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

Rockets and Rayguns - Andrew May ****

The Cold War period saw dramatic developments in science and technology, coinciding with the flourishing of the science fiction genre. In Rockets and Rayguns, Andrew May draws on the parallels between reality and fiction, each influencing the other.

Inevitably a major Cold War theme was the threat of nuclear war, and May opens with the bomb. It's fascinating that fiction got there first - nuclear weapons were featured in science fiction when many physicists were still doubting the practicality of using nuclear energy. Of course, it's a lot easier to simply take a concept and dream up a weapon than it is to make it for real - for example, H. G. Wells' prophetic nuclear bombs from his 1914 The World Set Free were nothing like the real thing. And some science fiction devices concepts - notably ray guns and force fields - came to very little in reality. However this doesn't prevent the parallels being of interest.

May gives us a mix of the science - describing how nuclear we…

Galileo Galilei, the Tuscan Artist – Pietro Greco ****

Near the beginning of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, he refers to a ‘Tuscan artist’ viewing the Moon through an optic glass. He’s talking about Galileo – one of history’s greatest scientists, but not the most obvious person to slap an ‘artist’ label on. Yet Galileo lived at a time – the Renaissance – when it was fashionable to dabble impartially in both the arts and sciences. Look up ‘Renaissance man’ on Wikipedia and you’ll see Galileo’s picture right there underneath Leonardo da Vinci’s. It’s a less well-known side to his life, but it crops up again and again – interspersed among his many scientific achievements – in this excellent new biography by Pietro Greco.

If you’re looking for interesting trivia, you’ll find plenty in this book. Galileo’s father was a musician with scientific leanings, who carried out some of the first experiments on musical acoustics – which Galileo may have assisted with. As a young professor of mathematics, Galileo delivered a couple of lectures on …

Meet Your Bacteria - Nicola Temple and Catherine Whitlock ***

There have been a good number of books on our microbiome - the bacteria and other tiny organisms living in our body - from The Wild Life of Our Bodies throughI, Superorganism to I Contain Multitudes. Each of these is a traditional popular science book format, and all, to some degree, suffer from the same problem - in part, they have a tendency to present collections of facts, little more than bullet points of information strung together, rather than providing an effective narrative. As Meet Your Bacteria is in a significantly different format, there was a chance to imbue the subject with more dynamism and interest.'

When I first looked at the book, I assumed from its shape and cover that it would be in the style of highly illustrated, two-page spreads with large illustrations and the text little more than captions. In reality, Nicola Temple and Catherine Whitlock manage to subvert that format - it is, indeed, presented as a series of separate two-page spreads, but there is far more…