By Sean Carroll
Recommended on: 10th October 2020
Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime, by Sean Carroll. We have to admit, we know nothing about quantum physics. (Well, at least Barb, who is writing this review, knew nothing about quantum physics. Terry, on the other hand, studied relativity with John Wheeler at Princeton, so he can dish on quanta when he feels like it.) Sean Carroll is a magnificent writer—understandably, this book became an instant New York Times best seller. Just take a gander at this paragraph: “Note the subtle difference between Planck’s suggestion and Einstein’s. Planck says that light of a fixed frequency is emitted in certain energy amounts, while Einstein says that’s because light literally is discrete particles. It’s the difference between saying that a certain coffee machine makes exactly one cup at a time, and saying that coffee only exists in the form of one-cup-size amounts. That might make sense when we’re talking about matter particles like electrons and protons, but just a few decades earlier Maxwell had triumphantly explained that light was a wave, not a particle. Einstein’s proposal was threatening to undo that triumph. Planck himself was reluctant to accept this wild new idea, but it did explain the data. In a wild new idea’s search for acceptance, that’s a powerful advantage to have.”
Barb can’t say she emerged from Something Deeply Hidden having a good grasp of quantum physics, (although maybe another version of her in a different world does), but she now has a much greater appreciation for some of the discipline’s oddly beautiful ideas. Also, it’s interesting to know that Schrödinger didn’t like cats.
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