Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Schrödinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality, by John Gribbin

Quantum mechanics is not my usual cup of tea, so it was with some trepidation that I began this book (a present).

After an initial summary of the general picture of quantum mechanics, and the best-known experiments/theories around it (including a cat which may or may not be alive, and may be both simultaneously) there’s a historical section.

I really rather enjoyed that. Concisely tracing scientific advancement from Newton to Einstein, and including numerous others who are perhaps less familiar, is a nice combination of history and science lesson, and allows the background to quantum mechanics to be gradually built up.

After this the book moves on to presenting competing scientific interpretations. It’s interesting to read how much room there is for disagreement, debate and new ideas in quantum mechanics, instead of one approach being depicted as The Truth.

In terms of writing style, it’s easy to read. Scientific terms are explained assuming little or no prior knowledge. It is worth noting the book is a little old now (coming out in 2003) so there will be new developments, one would hope, since its release. Whether those are included in a book of popular science may be another matter.

I’ve got to say that whilst I understood, superficially, most of what was described by Gribbin, who does a good job of explaining things in terms a layman might comprehend, here and there the science was beyond me.

Overall, I rather liked it. Diagrams are provided to help illustrate experiments or scientific principles (perhaps most useful when discussing whether the Universe is open or close).


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