Skip to main content

Cracking Quantum Physics - Brian Clegg ****

This is a handsome little hardback (or a good value ebook) - significantly smaller than I thought it would be from the cover photo. In the grand scheme of things I am not a fan of picture books for grown-ups, which this kind of is. But, if you are going to do something like this, it is one of the better ones I've seen.

This is an introduction to quantum physics for beginners (I suppose that's what 'cracking it' is about). It's not something to go for if you've already absorbed the contents of a more substantial quantum title, such as the author's own The Quantum Age, but if the whole business currently leaves you mystified, this would be an excellent way to get started. It fills in a lot of the background, going right back to ancient Greek ideas on what matter is and taking you in around 300 pages to quantum gravity and M-theory.

The whole thing is divided into short sections, often just two pages, which tend to have a lot of illustration. Some of this works very well to explain a point, but in other parts it feels like it has been put in because the format needs a picture, but it doesn't add anything to the understanding. It is the kind of book that would work well as a read on your commute into work, easily broken up into manageable chunks.

So, don't expect to come out of reading it as an expert on quantum theory or particle physics (the book mixes the two). But if a teen or adult wants to get a handle on the basics and not be baffled when Schrodinger's cat or the Higgs boson is thrown into a conversation, then it's going to prove a very useful book. And that small format means it should fit nicely into a stocking too.


Hardback:  

Kindle:  

Review by Peter Spitz
Please note, this title is written by the editor of the Popular Science website. Our review is still an honest opinion – and we could hardly omit the book – but do want to make the connection clear.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lost in Math - Sabine Hossenfelder *****

One of my favourite illustrations from a science title was in Fred Hoyle's book on his quasi-steady state theory. It shows a large flock of geese all following each other, which he likened to the state of theoretical physics. In the very readable Lost in Math, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder exposes the way that in certain areas of physics, this is all too realistic a picture. (Hossenfelder gives Hoyle's cosmological theory short shrift, incidentally, though, to be fair, it wasn't given anywhere near as many opportunities to be patched up to match observations as the current version of big bang with inflation.)

Lost in Math is a very powerful analysis of what has gone wrong in the way that some aspects of physics are undertaken. Until the twentieth century, scientists made observations and experiments and theoreticians looked for theories which explained them, which could then be tested against further experiments and observations. Now, particularly in particle physics, it…

Gravity! - Pierre Binétruy ****

I had to really restrain myself from adopting the approach taken by The Register in referring to Yahoo! by putting an exclamation mark after every word in the text when faced with reviewing Gravity! One thing to be said about the punctuation, though, is it makes it easier to search for amongst a whole lot of books on gravity and gravitational waves (the subtitle is 'the quest for gravitational waves') since their discovery in 2015.

Despite the subtitle, Pierre Binétruy gives us far more - in fact, gravitational waves don't come into it until page 160, which makes it really more of a book about gravity with a bit on gravitational waves tacked on than a true exploration of the quest. 

However, those early pages aren't wasted - Binétruy gives us plenty of detail on all kinds of background, for example plunging in to tell us about element synthesis, something you wouldn't expect in a book on gravitational waves. I also really liked a little section on experiments you can…

Brain Based Enterprises - Peter Cook ****

A quick flag on this one: it's a management/business book, and the four star rating is with that in mind. Brain Based Enterprises does contain a surprising amount of science, considering this, which is why it's here, but don't expect it to be like a four star pure science book.

This is an eclectic attack on the status quo of our ideas about business. Peter Cook suggest that much of current business simply isn't oriented to the realities of a modern, technological world, and that we need to handle things very differently in a knowledge-based economy.

The book is divided into three sections. For me, the most interesting was the first 'brainy people' part, as my own business doesn't have teams and such - but for those who do there are also 'brainy teams' and 'brainy enterprises' sections. Cook stirs together a heady mix of science - from psychology to economics - music (a passion of his and a significant part of the way he works) and business the…