably the first half or so, which deals with the creation of quantum theory, up to the establishment of QED as a complete theory around 1950. Although there is not really any mathematics in the book, the author does go into a bit more technical detail than is usual in popular histories of this sort. Since I have a mathematical background, This is a nice little popular history of quantum physics, from Planck's introduction of the quantum in 1900 to the present day. The best part of the book is probably the first half or so, which deals with the creation of quantum theory, up to the establishment of QED as a complete theory around 1950. Although there is not really any mathematics in the book, the author does go into a bit more technical detail than is usual in popular histories of this sort. Since I have a mathematical background, and a vague general idea of the structure of quantum theory, this was a plus for me. On the other hand, some parts, such as the description of the failure of Bell's inequality and its generalizations (which basically amounts to a quantitative and experimentally testable version of the statement "quantum theory is weird") were hard to digest. A whole book could be written (and probably has, though I haven't read it) on what the failure of Bell's inequality really means; I could not extract understanding from this one. Still, this book is generally worth reading, if you're a layman who wants to learn something about modern physics.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nilesh

    Too ambitious and too complex. The author has a good concept in mind but in the chronological recount of the development he never could reach where the theory is now (after all the bumblings and Eureka moments) and the meaning of it all. The book is extremely complex in parts and completely loses its readers in ascribing the meaning to all the mathematical innovations (or may be he says somewhere, there is no meaning). That said, a decent book to go through for anyone with interest in the subjec Too ambitious and too complex. The author has a good concept in mind but in the chronological recount of the development he never could reach where the theory is now (after all the bumblings and Eureka moments) and the meaning of it all. The book is extremely complex in parts and completely loses its readers in ascribing the meaning to all the mathematical innovations (or may be he says somewhere, there is no meaning). That said, a decent book to go through for anyone with interest in the subject and has already read all the more popular ones.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter Aronson

    As other people have noted, this is a bit tough sledding for a non-physicist (which I am), but I found it worthwhile and interesting to persevere.

  8. 4 out of 5

    bojana

    although i loved it, as a physicist i think that you have to be one in order to really enjoy it. there are scarcely any equations, but the concepts may be overwhelming for a layperson. baggott mentions that the 40 moments are subjectively chosen, but i believe he did an amazing job with them. being somewhat obsessed with the whole "copenhagen movement", i though i knew all there is to know about this circle of physicists, but baggott gave me a few stories i knew nothing about. overall, a great r although i loved it, as a physicist i think that you have to be one in order to really enjoy it. there are scarcely any equations, but the concepts may be overwhelming for a layperson. baggott mentions that the 40 moments are subjectively chosen, but i believe he did an amazing job with them. being somewhat obsessed with the whole "copenhagen movement", i though i knew all there is to know about this circle of physicists, but baggott gave me a few stories i knew nothing about. overall, a great read, provided you are already familiar with the physics behind it and want to know how all pieces came together.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Oren

    Excellent book. Loved it. Already put a hold on his book Origins. I'm actually rereading the chapter on the Standard Model right now... The book covers the shift from classical, Newtonian physics to a focus on quantum systems. Max Planck kicked off this quantum revolution with his work on cavity radiation and the discovery of the constant attached to his name. But Einstein figured out that this constant also applied to measuring the energy of photons (light). Then Bohr figured out that it applie Excellent book. Loved it. Already put a hold on his book Origins. I'm actually rereading the chapter on the Standard Model right now... The book covers the shift from classical, Newtonian physics to a focus on quantum systems. Max Planck kicked off this quantum revolution with his work on cavity radiation and the discovery of the constant attached to his name. But Einstein figured out that this constant also applied to measuring the energy of photons (light). Then Bohr figured out that it applied to orbital energies of atoms. Why?? The book is really a history book, but very heavy in physics. One of my favorite parts was the Bohr-Einstein debates at Solvey. Einstein straddled the generational rift, but the debates still reflected the schism in the physics community. This was two of history's greatest thinkers locked in battle. I also really enjoyed the sections on wave mechanics, the exclusion principle and early quantum entanglement. Every big name in physics is covered within, and Jim Baggott is gifted in writing about physics. He reminds me of Amir Aczel. Every time I read a book like this I ask myself how did my high school science teachers manage to make the most interesting topic possible so dry and boring to me? Or was the failure mine? I wasn't a great student in high school.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joey Conway

