The quantum age


Brian Clegg
Icon books
2014 | 282pp | £14.99
ISBN 9781848316645
Reviewed by Jonathan Prance
http://rsc.li/CW_140801
 
Quantum mechanics is a notoriously convoluted subject and it can be all too easy to get lost in a forest of mathematical details and differing philosophical interpretations. 
 
In this entertaining and accessible book, Brian Clegg avoids these pitfalls by explaining the weirdness of quantum mechanics through the effects it has on the world around us and the technologies we use.
 
Examples range from DNA mutation and photosynthesis to levitating trains and lasers, and in each case the book explores the science of quantum effects and the history of how they were studied and put to use. The discussion is aimed at a general audience and there isn’t a single equation in the whole book; still, Clegg manages to tackle some of the most confusing aspects of the quantum world, such as entanglement and non-locality. At the same time, a wide-ranging and entertaining historical narrative sets the scene and provides some ‘moral support’: it can be comforting to know that early pioneers in the quantum world faced similar struggles to our own.
 
The book doesn’t try to shield the reader from the different and sometimes contradictory ways we imagine how things work at the quantum level. Instead, Clegg argues that we should learn to accept our discomfort and trust what quantum mechanics tells us about how the world works. It’s not surprising that we find it hard to paint a clear picture of this reality in our head, since it is completely different to our normal experience. But this, says Clegg, is a problem for educators to solve, rather than scientists, proposing that we should start teaching quantum mechanics in junior schools!
 
The quantum age is a great introduction to quantum physics, the people who have studied it and the effect that is has on our everyday lives. The book is aimed at non-specialists, but the inclusion of contemporary results and discussions means that even the more informed reader should find plenty to think about.
 
Purchase The quantum age from Amazon.co.uk

Related Content

Dice world

10 December 2013 Review

news image

Chance is a fine thing!

Tannins

30 April 2014 Podcast | Compounds

news image

They are the compounds that link leather trousers to a nice cup of tea - Brian Clegg introduces tannins

Most Read

Isotope effect produces new type of chemical bond

22 October 2014 Research

news image

Evidence emerges for vibrational bond first proposed 30 years ago

Not all science is created equal

16 October 2014 Comments

news image

John Ioannidis explains why researchers should be curious about the differences between disciplines

Most Commented

UCLA spent $4.5 million on legal costs in Sangji case

20 October 2014 News and Analysis

news image

University defends spending in case brought against chemistry professor, highlighting $20 million investment in lab safety

Not all science is created equal

16 October 2014 Comments

news image

John Ioannidis explains why researchers should be curious about the differences between disciplines