101 Quantum Questions
Kenneth William Ford Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress QC174.13.F67 2011 | Dewey Decimal 530.12
This reader-friendly, richly illustrated book provides an engaging overview of quantum physics, from “big ideas” like probability and uncertainty and conservation laws to the behavior of quarks and photons and neutrinos, and on to explanations of how a laser works and why black holes evaporate.
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”
Since Niels Bohr said this many years ago, quantum mechanics has only been getting more shocking. We now realize that it’s not really telling us that “weird” things happen out of sight, on the tiniest level, in the atomic world: rather, everything is quantum. But if quantum mechanics is correct, what seems obvious and right in our everyday world is built on foundations that don’t seem obvious or right at all—or even possible.
An exhilarating tour of the contemporary quantum landscape, Beyond Weird is a book about what quantum physics really means—and what it doesn’t. Science writer Philip Ball offers an up-to-date, accessible account of the quest to come to grips with the most fundamental theory of physical reality, and to explain how its counterintuitive principles underpin the world we experience. Over the past decade it has become clear that quantum physics is less a theory about particles and waves, uncertainty and fuzziness, than a theory about information and knowledge—about what can be known, and how we can know it. Discoveries and experiments over the past few decades have called into question the meanings and limits of space and time, cause and effect, and, ultimately, of knowledge itself. The quantum world Ball shows us isn’t a different world. It is our world, and if anything deserves to be called “weird,” it’s us.
"A masterly assessment of the way the idea of quanta of radiation became part of 20th-century physics. . . . The book not only deals with a topic of importance and interest to all scientists, but is also a polished literary work, described (accurately) by one of its original reviewers as a scientific detective story."—John Gribbin, New Scientist
"Every scientist should have this book."—Paul Davies, New Scientist
A systematic critique of the notion that natural science is the sovereign domain of truth, Critique of Scientific Reason uses an extensive and detailed investigation of physics—and in particular of Einstein's theory of relativity—to argue that the positivistic notion of rationality is not only wrongheaded but false. Kurt Hübner contends that positivism ignores both the historical dimension of science and the basic structures common to scientific theory, myth, and so-called subjective symbolic systems. Moreover, Hübner argues, positivism has led in our time to a widespread disillusionment with science and technology.
For Einstein, 1905 was a remarkable year. It was also a miraculous year for the history and future of science. In six short months, he published five papers that would transform our understanding of nature. This unparalleled period is the subject of Rigden's book, which deftly explains what distinguishes 1905 from all other years in the annals of science, and elevates Einstein above all other scientists of the twentieth century.
In the history of science, only three hundred years separate the discoveries of Galileo and Albert Einstein. Recent science has brought us relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and elementary particle physics-in a radical and mercurial departure from earlier developments. In this collection of essays, four philosophers and one physicist consider the interactions of mathematics and physics with logic and philosophy in the rapidly changing environment of modern science.
Ron Cowen offers a sweeping account of the century of experimentation that has consistently confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity. He shows how we got from Eddington’s pivotal observations of the 1919 eclipse to the Event Horizon Telescope, aimed at starlight wrapping around the black hole at our galaxy’s center.
The message of modern physics is that physical reality has, at its frontiers, all the aspects of a transcendent order. At the foundation of things, elementary particles can exert instantaneous long-distance influences on each other, can be meaningfully said to have mind-like properties, and can exist in states which are, as Heisenberg wrote, “not quite real, but between the idea of a thing and a real thing.” Thus, just as dead atoms form living organisms and stupid molecules form intelligent brains, metaphysical entities form physical reality. This remarkable book clearly explains the concepts of quantum physics in order to show how science and spirituality are not separate.
This book investigates the relationships between modern mathematics and science (in particular, quantum mechanics) and the mode of theorizing that Arkady Plotnitsky defines as "nonclassical" and identifies in the work of Bohr, Heisenberg, Lacan, and Derrida. Plotinsky argues that their scientific and philosophical works radically redefined the nature and scope of our knowledge. Building upon their ideas, the book finds a new, nonclassical character in the "dream of great interconnections" Bohr described, thereby engaging with recent debates about the "two cultures" (the humanities and the sciences).