    I think telling the history of Quantum Physics as a sequence of important results and movements is a great way to not only introduce people to the scientific concepts, but give them a good sense of how things progressed and how the personalities in the field interacted and affected the progress. The content was fairly challenging for a non-physicist, some chapters more so than others, but where I understood less of the science I was still learning a lot from the bottom-line conclusions and the hi I think telling the history of Quantum Physics as a sequence of important results and movements is a great way to not only introduce people to the scientific concepts, but give them a good sense of how things progressed and how the personalities in the field interacted and affected the progress. The content was fairly challenging for a non-physicist, some chapters more so than others, but where I understood less of the science I was still learning a lot from the bottom-line conclusions and the historical context. I do wish some of those conclusions were highlighted a little more directly, but the information was there as written. This book would be especially challenging for someone with NO background in physics, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a first read. But with that said, it doesn't quite require prior knowledge, so if someone were committed to sitting and wrestling with the ideas, I'd say go for it!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julian Stanley

    Many readers have given this book 2 stars because they were expecting a book that explains the math and science of quantum physics. This book doesn't do that. The purpose of the book is to zero in on the fascinating historical and social episodes of the growth of quantum physics from 1900 - near present. To fully appreciate and enjoy the book, some background knowledge is needed. I find the appropriate audience to be those who have knowledge congruent with courses in modern, quantum, and particl Many readers have given this book 2 stars because they were expecting a book that explains the math and science of quantum physics. This book doesn't do that. The purpose of the book is to zero in on the fascinating historical and social episodes of the growth of quantum physics from 1900 - near present. To fully appreciate and enjoy the book, some background knowledge is needed. I find the appropriate audience to be those who have knowledge congruent with courses in modern, quantum, and particle physics (junior or senior physics courses). I think the author should have printed a disclaimer at the outset declaring his intention is not to teach the hardcore science but to reveal interesting social and historical details concerning quantum theory's progression. From my point of view, I love the book. Not only have I gained great insight into the people who contributed to quantum theory, I have learned more about post-WWII physics than I ever did from my "Modern Physics" course. Oh, this monster read is 410 pages not 320.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Just finished "The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments" by Jim Baggott. This is a history of Quantum Mechanics and is highly readable by anyone with am interest and moderate scientific background. While most of the 40 topics weren't new to me it was enlightening to learn how they intertwined down through the years and who did what. Fine book. Just finished "The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments" by Jim Baggott. This is a history of Quantum Mechanics and is highly readable by anyone with am interest and moderate scientific background. While most of the 40 topics weren't new to me it was enlightening to learn how they intertwined down through the years and who did what. Fine book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chuck C.

    Compelling read. Chapter structure made it very focused and yet very easy to read. Each chapter describes one key area of quantum physics. Chapters build slowly on one another so that different interesting views of a problem are contrasted. Excellent structure and development to make it a fascinating story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I was able to easily follow this up to the years leading up to and shortly after WWII. After that I found it increasingly hard to follow, but that might be simply because my background in this subject and subatomic particles is not up to it, just yet.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Moro

    Having already read other books on physics and cosmology I’ve found this book quite complicated. I agree with whom consider this text for physics students of early years, because in some parts the text is not properly written for lay readers like me, too technical in explanations and jargon.  Anyway this text is complete, well and abundantly documented and presents the story of quantum mechanics very well. Unfortunately  for this book, its publication date is 2011, so just before the discovery o Having already read other books on physics and cosmology I’ve found this book quite complicated. I agree with whom consider this text for physics students of early years, because in some parts the text is not properly written for lay readers like me, too technical in explanations and jargon.  Anyway this text is complete, well and abundantly documented and presents the story of quantum mechanics very well. Unfortunately  for this book, its publication date is 2011, so just before the discovery of the Higgs boson at LHC in Geneva. What a pity for a book on quantum story!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Natan

    This book helped me understand how bad my physics professors were in my undergraduate degree. They never really tried to show any historical context, or connect between the difference subjects. Just equations and theory in the very narrowest sense.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bob Gustafson

    I made the effort, but I had to call it quits during moment 19. Jim Baggott has his PhD in physical chemistry. I don't know who his target audience is, but it seems like undergraduates majoring in chemistry, physics or mathematics. If you are not there, read something else. I made the effort, but I had to call it quits during moment 19. Jim Baggott has his PhD in physical chemistry. I don't know who his target audience is, but it seems like undergraduates majoring in chemistry, physics or mathematics. If you are not there, read something else.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    This is a very well-done book that a lot of readers who are unfamiliar with the development of quantum mechanics, and who prefer their science texts without equations, will really enjoy. For me personally, there was too much overlap with other texts I have read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    This book is for laypeople but be aware that it is much more advanced than many other similar volumes. To my mind, Baggott does the best job explaining certain quantum theory concepts without using advanced math. This was a great double read (audiobook and ebook backup).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Inevitably the further you get into the book the more incomprehensible it becomes, but still a fascinating read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This is an amazing book !! Give this a try if you want to learn how quantum was born without having to be involved with complicated mathematical equations and all ! Also, paul dirac 🖤

