For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its heart.
For 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existence of reality itself. Yet Kumar shows how the golden age of physics ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century.
Quantum sets the science in the context of the great upheavals of the modern age. In 1925 the quantum pioneers nearly all hailed from upper-middle-class academic families; most were German; and their average age was 24. But it was their irrational, romantic spirit, formed in reaction to the mechanised slaughter of the First World War that inspired their will to test science to its limits.
The essential read for anyone fascinated by this complex and thrilling story and by the band of young men at its heart.
With vigor and elegance, Kumar describes the clash of titans that took place in the world of physics in the early 20th century, between physicists who did and those who did not believe in the quantum—the strange concept that we now know to be the underpinning of reality. The titans in Kumar's account of the conflict are Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. In 1900, Max Planck discovered that electromagnetic radiation and the energy of light are transmitted not in a continuous flow but in small packets called quanta (singular, quantum). Bohr applied the idea of quantum to electrons, leading to the development of quantum mechanics. Bohr's theory explained experimental results that were inexplicable in classical theory. Einstein rejected Bohr's theory overturning reality in dangerous but also thrilling ways. The clash culminated at the 1927 Solway conference. Kumar, founding editor of Prometheus and a consulting science editor for Wired UK, recounts this meaty, dense, exciting story, filled with vivid characters and sharp insights. With physics undergoing another revolution today, Kumar reminds us of a time when science turned the universe upside down. 16 pages of photos.
Manjit Kumar has degrees in physics and philosophy. He was the founding editor of Prometheus, an interdisciplinary journal that covered the arts and sciences, and is the co-author of Science and the Retreat from Reason, which introduced key areas of modern science while defending notions of social progress and scientific advance.
Published in 1995, it was critically acclaimed as a ‘corrective to the hype’, ‘thought-provoking’, and ‘undoubtedly one of the best introductions one can find to the crisis of confidence within science itself’.
He has written and reviewed for various publications including the Guardian, Indioendent, Times, Sunday Telegraph, New Scientist and Tehelka. He was Consulting Science Editor at Wired.
Majit's latest book is Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality which was Shortlisted for the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize.
Личен сайт: http://manjitkumar.com