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Breakfast with Einstein - Chad Orzel ***

In his book How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, Chad Orzel hit on a brilliant hook to deal with what can be a very difficult task - how to get across an abstruse topic and make it approachable for a general audience. The idea of having a conversation with a dog made a great entry point and won the book many fans. Now Orzel is back, once more giving an often surprisingly in-depth overview of quantum physics, but this time the approach he has taken is to tie the science into the everyday experience of a morning, from waking to the sun and an alarm clock, through breakfast to checking social media.

Linking complex science to everyday experiences and objects, giving it context and making it less detached from reality, is not exactly a new idea, but it is an effective one to help make the weird approachable. The trouble is here that the idea of linking it to the morning's ritual is very thinly used. After the introduction, each chapter gives us a couple of lines of context, but the rest is just a straightforward exposition of quantum physics. There's not a lot of narrative to this - although Orzel does bring in the scientists involved in the development of the theory it's at a very summary level. The result is an old-fashioned feeling 'science for beginners' book that lacks any sense of storytelling.

I can't fault Orzel's description of the physics, which goes into more depth than you might necessarily expect to find in such an overview, nor is there anything wrong with his history of science. It's just that the whole thing doesn't provide any real added value to a simplified textbook. In places, it verges on the dull.

There are plenty of quantum physics introductory books out there, many of which do have a USP, in the sense of having an interesting way to engage the reader - this was very much the case with the dog book. Sadly, though, Breakfast with Einstein is not one of them.

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Review by Brian Clegg

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