Plotnitsky highlights those points at which the known gives way to the unknown (and unknowable). These points are significant, he argues, because they push the boundaries of thought and challenge the boundaries of disciplinarity. One of the book's most interesting observations is that key figures in science, in order to push toward a framing of the unknown, actually retreated into a conservative disciplinarity. Plotnitsky's informed, interdisciplinary approach is more productive than the disparaging attacks on postmodernism or scientism that have hitherto characterized this discourse.
Arkady Plotnitsky is Professor of English and Director, Theory and Cultural Studies Program, Purdue University. Trained in both mathematics and literary theory, he is author of several books, including In the Shadow of Hegel: Complementarity, History and the Unconscious and Reconfigurations: Critical Theory and General Economy.
Meeting the Universe Halfway is an ambitious book with far-reaching implications for numerous fields in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In this volume, Karen Barad, theoretical physicist and feminist theorist, elaborates her theory of agential realism. Offering an account of the world as a whole rather than as composed of separate natural and social realms, agential realism is at once a new epistemology, ontology, and ethics. The starting point for Barad’s analysis is the philosophical framework of quantum physicist Niels Bohr. Barad extends and partially revises Bohr’s philosophical views in light of current scholarship in physics, science studies, and the philosophy of science as well as feminist, poststructuralist, and other critical social theories. In the process, she significantly reworks understandings of space, time, matter, causality, agency, subjectivity, and objectivity.
In an agential realist account, the world is made of entanglements of “social” and “natural” agencies, where the distinction between the two emerges out of specific intra-actions. Intra-activity is an inexhaustible dynamism that configures and reconfigures relations of space-time-matter. In explaining intra-activity, Barad reveals questions about how nature and culture interact and change over time to be fundamentally misguided. And she reframes understanding of the nature of scientific and political practices and their “interrelationship.” Thus she pays particular attention to the responsible practice of science, and she emphasizes changes in the understanding of political practices, critically reworking Judith Butler’s influential theory of performativity. Finally, Barad uses agential realism to produce a new interpretation of quantum physics, demonstrating that agential realism is more than a means of reflecting on science; it can be used to actually do science.
Cline recounts the development of quantum theory, capturing the atmosphere of argument and discovery among physicists in the 1920s. She explores the backgrounds of the major figures—Rutherford, Bohr, Planck, Einstein—separately, but draws them together as they begin to consider each other's questions about the nature of matter.
Notes on Quantum Mechanics
Enrico Fermi University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress QC174.F44 1995 | Dewey Decimal 530.12
The lecture notes presented here in facsimile were prepared by Enrico Fermi for students taking his course at the University of Chicago in 1954. They are vivid examples of his unique ability to lecture simply and clearly on the most essential aspects of quantum mechanics.
At the close of each lecture, Fermi created a single problem for his students. These challenging exercises were not included in Fermi's notes but were preserved in the notes of his students. This second edition includes a set of these assigned problems as compiled by one of his former students, Robert A. Schluter.
Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938.
Hans Christian von Baeyer Harvard University Press, 2016 Library of Congress QC174.17.B39+ | Dewey Decimal 530.12
Short for Quantum Bayesianism, QBism adapts conventional features of quantum mechanics in light of a revised understanding of probability. Using commonsense language, without the equations or weirdness of conventional quantum theory, Hans Christian von Baeyer clarifies the meaning of quantum mechanics and suggests a new approach to general physics.
"Science is rooted in conversations," wrote Werner Heisenberg, one of the twentieth century's great physicists. In Quantum Dialogue, Mara Beller shows that science is rooted not just in conversation but in disagreement, doubt, and uncertainty. She argues that it is precisely this culture of dialogue and controversy within the scientific community that fuels creativity.
Beller draws her argument from her radical new reading of the history of the quantum revolution, especially the development of the Copenhagen interpretation. One of several competing approaches, this version succeeded largely due to the rhetorical skills of Niels Bohr and his colleagues. Using extensive archival research, Beller shows how Bohr and others marketed their views, misrepresenting and dismissing their opponents as "unreasonable" and championing their own not always coherent or well-supported position as "inevitable."
