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The quantum story : a history in 40 moments / Jim Baggott.

By: Baggott, J. E.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Oxford landmark science: Publisher: Oxford, England : Oxford University Press, 2016Copyright date: ©2011Edition: Second edition.Description: xix, 469 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm.Content type: text | still image Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780198784777; 0198784775.Subject(s): Quantum theory -- HistoryDDC classification: 530.1209 Summary: Utterly beautiful. Profoundly disconcerting. Quantum theory is quite simply the most successful account of the physical universe ever devised. The pursuit of its implications has been the driving motivation of physicists for 100 years. Jim Baggott traces the story, the personalities and the rivalries, through 40 turning-point moments.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

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 absoluteknowledge 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 underpinmuch 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 Feynmanwent 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 thepromise 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.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Utterly beautiful. Profoundly disconcerting. Quantum theory is quite simply the most successful account of the physical universe ever devised. The pursuit of its implications has been the driving motivation of physicists for 100 years. Jim Baggott traces the story, the personalities and the rivalries, through 40 turning-point moments.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface (p. xiii)
  • Prologue: Stormclouds: London, April 1900 (p. 1)
  • Part I Quantum of Action
  • 1 The Most Strenuous Work of My Life: Berlin, December 1900 (p. 7)
  • 2 Annus Mirabilis: Bern, March 1905 (p. 17)
  • 3 A Little Bit of Reality: Manchester, April 1913 (p. 25)
  • 4 La Comédie Française: Paris, September 1923 (p. 34)
  • 5 A Strangely Beautiful Interior: Helgoland, June 1925 (p. 43)
  • 6 The Self-rotating Electron: Leiden, November 1925 (p. 51)
  • 7 A Late Erotic Outburst: Swiss Alps, Christmas 1925 (p. 60)
  • Part II Quantum Interpretation
  • 8 Ghost Field: Oxford, August 1926 (p. 71)
  • 9 All This Damned Quantum Jumping: Copenhagen, October 1926 (p. 79)
  • 10 The Uncertainty Principle: Copenhagen, February 1927 (p. 87)
  • 11 The 'Kopenhagener Geist': Copenhagen, June 1927 (p. 95)
  • 12 There is no Quantum World: Lake Como, September 1927 (p. 103)
  • Part III Quantum Debate
  • 13 The Debate Commences: Brussels, October 1927 (p. 115)
  • 14 An Absolute Wonder: Cambridge, Christmas 1927 (p. 126)
  • 15 The Photon Box: Brussels, October 1930 (p. 133)
  • 16 A Bolt from the Blue: Princeton, May 1935 (p. 141)
  • 17 The Paradox of Scbrödinger's Cat: Oxford, August 1935 (p. 149)
  • Interlude: The First War of Physics: Christmas 1938-August 1945 (p. 159)
  • Part IV Quantum Fields
  • 18 Shelter Island: Long Island, June 1947 (p. 171)
  • 19 Pictorial Semi-vision Thing: New York, January 1949 (p. 181)
  • 20 A Beautiful Idea: Princeton, February 1954 (p. 193)
  • 21 Some Strangeness in the Proportion: Rochester, August 1960 (p. 204)
  • 22 Three Quarks for Muster Mark!: New York, March 1963 (p. 214)
  • 23 The 'God Particle': Cambridge, Massachusetts, Autumn 1967 (p. 225)
  • Part V Quantum Particles
  • 24 Deep Inelastic Scattering: Stanford, August 1968 (p. 237)
  • 25 Of Charm and Weak Neutral Currents: Harvard, February 1970 (p. 247)
  • 26 The Magic of Colour: Princeton/Harvard, April 1973 (p. 256)
  • 27 The November Revolution: Long Island/Stanford, November 1974 (p. 265)
  • 28 Intermediate Vector Bosons: Geneva, January/June 1983 (p. 275)
  • 29 The Standard Model: Geneva, September 2003 (p. 285)
  • Part VI Quantum Reality
  • 30 Hidden Variables: Princeton, Spring 1951 (p. 297)
  • 31 Bertlmann's Socks: Boston, September 1964 (p. 306)
  • 32 The Aspect Experiments: Paris, September 1982 (p. 318)
  • 33 The Quantum Eraser: Baltimore, January 1999 (p. 328)
  • 34 Lab Cats: Stony Brook/Delft, July 2000 (p. 339)
  • 35 The Persistent Illusion: Vienna, December 2006 (p. 349)
  • Part VII Quantum Cosmology
  • 36 The Wavefunction of the Universe: Princeton, July 1966 (p. 361)
  • 37 Hawking Radiation: Oxford, February 1974 (p. 372)
  • 38 The First Superstring Revolution: Aspen, August 1984 (p. 381)
  • 39 Quanta of Space and Time: Santa Barbara, February 1986 (p. 391)
  • 40 Crisis? What Crisis?: Durham, Summer 1994 (p. 399)
  • Epilogue: A Quantum of Solace?: Geneva, July 2012 (p. 407)
  • Notes and Sources (p. 411)
  • Bibliography (p. 441)
  • Plate Acknowledgements (p. 448)
  • Index (p. 451)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

