A history of some of the most “forceful, imaginative, and insightful” minds in quantum theory and how the world became entranced by their scientific language.
The lyrical vocabulary of quantum mechanics is all around us—the word “quantum” alone is used to describe seemingly every entity on Earth—despite the fact that very few individuals, if anyone, truly understand how quantum mechanics works. Ideas like entanglement and superposition have specific mathematical correlations and imply bizarre and beautiful things about the universe and how it behaves. Popular culture, on the other hand, takes a lot of creative liberty, and the results illuminate human nature on a different, but perhaps no less beautiful, scale. Crease (World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement, 2011, etc.) and Goldhaber, professors of philosophy and physics at Stony Brook University, recount a series of historical moments that occurred during the development of quantum mechanics in order to demonstrate how quickly and profoundly scientific language worked its way into the artistic objects we love. Countless writers, artists and philosophers have taken ideas from the quantum realm and applied them as metaphors for the human condition. Through the authors’ careful and vivid storytelling, science and culture inspire and reflect one another, from Einstein’s theories of relativity to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to modern conceptions of causality. The authors keep their discussions of these dense topics clear and fun to read without sacrificing detail by including technical “interludes” between chapters. Crease and Goldhaber provide an excellent reminder that quantum mechanics affects so much of what we do and say and that concepts imagined 100 years ago will influence the physical and intellectual spaces we inhabit in the future.
Always entertaining and meticulously composed, this book will reorient your relationship with the quantum.