Quantum Dialogue, winner of the 1999 Morris D. Forkosch Prize of the Journal of the History of Ideas, will fascinate everyone interested in how stories of "scientific revolutions" are constructed and "scientific consensus" achieved.
"[A]n intellectually stimulating piece of work, energised by a distinct point of view."—Dipankar Home, Times Higher Education Supplement
"[R]emarkable and original. . . . [Beller's] arguments are thoroughly supported and her conclusions are meticulously argued. . . . This is an important book that all who are interested in the emergence of quantum mechanics will want to read."—William Evenson, History of Physics Newsletter
Jeremy Bernstein Harvard University Press, 2009 Library of Congress QC174.13.B47 2009 | Dewey Decimal 530.12
Quantum Leaps is a lively, erudite book on a subject that Bernstein has lived with for most of its history. His experience and deep understanding are apparent on every page. Including recollections of encounters with the theory and the people responsible for it, Jeremy Bernstein's account ranges from the cross-pollination of quantum mechanics with Marxist ideology and Christian and Buddhist mysticism to its influence on theater, film, and fiction.
The ideas at the root of quantum theory remain stubbornly, famously bizarre: a solid world reduced to puffs of probability; particles that tunnel through walls; cats suspended in zombielike states, neither alive nor dead; and twinned particles that share entangled fates. For more than a century, physicists have grappled with these conceptual uncertainties while enmeshed in the larger uncertainties of the social and political worlds around them, a time pocked by the rise of fascism, cataclysmic world wars, and a new nuclear age.
In Quantum Legacies, David Kaiser introduces readers to iconic episodes in physicists’ still-unfolding quest to understand space, time, and matter at their most fundamental. In a series of vibrant essays, Kaiser takes us inside moments of discovery and debate among the great minds of the era—Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Stephen Hawking, and many more who have indelibly shaped our understanding of nature—as they have tried to make sense of a messy world.
Ranging across space and time, the episodes span the heady 1920s, the dark days of the 1930s, the turbulence of the Cold War, and the peculiar political realities that followed. In those eras as in our own, researchers’ ambition has often been to transcend the vagaries of here and now, to contribute lasting insights into how the world works that might reach beyond a given researcher’s limited view. In Quantum Legacies, Kaiser unveils the difficult and unsteady work required to forge some shared understanding between individuals and across generations, and in doing so, he illuminates the deep ties between scientific exploration and the human condition.
This lively account of the foundations of quantum mechanics is at once elementary and deeply challenging. It is an introduction accessible to anyone with high school mathematics and, at the same time, a rigorous discussion of the most important recent advances in our understanding of quantum physics, a number of them made by the author himself.
Why does one theory "succeed" while another, possibly clearer interpretation, fails? By exploring two observationally equivalent yet conceptually incompatible views of quantum mechanics, James T. Cushing shows how historical contingency can be crucial to determining a theory's construction and its position among competing views.
Since the late 1920s, the theory formulated by Niels Bohr and his colleagues at Copenhagen has been the dominant interpretation of quantum mechanics. Yet an alternative interpretation, rooted in the work of Louis de Broglie in the early 1920s and reformulated and extended by David Bohm in the 1950s, equally well explains the observational data. Through a detailed historical and sociological study of the physicists who developed different theories of quantum mechanics, the debates within and between opposing camps, and the receptions given to each theory, Cushing shows that despite the preeminence of the Copenhagen view, the Bohm interpretation cannot be ignored. Cushing contends that the Copenhagen interpretation became widely accepted not because it is a better explanation of subatomic phenomena than is Bohm's, but because it happened to appear first.
Focusing on the philosophical, social, and cultural forces that shaped one of the most important developments in modern physics, this provocative book examines the role that timing can play in the establishment of theory and explanation.
The Quantum World
Kenneth William FORD Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress QC174.12.F67 2004 | Dewey Decimal 530.12
As Kenneth W. Ford shows us in The Quantum World, the laws governing the very small and the very swift defy common sense and stretch our minds to the limit. Drawing on a deep familiarity with the discoveries of the twentieth century, Ford gives an appealing account of quantum physics that will help the serious reader make sense of a science that, for all its successes, remains mysterious. In order to make the book even more suitable for classroom use, the author, assisted by Diane Goldstein, has included a new section of Quantum Questions at the back of the book. A separate answer manual to these 300+ questions is available; visit The Quantum World website for ordering information.
