The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments

The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments


By (author) Jim Baggott

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 496 pages
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 231mm x 38mm | 771g
  • Publication date: 15 April 2011
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199566844
  • ISBN 13: 9780199566846
  • Illustrations note: Two 8pp black and white plate sectionn, approx 35 b/w line drawings
  • Sales rank: 31,278

Product description

The twentieth century was defined by physics. From the minds of the world's leading physicists there flowed a river of ideas that would transport mankind to the pinnacle of wonderment and to the very depths of human despair. This was a century that began with the certainties of absolute knowledge and ended with the knowledge of absolute uncertainty. It was a century in which physicists developed weapons with the capacity to destroy our reality, whilst at the same time denying us the possibility that we can ever properly comprehend it. Almost everything we think we know about the nature of our world comes from one theory of physics. This theory was discovered and refined in the first thirty years of the twentieth century and went on to become quite simply the most successful theory of physics ever devised. Its concepts underpin much of the twenty-first century technology that we have learned to take for granted. But its success has come at a price, for it has at the same time completely undermined our ability to make sense of the world at the level of its most fundamental constituents. Rejecting the fundamental elements of uncertainty and chance implied by quantum theory, Albert Einstein once famously declared that 'God does not play dice'. Niels Bohr claimed that anybody who is not shocked by the theory has not understood it. The charismatic American physicist Richard Feynman went further: he claimed that nobody understands it. This is quantum theory, and this book tells its story. Jim Baggott presents a celebration of this wonderful yet wholly disconcerting theory, with a history told in forty episodes - significant moments of truth or turning points in the theory's development. From its birth in the porcelain furnaces used to study black body radiation in 1900, to the promise of stimulating new quantum phenomena to be revealed by CERN's Large Hadron Collider over a hundred years later, this is the extraordinary story of the quantum world.

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Author information

Jim Baggott graduated in chemistry in 1978 and completed his doctorate at Oxford three years later. He was a lecturer in chemistry at the University of Reading. He left Reading to pursue a business career, where he first worked with Shell International Petroleum Company and then as an independant business consultant and trainer. He maintains a broad interest in science, philosophy, and history, and writes on all of these subjects. His previous titles include Beyond Measure (OUP, 2004) and A Beginner's Guide to Reality (Penguin, 2005).

Review quote

an enjoyable addition to the overall quantum story Chemistry World A truly exceptional book CERN Courier An accessible and informative history Science magazine gripping story Flipside Magazine

Table of contents

PART I: QUANTUM IN ACTION ; 1. An Act of Desperation: Berlin 1900 ; 2. Independent Energy Quanta: Bern 1905 ; 3. Quantum Numbers and Quantum Jumps: Manchester 1913 ; 4. Wave-particle Duality: Paris 1923 ; 5. Strangely Beautiful Interior: Helgoland 1925 ; 6. A Late Erotic Outburst: Swiss Alps 1925 ; 7. The Self-rotating Electron: Leiden 1925 ; PART II: QUANTUM PROBABILITY AND QUANTUM UNCERTAINTY ; 8. Quantum Probability: Gottingen 1926 ; 9. The Whole Idea of Quantum Jumps Necessarily Leads to Nonsense: Copenhagen 1926 ; 10. Uncertainty Principle: Copenhagen 1927 ; 11. The Copenhagen Interpretation: Copenhagen 1927 ; 12. Complementarity: Lake Como 1927 ; PART III: QUANTUM INTERPRETATION ; 13. Gedankenexperiment: Brussels 1927 ; 14. An Absolute Wonder: Cambridge 1927 ; 15. A Certain Unreasonableness: Brussels 1930 ; 16. A Bolt from the Blue: Copenhagen 1935 ; 17. The Paradox of Schrodinger's Cat: Oxford 1935 ; PART IV: QUANTUM FIELDS ; 18. Crisis: Shelter Island 1947 ; 19. Quantum Electrodynamics: Oldstone 1949 ; 20. Gauge Symmetry and Gauge Theories: Princeton 1954 ; 21. Three Quarks for Muster Mark: Pasadena 1963 ; 22. The Higgs Mechanism: Edinburgh 1965 ; PART V: QUANTUM PARTICLES ; 23. Electro-weak Unification: Harvard 1967 ; 24. Deep Inelastic Scattering: Stanford Linear Accelerator Center 1967 ; 25. Asymptotic Freedom and Quantum Chromodynamics: Harvard 1973 ; 26. The November Revolution: Brookhaven and SLAC 1974 ; 27. The W and Z Bosons: CERN 1983 ; 28. Completing the Picture: Fermilab 1994 ; PART VI: QUANTUM REALITY ; 29. Hidden Variables: Princeton 1951 ; 30. Bell's Theorem: Geneva 1964 ; 31. The Aspect Experiments: Paris 1982 ; 32. Beating the Uncertainty Principle: Albuquerque 1991 ; 33. Three-photon GHZ States: Vienna 2000 ; 34. Reality, Whether Local or Not: Vienna 2007 ; PART VII: QUANTUM GRAVITY ; 35. That Damned Equation: Princeton 1967 ; 36. The First Superstring Revolution: Aspen 1984 ; 37. The Quantum Structure of Space: Santa Barbara 1986 ; 38. No Consistency Without Contingency: Durham 1995 ; 39. The Second Superstring Revolution: Los Angeles 1995 ; 40. Resolving the Impasse: CERN 2008 ; Epilogue ; Quantum Timeline ; Name Index ; Subject Index