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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.


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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.

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