A thrilling survey of the most famous, enduring, and enigmatic experiment in the history of science.
First conceived in the early 1800s, the so-called “double-slit experiment” has provided essential clues to the nature of the quantum world. Briefly, the experiment shows that light behaves both as a particle and a wave. The mechanics of this seemingly impossible quantum behavior have confounded every scientist who dared attempt an interpretation—and yet the experiment remains among the most powerful available to physicists and has been reimagined in ways that push our notions of reality to the very edge of belief. In this remarkable telling, Ananthaswamy (The Man Who Wasn't There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self, 2015, etc.) traces the experiment as it evolved from a heady thought experiment—famously used by Einstein, Bohr, and Heisenberg as they grappled with an early understanding of quantum theory—to the pioneering experimentalists who have augmented it to demonstrate never-before-seen quantum properties. If the subject matter sounds intimidating, fear not. The author is a brilliant scientific storyteller, and he makes sense of even the most nonsensical concepts in clear, compelling prose. Combining archival research and first-person interviews, Ananthaswamy deftly navigates both the foundational principles of quantum mechanics and the many iterations of the two-slit experiment with such ease that readers of any scientific acumen can revel in the implications without being bogged down by the math. It is no exaggeration to say that the results yielded by the two-slit experiment are among the most fascinating to ever be recorded, and the author does an exceptional job of conveying their profound effect on our understanding of reality.
Once again, Ananthaswamy delivers a book that has all the intrigue of science fiction while remaining rooted in the scientific real, however bizarre. A fantastic book for anyone interested in the quantum and what it reveals about the world around us.