How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, Paperback

How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog Paperback

4 out of 5 (6 ratings)

Description

In this international bestseller, Orzel explains the key theories of quantum physics, taking his dog Emmy's anarchic behaviour as a starting point.

Could she use quantum tunnelling to get through the neighbour's fence?

How about diffracting round a tree to chase squirrels?

From quarks and gluons to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, this is a uniquely entertaining way to unlock the secrets of the universe.

Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Popular science
  • ISBN: 9781851687794

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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by
4

Well, it certainly has a unique selling point.A quixotic quest, you would think: rendering the world of quantum physics understandable for the layman - approached quixotically: by fabricating a dialogue between the author, a physics professor, and his rabbit-chasing, treat-loving Alsatian dog.There is something oddly Socratic about Orzal's interlocutions with Emmy the Alsatian. Only in the Dialogues, no-one says "that sounds ridiculous, Socrates". Emmy has no such qualms.As a conceptual device it works as well as it can be expected to, though at times both Chad and Emmy expect too much of their readers. That is one smart dog.Over the years I've read plenty of popular science treatments of quantum physics (more than your average bear, I dare say, but of course that's not to say I necessarily understood them), and I still found my eyes glazing over at some of the depth to which Orzal was obliged (or at any rate inclined) to descend in expounding quantum theory. Emmy stays with him throughout, and eggs him on.I have always harboured suspicions about the scientific inviolability claimed of this sort of physics. Real, falsifiable empirical evidence seems in short supply (often being suspiciously forbidden by the very terms of the theory, or at least buried under many sedimentary layers of mathematical assumption) and quantum effects have a habit of conveniently being unobservable in any dimension meaningful to everyday life. Or vanishing (er, I mean, collapsing the wave function) when you try to measure them.Which, to this old sceptic, gives them a religious sort of disposition - true by definition; true because smart men learned in arcane lore say so. (I should say I'm not alone in this view: properly credentialised physicists like Peter Woit and Lee Smolin have also expressed it).That said, Orzal is no (ahem) dogmatist (indeed, trying to de-mystify the scriptures as he does makes him more like a sort of Lutheran reformer), and I think is prepared to admit of some missing links in the overall theory (I couldn't work out whether quantum entanglement, which is "non local", falsifies relativity or not).Then again, the only practical upshot I could derive of all this colossally brain-contorting discipline is the possibility of "quantum computing" - apparently faster and cheaper than boring old silicon.Orzal's main objective, finally arrived at in the closing chapter, is to debunk phoney new age baloney which purports to trade on quantum underpinnings - quantum healing, and that kind of thing. This is done effectively, but at some cost: by underlining the singular uselessness of quantum theory in every day volumes, velocities and quantities. Whenever it would come in handy (often, when chasing squirrels, as Emmy astutely observes), by its own theory, quantum effects would be unobservably minuscule.Which makes this old goat wonder why we bother digging up the Swiss countryside and dropping trillions of dollars of supercooled electromagnets into it just to find another unobservable subatomic particle. Surely we can figure out whether quantum computing works by trying to building a quantum computer?In the final analysis, and as other reviewers have said, I put this book down having a better general understanding of the gist of a number of really quite difficult concepts - enough to keep my end of the conversation up if sat next to a physicist at dinner - even if the details and implications below that remain entirely murky - and so in that regard, it is a tough job imaginatively and successfully done.And, now matter how cute the device seems, you can't help but like the irrepressible Emmy, even if she does understand Schrodinger's indeterminacy better than I do.

Review by
4

I was initially slightly uneasy about this book. Throughout the first pages, topics I had previously encountered in formal education were presented: I wasn't sure that I'd understand them if I'd been encountering them for the first time. The books was presented in a carefully thought out manner, with ten clearly defined chapters. As the book developed my initial doubts went away. The subject matter is not easy, but I finished the book feeling satisfied I had learnt something and that I was able to (at least partially) understand all of the material.Before reading the book I was well aware that I am not a dog lover! But that didn't matter, the dog element didn't get in the way, and the two "characters" helped lighten the tone and make for a more enjoyable read.

Review by
3.5

Generally good clear descriptions of quantum physics in an accessible fashion. However in some respects the attempt to do this by teaching it to a dog was less than perfect. At times the links to the dog were effectively abandoned, at others the links and analogies were perhaps rather forced.

Review by
4

The best explanation I've found of quantum physics' basic principles for a lay lay lay person. You can infer from the title that this book does not belong on a doctoral candidate's Works Cited page. If, however, you've found yourself unable to recall the major foundations of quantum physics no matter how many cute animated YouTube videos you've watched, you'll have no trouble after reading this. A humorous midpoint between a tome and a For Dummies, and a quick read.

Review by
4

The best explanation I've found of quantum physics' basic principles for a lay lay lay person. You can infer from the title that this book does not belong on a doctoral candidate's Works Cited page. If, however, you've found yourself unable to recall the major foundations of quantum physics no matter how many cute animated YouTube videos you've watched, you'll have no trouble after reading this. A humorous midpoint between a tome and a For Dummies, and a quick read.

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