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What Is Real?

The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
Narrated by: Greg Tremblay
Length: 11 hrs and 45 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Science
4.5 out of 5 stars (86 ratings)

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Summary

The untold story of the heretical thinkers who challenged the establishment to rethink quantum physics and the nature of reality.

Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity's finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr's students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favoured practical experiments over philosophical arguments. As a result, questioning the status quo long meant professional ruin. And yet, from the 1920s to today, physicists like John Bell, David Bohm, and Hugh Everett persisted in seeking the true meaning of quantum mechanics. 

What Is Real? is the gripping story of this battle of ideas and the courageous scientists who dared to stand up for truth.

  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our Desktop Site.

  

©2018 Adam Becker (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc

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excellent history of quantum

It was a pleasure to endulge in the drama of last century's phisicians and to see how that affected their theories. excellent book for anyone who has interest in quantum, but is not necessary science minded. the physics concepts are easily explained here, but like the other reviews say, it's mostly focused on historic aspect.

2 people found this helpful

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More history than physics

The book is about physics history, so if you expect a book on Quantum Physics, you will most likely be disappointed.

4 people found this helpful

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A quantum masterpiece

Reading pop science on quantum physics is a favourite hobby of mine though my background is firmly in the humanities. I had not heard of Adam Becker until he was interviewed on Sean Carroll's excellent podcast and though he is a popular science writer, it was clear that Carroll held him in high regard and wouldn't do this lightly when quantum mechanics is being discussed. So I bought this book and fine it is genuinely excellent. It is very well written and the exposition of the scientific ideas involved is outstandingly clear. The author himself unlike some science writers stays in the background himself, but gives excellent biographical detail on the leading figures, Nils Bohr, David Bohm, Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein. Becker's account of Nils Bohr and his consequences is marvellously full and lucid but is also deliberately slightly under-stated, all of which adds up to a devastating portrait which contrasts with the triumphalist way in which the course of scientific discovery is usually presented. Becker seems to be both a scientist and a good historian-biographer and this makes for a wonderfully full and clear exposition of the rise and fall of the Copenhagen Interpretation in quantum mechanics, with related science history (e.g. the race to build the first atomic bomb) fitted neatly in. Understanding the wave function and the debates over whether it drops or not hasn't been easy for me, but this book has helped me push my grasp of these topics much further. It is an immense pleasure to read. Strongly recommended. You'lll probably want to read this book several times, and will enjoy it as you do.

1 person found this helpful

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Best Quantum Physics Audio book out of 20 i have

This book is both comprehensive and well written. The fact that it is chronological provides real insight into the melase of regurgitation that other books offer. if you want an introduction to Quantum Physics... this is the book for you. Apart from Bells inequality, its easy to digest and covers the philosophical weaknessess in the Copenhagen interpretation the best i have seen. The measurement problem and issues around locality are well focused and detailed. Other books may cover relativity, many worlds, string theory and spacial dimentions better. But this one book could have replaced 10 others i have bought. Top marks

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Pretty solid and readable book

Essentially, quantum mechanics can't be boring. The double slit experiment and delayed choise experiment keep on dazzling the mind. However, this dazzling is why you read a QM book. The title of this book gave me hope that in the last 20 years there might have been found a more suitable answer for the interpretation of QM. Unfortunately, this book does not provide an answer, it just sums up the different historical viewpoints/interpretations from many different theoretical physicists. Essentially, if you read some QM books before there is not much new in here, although the historical in depth story is quite appreciable. For my taste, it would be nice if there were more practical examples as a change. The last chapters tease a bit with modern day applications and explanations of phenomena, but it sticks with mentioning, while explaining would have been nice. In the end, a pretty solid and readable book.

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A lighthearted look at the quantum politics

Really Easy to listen to and enjoyable. I liked the almost biographical element to the book. Took a quite dry subject added some big characters, their backgrounds and breakthroughs and threw it all together. Very enjoyable and did explain the basics of quantum mechanics and the arguments that still rage to this day. Some of the quips made me laugh out loud and the ashes thing still makes me smile. One thing for the narrator... My family are from Ireland and your Belfast accent sounded like a mild Liverpool one to me. I understand a Belfast accent maybe hard for American listeners to understand bit other than that the delivery was excellent.

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Essential reading for anyone interested in physic.

Essential reading for anyone interested in physic. Well though out and interestring book on quantum theory

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Great book about a history of everything round QP

Quite a detailed history book about all around of quantum physics. Not much exactly about "what is real". Still, very good, learnt a few interesting facts and I have enjoyed it.

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A brilliant book

An illuminating and compelling exploration of the history of quantum theory and its interpretation. Gives a vivid portrayal of many different motivations and viewpoints as well as (as far as I can judge) a balanced overall picture.
My only reservations are that it is possibly a little harsh on Bohr and too dismissive of the concept of complementarity, which I believe does make some sense (and has interesting connections to symmetry and also to some of Quine's ideas on ontology, which are overlooked in this book).

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Brilliant!

In this book the author explains the ‘measurement problem’ that quantum mechanics has and some of alternative interpretations that have been devised to explain it rather than ignore it like the dominant Copenhagen Interpretation does. The book also covers the history of QM and gives the reader a more nuanced look at the Bohr vs Einstein debate.

Recommended.

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  • G B.
  • 14-09-19

philosophy and politics versus science

The book is an interesting account of the various people that played a role in the development of quantum physics, the famous like Schroedinger, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Bell and Feinman, but also the lesser known to the public like Everet, Wheeler, Bohm and Podolsky.
More precisely it tells about the divide in the scientific community on the interpretation of quantum physics and what it means; what we understand/believe to be how reality is structured. It is a story about the culture of science; how scientists got inspired to come up with new theories and how the political and philosophical climate supported some and not others in the academic world.

The author makes a case for the relevance of the interpretation, stating there is still a large portion of the community that disregards the meaning and holds a utilitarian view: "as long as the math works and it helps us to predict the outcomes of experiments, what does it matter?" In the book, he refutes this with a thought experiment about a remote control and hypothetical dead batteries.
Another is the lagging influence of the logical positivist philosophy that holds that only observable phenomena have any meaning and the unobservable, like the atom that was hypothesized before it was seen, have no meaning.

Having read news articles about the loophole-free Bell test which proves quantum entanglement, the measurement of gravity waves, the discovery of the Higgs boson and the development of quantum computers that use q-bits in a probabilistic way, I was interested to listen to the different emerging theories and find out how they were first conceived or proven.
Even though the subject matter is sometimes quite thick or confusing the narrator does a really good job of keeping my attention.
In the end, the point has been driven home that theories that inform our fundamental understanding of the world are needed and are what drives science forward in a certain direction, and this decides for a large part what experiments are done.

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  • stefano
  • 21-08-19

Lucid and courageous. Einstein avenger

Loved this book. It starts as a narrative from the very early days of quantum theory till today. It ends with a lucid analysis about science and philosophy. the (brave) author doesn’t spare Neils Bohr and his followers accusations of intellectual dishonesty. Einstein and others victims of the Copenaghen imposition are avenged.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-07-18

jarring and entertaining

well worth the time and energy (pun intended) to follow along the various thought experiments that the author takes you to.

great read