"The reality of scientific endeavour is profoundly messy, often illogical, deeply emotional, and driven by the individual personalities involved...," writes Baggott, and his wonderful history of the scientists and ideas behind quantum mechanics offers ample entertaining proof. Science writer Baggott (A Beginner's Guide to Reality) tells the tumultuous story through 40 key events, beginning at the start of the 20th century, when Lord Kelvin, a British physicist, announced that scientists now knew everything about how the world worked. That triumphalism soon disappeared with Einstein's groundbreaking papers on relativity, which upended that understanding and defined the battleground that would occupy physics for the next century. Baggott hits all the usual high points, from Niels Bohr's work on atomic structure to the "uneasy alliances" and outright battles between proponents of different theories. Baggott's narrative stands out for its parallel exploration of the tenacious, all-too-human side of things: Schrodinger's unorthodox sex life and his loathing of academia; Richard Feynman's intuitive problem solving with all its "enthusiastic handwaving." The basic history behind the quantum revolution is well-known, but no one has ever told it in quite such a compellingly human and thematically seamless way. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Science writer Baggott (The First War of Physics, CH, Apr'11; 48-4541; The Meaning of Quantum Theory, CH, Jan'93, 30-2734, etc.) traces the evolution of quantum mechanics from its inception to the latest developments in the field. In a very readable style, he outlines early quantum theory and its interpretation, the standard model of particle physics, and more recent developments in quantum cosmology. This material is not new--it is covered in one part or another in many other books. For example, see Manjit Kumar's Quantum (CH, Dec'10, 48-2141) for an excellent review of the interpretation of quantum theory. However, Baggott is successful in collecting the material and compiling it into a coherent whole. The author is particularly good at conveying the development of quantum theory as a process of discovery, and he provides some nice touches that bring out the human side of the people who have driven the quantum revolution. The reader will come away with an appreciation for the incredible subtlety of quantum theory and the knowledge that the quantum story has not yet run its course. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. P. Oxley The College of the Holy Cross

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Theoretical physics . . . , declared Robert Oppenheimer in 1934, is in a hell of a way. In this engrossing chronicle of the making of quantum physics, readers join scientific pioneers as they lurch from one infernal crisis to another. Laid out in 40 episodes clustered around seven themes, Baggott's compelling history begins with a reluctant Max Planck framing a radiation law ominously incompatible with traditional science. As that incompatibility shatters previously fundamental principles, titans such as Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, and Dirac struggle to frame a new paradigm. These audacious thinkers may occasionally baffle readers, but they will be in good company: Einstein rages against quantum probabilities that reduce God to a dice-throwing gambler, while Schrodinger puzzles over observer-dependent realities allowing an experimental cat to live and die simultaneously. As readers watch icons wrestle with devilish difficulties, the stereotype of the coldly cerebral scientist implodes: Bohr squares off with a hectoring Heisenberg, Dirac comforts a grieving Feynman, and Gell-Mann playfully invokes a Joycean jingle to resolve an enigma. Personalities again impinge on principles in the late chapters describing the twenty-first century's own hellish perplexity, as daring visionaries behind string theory clash with tough-minded skeptics demanding empirical verification. Hades has never been more enthralling!--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2010 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A shimmering tour d'horizon of quantum theory from popular-science writer Baggott (Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 193949,2009, etc.).Quantum theorychallenging, disconcerting and heavy on mathis not going to be pinned down and dissected for lay readers without a lot of kicking and screaming. Baggott succeeds, however, imbuing the narrative with important context, his own communicable enthusiasm and the instances of dense theoretical exposition mediated by historical and biographical storytelling. His survey runs roughly chronologically, starting with Max Planck's contention that energy is composed of a definite number of equal finite packages, through Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Dirac, Feynman, Hawking et al. the author then looks at the Standard Model and the more amorphous superstring theory. Confirmed prediction is paramount in quantum theory because it works on educated guesses and implication, with only indirect evidence for the matter at hand. Here again Baggott shines, filling in the background, sometimes purely personal and sometimes entirely academic. Those with a jones for physics will not be disappointed, but the author leads readers through the dense materialif not like a seeing-eye dog, then with encouragement to look beyond his pages.Quantum theory may deny us the possibility of properly comprehending physical reality, but Baggott's account is smart and consoling.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.