Adam Becker - What is Real? - Hodder & Stoughton

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    • ISBN:9781473675568
    • Publication date:31 May 2018
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    • ISBN:9781473661363
    • Publication date:27 Jun 2019

What is Real?

The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics

By Adam Becker

  • Hardback
  • £25.00

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.

Biographical Notes

Adam Becker is a science writer with a PhD in astrophysics and an undergraduate degree in philosophy. His writing has appeared in the BBC and New Scientist. He has recorded a video series with the BBC and several podcasts with the Story Collider. He is also a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley's Office for History of Science and Technology. He lives in Oakland, CA.

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  • ISBN: 9781473661356
  • Publication date: 31 May 2018
  • Page count: 384
  • Imprint: John Murray
A thorough, illuminating exploration of the most consequential controversy raging in modern science . . . Becker leads us through an impressive account of the rise of competing interpretations, grounding them in the human stories, which are naturally messy and full of contingencies. He makes a convincing case that it's wrong to imagine the Copenhagen interpretation as a single official or even coherent statement — New York Times
[A] fresh debut . . . Vivid biographical portraits enliven even dense theoretical explanations with wit and bite . . . With his crisp voice, Becker lucidly relates the complicated history of quantum foundations — Publishers Weekly, starred review
A useful introduction to the history of quantum theory for scientifically inclined readers — Kirkus
...an impressive account of the rise of competing interpretations, grounding them in the human stories, which are naturally messy and full of contingencies. He makes a convincing case that it's wrong to imagine the Copenhagen interpretation as a single official or even coherent statement. — The New York Times
Becker handles the physics with aplomb... The cast is colourful and expansive, and provides engaging drama... The subtext running through this hugely enjoyable book is that, if we still have a long way to go before we understand reality... The story so far is of dazzling insights, flawed male scientists - and very few female ones. It's a key acknowledgement that should help to ensure that writing the next chapters of the quantum tale is open to all. — Michael Brooks, The New Scientist
Adam Becker has written an excellent, accessible account of an intricate story. — The Wall Street Journal
What Is Real? is an argument for keeping an open mind. Becker reminds us that we need humility as we investigate the myriad interpretations and narratives that explain the same data. — Nature
Becker has done a great service in putting this fascinating story together into a single easily-digestible volume that is gripping, authoritative, and true. — Quantum Times
[A] tremendously appealing new book ...Becker is a perfect choice to make sense of it all (or at least whatever sense is possible). He smoothly, easily dramatizes the great debates and the outsized personalities of quantum physics and fits it all into an enthusiastic, readable narrative, and along the way he digresses wonderfully on a wide variety of scientific phenomena. — Open Letters Review
Adam Becker sets out to explore why the physics community is still arguing today about quantum mechanics's true meaning...A riveting storyteller, Becker brings to life physicists who have too long remained in the shadow of Bohr and Einstein...an engaging and accessible overview of the debates. — Science Magazine
Spellbinding....This very book could prove to be a watershed moment for the physics community if it faces up to its own past and its present....If you have any interest in the implications of quantum theory, or in the suppression of scientific curiosity, What is Real? is required reading. There is no more reliable, careful, and readable account of the whole history of quantum theory in all its scandalous detail. — Boston Review
'Yikes!', 'Wow!', 'Spellbinding', 'Irresistible' — The Mathematical Association of America
Adam Becker's remarkable new book, What Is Real? ...is a superb contribution both to popular understanding of quantum theory and to ongoing debates among experts...It deserves wide attention and careful study. — Physics Today
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