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gydo

    The Quantum Story by Jim Faggott is a great book on the evolution of quantum theory. It starts with the initial crisis at the end of the 19th century and follows up all the way to 2010. This includes relativisitic quantum theory, the interpretation of quantum theory, QED, QCD, the Standard Model, quantum loop theory and superstring theory. Its is easy to read through, though it requires knowledge of the topics in order to maximally savour the events described. I greatly enjoyed this book and give The Quantum Story by Jim Faggott is a great book on the evolution of quantum theory. It starts with the initial crisis at the end of the 19th century and follows up all the way to 2010. This includes relativisitic quantum theory, the interpretation of quantum theory, QED, QCD, the Standard Model, quantum loop theory and superstring theory. Its is easy to read through, though it requires knowledge of the topics in order to maximally savour the events described. I greatly enjoyed this book and give it the full 5 Goodread stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    A (very) robust and interesting history on discoveries in quantum mechanics and particle physics, and the physicists involved. Starting with Planck's work with black body radiation, and moving through general relativity, the wave function, field theory, chromodynamics, and ending in contemporary work in string theory and loop quantum gravity, the book really mixes a heaping helping of the science itself with the historical narrative - sometimes a little too much. I'm reasonably well versed in qu A (very) robust and interesting history on discoveries in quantum mechanics and particle physics, and the physicists involved. Starting with Planck's work with black body radiation, and moving through general relativity, the wave function, field theory, chromodynamics, and ending in contemporary work in string theory and loop quantum gravity, the book really mixes a heaping helping of the science itself with the historical narrative - sometimes a little too much. I'm reasonably well versed in quantum mechanics, and I still felt a little bogged down in the textual descriptions of some of the mathematical concepts. I don't think Baggott did a bad job at explaining them at all, but these concepts are inherently complex in nature, so it may have just been too ambitious to try to include them to the degree he did. That being said, the history was incredibly interesting and well researched/written, and I did come away with a good chunk of QM that I wasn't up on before - I'm happy to add this to my science collection, it really is a great book. I also appreciated the ample diagrams and wonderful photographs of Einstein, Bohr, Feynman, Heisenberg, etc. I would definitely suggest this book to any physics fan, but you may want to look elsewhere for a casual read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alina

    This book presents an overview of quantum mechanics by relating 40 crucial episodes in the development of the theory. I thought that sounded like a good approach for someone like me, who loves science and is fascinated by the implications of quantum mechanics but doesn't have the math chops to understand anything more than a top-level conceptual approach -- if that. It explores the theory through personalities and events. I'm not sure I gained much more insight than I had before, but the format This book presents an overview of quantum mechanics by relating 40 crucial episodes in the development of the theory. I thought that sounded like a good approach for someone like me, who loves science and is fascinated by the implications of quantum mechanics but doesn't have the math chops to understand anything more than a top-level conceptual approach -- if that. It explores the theory through personalities and events. I'm not sure I gained much more insight than I had before, but the format of the book helped me realize how different quantum mechanics is from other great scientific paradigms in terms of how it was developed. Unlike Newtonian mechanics or general relativity, it did not spring full-blown from the mind of a single genius like Athena from the head of Zeus. It was pieced together over decades by dozens of theorists and probably hundreds of experimentalists, with theory both anticipating and responding to discoveries in the lab. This book also gave me a greater appreciation of the fact that even the brilliant physicists who understand the equations can't agree on what they're saying about the nature of reality.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Geo Collins

