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This is without doubt a five star, standout book, though there are a couple of provisos that mean it won’t work for everyone.
If you ask someone who has read a bit of popular science about the founders of quantum theory they will mention names like Planck, Bohr, Schrödinger and Heisenberg – but as Douglas Stone points out, the most significant name in laying the foundations of quantum physics was its arch-critic, Albert Einstein. You may be aware that Einstein took Planck’s original speculation a
This book gives a quite different view of Einstein and his contributions to Quantum Theory. This book covers development of Quantum Theory up to Heisenberg and Schrodinger and their modern theories of Quantum Mechanics. Generally people associate Einstein and Quantum Mechanics through his famous quote “God does not play dice,” yet Einstein published many papers that led to Quantum Mechanics and was quite familiar with the fundamentals of Quantum Mechanics.
This book is probably not for a beginner
Professor Stone’s first book is quite an accomplishment. Not only does he tackle some of the more difficult ideas and personalities in physics, but he does so in a readable style, with enough depth to keep the intelligent reader interested and occupied but not so dense and difficult that he loses anyone wishing to keep up the pace of the book. Einstein and the Quantum is a splendid work. One comes away knowing more than before, and pleased with the experience. He also manages to do Einstein the
Stone tells us in the introduction that “Physicists don’t read the works of the great masters of earlier generations. . . . [A]nd the history that is mentioned is sanitized to eliminate the passions, egos, and human frailties of the great “natural philosophers”. He then admits that despite having been a physics professor for more than a quarter-century, he had “not read a single word written by Einstein during [his] actual career as a research physicist.” It is to our benefit that he both overcame this deficit, and that he presents us with the fruits of his labors and a strong case that we should all ensure that every now and again we do, indeed, read the works of the great masters.
I shall not share juicy details or highlight further passages, but will simply insist that if one is at all possessed of a scientific nature, and wishes to know a bit about how our current understanding of things came to be, this book is invaluable. It is certainly not suitable as a technical work, but enough of the science is presented and explained to leave the general reader suitably impressed with the goings-on of theoretical physics a century ago.
My largest complaint regarding the book is perhaps a petty one: too often there are occasional misspellings and grammatical errors of the sort best explained by errors in copy-editing. Erroneous placements of punctuation, and typos of the sort that would cause to be marked down a high school term paper, are frequent enough to be distracting, though not ubiquitous. Stone’s effort deserved better work by his publisher. Since his publisher is Princeton University Press, and he’s a professor at Yale, one wonders whether someone in New Jersey is annoyed with a call during last spring’s lacrosse match.
All in all, though, I highly recommend the book. It is most suitable for adult readers, but accessible, acceptable, and appropriate for high school and beyond.