The incredible success of quantum theory as a mathematical model makes it especially frustrating that we cannot agree on a plausible philosophical or metaphysical description of it. Some philosophers of science have noticed certain parallels between quantum theory and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and these parallels are deepened and strengthened if the “observer” of modern physics is associated with the “intellect” of scholastic ontology. In this case we are talking about a human observer. But this type of observer has a unique quality that is not considered at all by either physics or scholastic philosophy—the human observer is mimetic and therefore “interdividual.” By taking this fundamental anthropological fact into account, it turns out that the critical gaps still separating Aquinas from modern physicists can be effectively closed, reconciling the realism of Aquinas with the empirical evidence of quantum mechanics. This book explores this new bridge between the physical and the human—a bridge essentially designed by scholastic theory, clarified by mimetic theory, and built by quantum theory—and the path it opens to that metaphysical understanding for which philosophers of modern science have been striving. It is an understanding, not merely of the physical but of physics in the fuller sense of what is real and what is true. Here the reader will find a physics that describes the natural world and our place as mimetic observers within it.
The Shaky Game
Arthur Fine University of Chicago Press, 1996 Library of Congress QC6.F54 1996 | Dewey Decimal 530.1201
In this new edition, Arthur Fine looks at Einstein's philosophy of science and develops his own views on realism. A new Afterword discusses the reaction to Fine's own theory.
"What really led Einstein . . . to renounce the new quantum order? For those interested in this question, this book is compulsory reading."—Harvey R. Brown, American Journal of Physics
"Fine has successfully combined a historical account of Einstein's philosophical views on quantum mechanics and a discussion of some of the philosophical problems associated with the interpretation of quantum theory with a discussion of some of the contemporary questions concerning realism and antirealism. . . . Clear, thoughtful, [and] well-written."—Allan Franklin, Annals of Science
"Attempts, from Einstein's published works and unpublished correspondence, to piece together a coherent picture of 'Einstein realism.' Especially illuminating are the letters between Einstein and fellow realist Schrödinger, as the latter was composing his famous 'Schrödinger-Cat' paper."—Nick Herbert, New Scientist
"Beautifully clear. . . . Fine's analysis is penetrating, his own results original and important. . . . The book is a splendid combination of new ways to think about quantum mechanics, about realism, and about Einstein's views of both."—Nancy Cartwright, Isis
Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge addresses the complex issues of dialogue and collaboration between Buddhism and science, revealing connections and differences between the two. While assuming no technical background in Buddhism or physics, this book strongly responds to the Dalai Lama’s “heartfelt plea” for genuine collaboration between science and Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has written a foreword to the book and the Office of His Holiness will translate it into both Chinese and Tibetan.
In a clear and engaging way, this book shows how the principle of emptiness, the philosophic heart of Tibetan Buddhism, connects intimately to quantum nonlocality and other foundational features of quantum mechanics. Detailed connections between emptiness, modern relativity, and the nature of time are also explored. For Tibetan Buddhists, the profound interconnectedness implied by emptiness demands the practice of universal compassion. Because of the powerful connections between emptiness and modern physics, the book argues that the interconnected worldview of modern physics also encourages universal compassion. Along with these harmonies, the book explores a significant conflict between quantum mechanics and Tibetan Buddhism concerning the role of causality.
The book concludes with a response to the question: "How does this expedition through the heart of modern physics and Tibetan Buddhism—from quantum mechanics, relativity, and cosmology, to emptiness, compassion, and disintegratedness—apply to today's painfully polarized world?" Despite differences and questions raised, the book's central message is that there is a solid basis for uniting these worldviews. From this basis, the message of universal compassion can accompany the spread of the scientific worldview, stimulating compassionate action in the light of deep understanding—a true union of love and knowledge.
Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics will appeal to a broad audience that includes general readers and undergraduate and graduate students in science and religion courses.