    I've been massively interested in quantum physics for a number of years now, and last December I picked up this book. Due to the demanding nature of my A-level courses, and part laziness, I kept it kind of as a 'casual read' for whenever I was a bit bored. However very recently I decided to plough through the rest of it. It starts by introducing quantum theory, what it is, and the famous first interpretation suggested by Niels Bohr. To my surprise, it didn't mention the second most famous interpr I've been massively interested in quantum physics for a number of years now, and last December I picked up this book. Due to the demanding nature of my A-level courses, and part laziness, I kept it kind of as a 'casual read' for whenever I was a bit bored. However very recently I decided to plough through the rest of it. It starts by introducing quantum theory, what it is, and the famous first interpretation suggested by Niels Bohr. To my surprise, it didn't mention the second most famous interpretation until the end chapters. This was surprising to me, as I find that most books about quantum theory are very interpretation-heavy, but this was very much more to do with the scientific implications of it over 113 years. The writing style is really enjoyable in my opinion, but maybe not the best for someone who is looking for an introduction to the theory. There are definitely better books for introductions, this one I feel is better once you have a basis understanding of the theory. I really enjoyed it and I'd recommend it to anyone with a keen interest in quantum physics!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Interesting read about the history of quantum physics. Started out strong with all the classic players, Planck, Bohr, Einstein, Maxwell and the progressed through the early years of the 20th century describing how the classical physics model was breaking down under the experiments and observations currently being made and the theories that were developed to try and explain what was going on. The middle part of the book got bogged down in the minutiae of competing theories, endless different prop Interesting read about the history of quantum physics. Started out strong with all the classic players, Planck, Bohr, Einstein, Maxwell and the progressed through the early years of the 20th century describing how the classical physics model was breaking down under the experiments and observations currently being made and the theories that were developed to try and explain what was going on. The middle part of the book got bogged down in the minutiae of competing theories, endless different proposed particles and esoteric physics but things got better towards the end with discoveries made throughout the 70's-90's and beyond as well as the discussion on string theory and loop gravity. I definitely feel more informed about the subject than I did before, but it definitely a bit of work to get there (well, I suppose it is quantum physics after all, if it was easy everyone would be a physicist)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    As others have pointed out, this book just doesn't know what its audience is. Perhaps a physics enthusiast looking to deepen his historical knowledge? I don't know. I do know that as an interested party without a physics background, I was increasingly lost. I would much rather have read a book which skipped broadly over some parts, but then actually fully explained others, instead of giving every discovery this not-quite-enough treatment. Further, the theory was always front and center, with mos As others have pointed out, this book just doesn't know what its audience is. Perhaps a physics enthusiast looking to deepen his historical knowledge? I don't know. I do know that as an interested party without a physics background, I was increasingly lost. I would much rather have read a book which skipped broadly over some parts, but then actually fully explained others, instead of giving every discovery this not-quite-enough treatment. Further, the theory was always front and center, with most experiments skipped entirely, so that it was rarely clear how anyone got the ideas they did. And the experiments themselves, as they got more complex later on, became less and less defined. This is the kind of book you read with Wikipedia open, and hope for the best. I will say though, as a novice, I'm not sure how much better anyone could do with such a strange subject. And when I could understand even part of what was happening, the ideas were a lot of fun to interact with.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Satyajit Nadkarni

    Lucid to the point of interesting and historically revealing. Of course, it would help if the reader were interested in physics in general - the history of particle physics, quantum mechanics and such. As a lay person reading this book, there were times when I wished I was a physicist or at least knew the mathematics to truly follow what was going on, in depth. But even if I do not know the math, i still understood the basics of each concept and more importantly, the history behind those concept Lucid to the point of interesting and historically revealing. Of course, it would help if the reader were interested in physics in general - the history of particle physics, quantum mechanics and such. As a lay person reading this book, there were times when I wished I was a physicist or at least knew the mathematics to truly follow what was going on, in depth. But even if I do not know the math, i still understood the basics of each concept and more importantly, the history behind those concepts and how experiments, conjectures, theories and analysis went hand in hand, and grew in spurts, leaps and bounds to come up to where we stand today. Interesting, yes. Worth picking up and reading, definitely!

  29. 4 out of 5

    William Schram

    An excellent account of 40 of the most important developments in Quantum Physics. While not written for the layman, it is still possible to understand what Baggott is talking about. That's what Wikipedia is for in my opinion. It covers everything from the Black Body Radiation of Max Planck to the "Particle Zoo" of the 1960s and 70s to the ideas underlying Quantum Gravity and Hawking Radiation. Of course, there are some things that still need to be sorted out in terms of the Theory, but it is a ve An excellent account of 40 of the most important developments in Quantum Physics. While not written for the layman, it is still possible to understand what Baggott is talking about. That's what Wikipedia is for in my opinion. It covers everything from the Black Body Radiation of Max Planck to the "Particle Zoo" of the 1960s and 70s to the ideas underlying Quantum Gravity and Hawking Radiation. Of course, there are some things that still need to be sorted out in terms of the Theory, but it is a very successful model so far. No complicated equations came into this one, so I was pretty satisfied in that regard. Most of the difficulty regards Baggott talking of higher level mathematics, but most of it was definitions and things. All in all, I would certainly love to read this book again.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    I really enjoyed the way the author told the story. Picking 40 moments and using them to bring the reader along the path of discovery was a great way to provide the background and evolution of the quantum theory. I listened to the audiobook version so I did feel a little lost later in the book as the author was describing some of the math involved so I may go back and re-read some of the chapters with a hard copy of the book. However, I still followed the main concepts and don't feel that I lost I really enjoyed the way the author told the story. Picking 40 moments and using them to bring the reader along the path of discovery was a great way to provide the background and evolution of the quantum theory. I listened to the audiobook version so I did feel a little lost later in the book as the author was describing some of the math involved so I may go back and re-read some of the chapters with a hard copy of the book. However, I still followed the main concepts and don't feel that I lost much by not seeing the equations. I would highly reccomend this book to anyone who enjoys math or science related topics.

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