464 pages, 16 plates with b/w illustrations
For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves. Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the ferocious, divisive debate at its heart. For 60 years most physicists believed that quantum theory denied the very existence of reality itself. Yet Kumar shows how the golden age of physics ignited the greatest intellectual debate of the twentieth century.
While Quantum sets the science in the context of the great upheavals of the modern age, Kumar's centrepiece is the conflict between Einstein and Bohr over the nature of reality and the soul of science. "Bohr brainwashed a whole generation of physicists into believing that the problem had been solved", lamented the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann. But in Quantum, Kumar brings Einstein back to the centre of the quantum debate. It is an essential read for anyone fascinated by this complex and thrilling story and by the band of young men at its heart.
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Manjit Kumar was the founding editor of Prometheus, a journal that coveredthe arts, sciences and humanities, and has written for various publications including the Guardian, the TES and the Irish Times. He is the co-author of Science and the Retreat from Reason, an adapted chapter of which Michael Frayn described as "the clearest account I've read yet of the development of quantum mechanics." He lives in north London with his wife and two sons.