The Quantum Moment Summary and Reviews

The Quantum Moment

How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty

by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber

The Quantum Moment by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber X
The Quantum Moment by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber
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Book Summary

The discovery of the quantum—the idea, born in the early 1900s in a remote corner of physics, that energy comes in finite packets instead of infinitely divisible quantities—planted a rich set of metaphors in the popular imagination.

Quantum imagery and language now bombard us like an endless stream of photons. Phrases such as multiverses, quantum leaps, alternate universes, the uncertainty principle, and Schrödinger's cat get reinvented continually in cartoons and movies, coffee mugs and T-shirts, and fiction and philosophy, reinterpreted by each new generation of artists and writers.

Is a "quantum leap" big or small? How uncertain is the uncertainty principle? Is this barrage of quantum vocabulary pretentious and wacky, or a fundamental shift in the way we think?

All the above, say Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber in this pathbreaking book. The authors—one a philosopher, the other a physicist—draw on their training and six years of co-teaching to dramatize the quantum's rocky path from scientific theory to public understanding. Together, they and their students explored missteps and mistranslations, jokes and gibberish, of public discussion about the quantum. Their book explores the quantum's manifestations in everything from art and sculpture to the prose of John Updike and David Foster Wallace. The authors reveal the quantum's implications for knowledge, metaphor, intellectual exchange, and the contemporary world. Understanding and appreciating quantum language and imagery, and recognizing its misuse, is part of what it means to be an educated person today.

The result is a celebration of language at the interface of physics and culture, perfect for anyone drawn to the infinite variety of ideas.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Crease and Goldhaber have written an accessible and entertaining history that embraces both the science and the silliness of quantum mechanics. " - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Always entertaining and meticulously composed, this book will reorient your relationship with the quantum." - Kirkus Reviews

"A fascinating tour of the lives and afterlives of some of the most captivating concepts of quantum theory." - David Kaiser, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics

"A delight! A tour de force that is both illuminating and extraordinarily readable." - Gino Segrè, author of Ordinary Geniuses: How Two Mavericks Shaped Modern Science

"This is an amazing book for scientists and humanists alike! Every page yields surprises—not only about the complex history of quantum physics but about how it impacts our understanding of ourselves in daily life. Required reading for anyone concerned with casting the fate of humankind in a radically new light." - Edward S. Casey, author of The World at a Glance

"Reading The Quantum Moment is a very fun way to learn about where quantum physics comes from and the strange, even astonishing places it has gone with or without the physicists for whom it is the language of their craft." - Peter Galison, author of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps, professor of science and physics, Harvard University

"An entertaining read." - Nature

This information about The Quantum Moment was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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More Information

Robert P. Crease writes the "Critical Point" column in Physics World and is a professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University. His books include The Great Equations and World in the Balance.

Alfred Scharff Goldhaber is a professor of physics at Stony Brook University whose research ranges from elementary particles to cosmology. He also teaches an unorthodox course that introduces quantum mechanics by way of optics.

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