Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality?

ISBN: 0521542669
ISBN 13: 9780521542661
By: Alastair I.M. Rae

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About this book

Quantum physics is believed to be the fundamental theory underlying our understanding of the physical universe. However, it is based on concepts and principles that have always been difficult to understand and controversial in their interpretation. This book aims to explain these issues using a minimum of technical language and mathematics. After a brief introduction to the ideas of quantum physics, the problems of interpretation are identified and explained. The rest of the book surveys, describes and criticises a range of suggestions that have been made with the aim of resolving these problems; these include the traditional, or 'Copenhagen' interpretation, the possible role of the conscious mind in measurement, and the postulate of parallel universes. This new edition has been revised throughout to take into account developments in this field over the past fifteen years, including the idea of 'consistent histories' to which a completely new chapter is devoted.

Reader's Thoughts

John Rasmussen

A great explanation for a very complex subject. Wonderful explanation without calculus.


Companion book to one of my favorite classes ever, with one of my favorite prof's, if you think you know quantum mechanics, and you haven't studied it, it's a must read, get informed, learn the real science, not the pseudo new age stuff, this is the real deal right here, and you'll wonder why it needs to be distorted by some so called scientits, because it's fascinating unaltered

Jan Graf von der Pahlen

Simply the best and most through explanation of the vital concepts of quantum physics I have come across yet.


Some interesting stuff, but pretty dry.


I wasn't exactly expecting to read about quantum physics much this year, but a discussion with my girlfriend that exhibited gaps in our understanding of physics prompted her to get me this book as a gift, so I was inspired to read it. It's not surprising that we have gaps in our understanding, as I haven't taken any physics since high school, and I think she hasn't needed any of the physics she took in college. But still.This is not a math-y physics book. There are a few scattered equations, and even something like a proof, but it's really more of a philosophical discussion. The first few chapters discuss some interesting properties of light - in particular the wave/particle duality, and polarization. Experiments relating to these properties are described, and use to set up the central issue the rest of the book discusses, which is the "measurement problem". Unfortunately, as I started reading this book and thinking about the experiments, that was exactly the problem I was hoping to come to better terms with, and I was sorta surprised that it doesn't seem to have a good answer (yet?).Basically the question goes: what constitutes a measurement? Measuring quantum properties is analogous to making a draw from a probability distribution. Until a measurement is made, we can only assign probabilities to the outcome, unlike in the classical realm. But who does the measuring? Is there something about our consciousness that's required to say a measurement has been made? What about Schrodinger's cat? Is it conscious enough? Whatever that means.Very frustrating. After setting up the issue, the author spends the remaining chapters discussing ways people have attempted to address the question. Many viewpoints are discussed, and each is given a pretty fair treatment, pointing out both positive and negative aspects of the argument.I kept reading in hopes that we'd get to the one without negatives, but it never came. Freaking real world, being all messy and stuff.Anyway, there's still lots I don't understand, even at the more mechanical level of all this, instead of the philosophical (metaphysical?). Gotta read more...It was sorta of entertaining to be a "trained mathematician" reading this book, especially the first few chapters that were actually more on the technical side. Definitions are scarce (I'm not blaming the author, I think we maybe don't even have the definitions). After the description of the wave/particle duality, the author talks about a beam of light... well what the hell's that? Is that actually a whole bunch of isolated protons, or is it something else, something more wavey? I don't know. Maybe I just didn't read closely enough or think hard enough about it. That's usually my problem.

Amir Hesam

While not requiring any previous knowledge of quantum theory, this book opens your eyes to the wonders of quantum physics.

dead letter office

if you want to know what's so weird about quantum mechanics, and you can tolerate some basic algebra, this book will lay it out for you.


Overall very good, maybe a little long for those who don't have a background in physics.

David Hildebrand

Relatively concise, could have been a couple ideas shorter. It falls into the abyss of talking about quantum mechanics without much to hang your hat on. It does what it intends (meander around the large paradoxes and describe some approaches) and is relatively forgettable.

Natalie S.

You know how the random blank pages at the end of every book? Readers of Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality? normally tear them out to use for "Goodbye, cruel world" notes.That said, if you ever want to learn about quantum physics (you don't), this book is kind of helpful sort of sometimes.


Wonderful coverage of key experiments in history of quantum physics.

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