“I found myself swept away by the stories of those brilliant young minds who were able to conceptualize such curious things.” -Francis Ford Coppola
“Witty, charming, and accurate…There are many books out there on the history or foundations of quantum mechanics, but none take the unique approach Gilder has… Inviting and accessible.”
-Jonathan P. Dowling, Science
“A delightfully unconventional history in the form of conversations–real or reconstructed –among the physicists themselves….[The book] brings the scientist actors to life as complex personalities with interesting lives….Gilder has done her homework.”
-Don Howard, Nature
“A sparkling, original book. . . . Gilder brings the reader into a mix of ideas and personalities handled with a verve reminiscent of Jeremy Berstein’s scientific portraits in The New Yorker…. Gilder beautifully evokes [the experimentalists’] world: equipment catalogs instead of books; piles of dry ice; messy clockwork; boiling metal…. Quantum physics lives.”
-Peter Galison, The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
“The book reads like a good novel, and I found it just as hard to put down….A surprisingly effective re-creation of some of the most subtle intellectual history of the 20th century…And it is not just a lively retelling of an old, familiar story. I was surprised by Gilder’s version of the celebrated exchange between Bohr and Einstein at the 1930 Solvay Conference… [but after looking up her source] I now find it quite convincing.”
- David Mermin, American Scientist
“Captivating….Gilder creates a movingly human and surprisingly accessible picture of the unveiling of the quantum universe–one of the most infuriating, counter-intuitive, and yet crucial concepts of all time….Admirably lucid.”
-Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
“Astonishing….Gilder is a phenomenal writer.”
- Frank L. Cloutier, The Post & Courier (Charleston)
“This is not a book about quantum mechanics. This is a book about how science is done. It is the clearest and most intriguing history of the manner in which the scientific method continues to advance knowledge (in spite of–or even because of–the people involved in the investigations). An amazing story.”
- Kel Munger, Sacramento News & Review
“A remarkable achievement–and an enjoyable read. Well worthwhile.”
- M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
“She tells the story extremely well. Her account is packed with a richness and depth of historical detail that is most unusual in a book intended for the general reader. … I have the impression that it is widely believed among the general public that physics is the production of (at best) a bunch of geeks or (at worst) a bunch of robots who have failed their Turing test. Try to tell them that physics at the highest level does, in its way, demand as much passion and imagination and creativity as music or literature and you are likely to be met with a look of blank incomprehension….Telling people is one thing, making them really feel it is quite another. Gilder does the latter… Even the old hands should find it enjoyable and even educative (as I have done).”
-Marcus Appleby, American Journal of Physics
“A meticulous, splendid introduction to quantum theory, not by way of stark theoretical abstracts, which loom like splinters of ice in darkest isolation, but by way of the people who discovered the theories….Those who parade before us are as fascinating as their ideas: musicians, skiers, hikers, divers interact and battle….[A] superb book.”
-Sam Coale, The Providence Journal (a Reviewer Favorite Book of 2008)
“Normally, I would avoid a book like The Age of Entanglement….Gilder’s enjoyable, revealing book, however, is as much about the personalities of famous scientists as their theories….Wonderfully captures the uncertainty of science and the excitement of discovery.”
-Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer
★ “[This] fast-paced history . . . is less simplified than other popular accounts, but those who pay attention will find it highly rewarding. A tour-de-force by a talented young author who makes a difficult subject accessible.”
-Kirkus, starred review (full text below)
“Drawn from published papers and personal letters, the words of these scientists meld to form a coherent narrative of a fascinating field.”
-The Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, New York
-James Trefil, Washington Post
★ “No book more fully delivers the creative excitement of science.”
-Booklist, starred review (full text below)
Booklist, Nov. 15, 2008:
Gilder has taken to heart Heisenberg’s declaration that ’science is rooted in conversations.’ By recounting decisive conversations between researchers, she illuminates the tortuous path of quantum mechanics.
Readers eavesdrop, for instance, on Schrödinger — sick and bed-bound — as he challenges Bohr’s dismissal of pictorial thinking. They listen in as Einstein pauses on a train platform to urge de Broglie to press his quixotic fight against quantum orthodoxy. Gradually, the realization dawns that the formulas of physics come from cross-grained personalities, animated by unpredictable emotions.
The literal-minded may question the imaginative liberties Gilder takes in converting passages from letters and memoirs into face-to-face exchanges. But most readers will relish the psychological interplay she depicts. The character of the brash young John Bell emerges in such interplay, as he disputes the reasoning of a colleague smugly certain that no ‘hidden variables’ inhere in quantum events.
For in reacting against that smugness, Bell launches an epoch-making inquiry into the way subatomic particles remain linked — entangled — after separation. Lamentably, Bell dies before his findings open exciting new vistas in quantum computing. But this compelling history of his accomplishment will stimulate more of the seminal conversations that generate new science. No book more fully delivers the creative excitement of science.
–Bryce Christensen, Booklist, starred review
Fast-paced history from debut author Gilder, who employs invented but historically accurate dialogue to surprisingly good effect, revealing the personalities as well as the ideas of quantum physicists.
Though generally viewed as a gigantic achievement of human genius, quantum physics, which describes the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles, is also a troubling field. Its predictions have proven dazzlingly accurate, but they predict miniscule objects behaving in ways that everyone, physicists included, finds bizarre. In the subatomic world, observers can never locate an object precisely, only determine the probability that it will be in one place instead of another. Energy and matter behave as either solid particles or waves depending on the experiment performed.
Most physicists were happy that quantum physics worked so well, but Einstein insisted that this relentless indeterminacy could not be true. In 1935, he and two co-workers devised the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen “thought experiment” (”thought” because it was considered technically impossible). If two subatomic particles are “entangled,” a state that obeys quantum laws, and then separated, changing one affects the other even if it’s very far away. Since this is clearly impossible, Einstein concluded that quantum theory was defective.
Gilder, remarkably well-informed, delivers a comprehensive history that begins with early 20th-century giants Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Pauli. However, she differs from the authors of similar books in devoting even more space to less celebrated but equally brilliant physicists from the century’s latter half, including David Bohm, Anton Zeilinger, and John Bell. Her inspiration is Bell, who died in 1990 before getting the Nobel Prize everyone agrees he deserved. His 1964 paper, showing that the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment did not disprove quantum theory, inspired a generation of researchers who have clarified quantum physics without rendering it less bizarre.
Although aimed at general readers, this work is less simplified than other popular accounts, but those who pay attention will find it highly rewarding. A tour-de-force by a talented young author who makes a difficult subject accessible.
–Kirkus Reviews, starred review.
From the jacket:
“An admirable, unexpected book, historically sound and seamlessly constructed, that transports those of us who do not understand quantum mechanics into the lives and thoughts of those who did.”
-George Dyson, author of Darwin Among the Machines
“Louisa Gilder disentangles the story of entanglement with such narrative panache, such poetic verve and such metaphorical precision that for a moment I almost thought I understood quantum mechanics.”
-Matt Ridley, author of Genome
“Louisa Gilder breathes new life into a story of intellectual daring and makes its protagonists come alive. A deep, beautiful, and thoroughly original book.”
-George Johnson, author of The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments
“The Age of Entanglement is a marvelous guide to the endlessly fascinating mystery of quantum mechanics–and to the equally fascinating way some of the world’s smartest scientists have wrestled with understanding it.”
-Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus