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The Quantum World (Princeton Science Library) - John C. Polkinghorne

The Quantum World (Princeton Science Library)

Author: John C. Polkinghorne
Book title: The Quantum World (Princeton Science Library)
ISBN: 0691023883
ISBN13: 978-0691023885
Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1986)
Language: English
Category: Physics
Rating: 4.2/5
Votes: 532
Pages: 112 pages
More formats: doc docx lrf txt

In paperback for the first time, this compact volume presents quantum mechanics for the general reader. It offers a lucid description of the intellectual challenges and disagreements in the study of the behavior of atomic and sub-atomic particles--a field that has completely changed our view of the physical world, but that is still the subject of unresolved debate about its own fundamental interpretation. The work is accessible to those with no background in higher mathematics, but will also interest readers who have a more specialized knowledge of scientific topics.

The author has spent most of his working life as a theoretical elementary particle physicist and from 1968 to 1979 was Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge. In 1979 he resigned to train for the ministry of the Church of England, and he is now an ordained priest. Here he describes a theory that has been spectacularly successful in predicting the behavior of objects the size of atoms and smaller but that has aroused conflicting views about the nature of reality and the degree of independence between the world around us and ourselves as observers.

Reviews: (7)
Polkinghorne's book constitutes an elementary and very good introduction to the basic ideas of (non relativistic) quantum mechanics, with emphasis on foundational problems. The exposition is clear and well balanced, whose main focus is the present-day status of the central philosophical problems of quantum mechanics ( complementarity, Bell's inequalities, measurement, etc.). The layman, the profissional physicist, physics' teachers and philosophers, in particular the philosophers of science, would take profit of the reading of this small volume.
An exposition of PAM Dirac's "Quantum Mechanics" for the general reader,
by a student of Dirac. Worth reading for those not keen on the math.
Outstanding! Thank you
"It is not possible in a modest book like this to clarify everything," says Polkinghorne. Although this may be an obvious truism, his modest book is a little dynamo. In this wonderfully concise exposé, Polkinghorne reveals the fundamental tenets of quantum physics. Roger Penrose called this "a delightful book written at a popular level but without any misleading over-simplification." Excellent popularizations from Hawking, Penrose, Davies, and others, followed in the wake of this 1984 volume. These subsequent books generally aspire to a broader focus (i.e., they include discussions of classical physics, cosmology, and metaphysics, topics which Polkinghorne barely touches upon) and to a broader readership. TQW features smaller type (8.5 or 9 pt), less leading/spacing, and few illustrations, making it seem relatively small, however it will take about as long to read as Hawking's Brief History of Time.
Polkinghorne learned quantum theory "straight from the horses mouth, so to speak", which is to say from Paul Dirac, and if you only read a few books on quantum mechanics, this should be one of them. (I will go so far as to say if you only read one it should be this one, but if the reader has no previous foundation in the topic, this volume may be rather tough to digest.) The explanation of the superposition principle is presented with economy and as much clarity as can be brought to such an esotericism. Even if you've no previous knowledge of quantum superpositioning, Polkinghorne will equip you to startle your classically minded friends with Schrödinger's fabled dead/alive cat paradox.
The discussion of the problems with each of the interpretations that have been suggested for quantum theory is very good, as direct and studied as any you will likely find...
Like most mathematical physicists, John Polkinghorne is rapt with the deep mystery at the interface of quantum mechanics and the classical world of Newton and Einstein. Like Feynman, he is more fascinated by what we don't know about the world than impressed with what we, in some sense, do "know." He brings great clarity and honesty to the nature of what we do 'know'...
Conclusions: The more mathematically gifted will want to utilize the appendix but little will be lost to the reader who does not. Here is a soberly studied offering that questions, entertains, and educates in the best tradition of Gamow, Feynman, and Penrose. This outstanding book should be in the library of every science reader, and has this reader's highest recommendation.
"The Quantum World" is a tour-de-force in miniature. Beginning with "Perplexities", and following a brilliant, step by step development, it carries the reader along on a current of thought that inevitably leads to a clear understanding of the fundamentals of Quantum Mechanics and their significance to modern thought in physics. Seldom have I seen mathematical concepts dealt with in a language-only format which renders those concepts so tangible. Dr. Polkinghorne recognizes that his readers are most likely NOT mathematically sophisticated; yet, he does not render Quantum Mechanics in allegorical terms which may tend to be misleading, but carefully describes the nature of mathematical thought, and shows how it is used in formulating and using the theory itself. He also provides rare and extremely valuable insight into the provisional nature of a scientific theory. This book is a priceless gem amidst the voluminous popular literature on physics. I highly recommend it.
It is very compact littel book for introduction to the conecpt of Quantum Physics. The formulations are kept at absolute minimum almost non existent except very fundementals formulas are listed. Book is not for someone who wants to have working knowledge in the field but rather brief compact conceptual introduction to the field. It explains how it all started and was developed. If you are interested in the field and if you already know some what you can read it in one day but the book is very compact. I am puzzeled with the author's statemant, if I took it correctly he states that Planck assumed quanta of energy before his discovery, I thought he used unit of energy to replace integration with summation, like Mathematical trick to eliminate the catashrophy and than realized what it meant for the Physics.Anyway, but be prepared time to time to jump into heavy Mathematics or Physics even though they are not written in conventional formulas but all in words. Author after all his experience certainly knows where people have difficulties and explains those concepts very nicely.
He better than any author I know explains Quanutm physics in a direct, understandable way.
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