SHORTLISTED FOR THE ROYAL SOCIETY INSIGHT INVESTMENT SCIENCE BOOK PRIZEAn accessible primer on all things quantumSunday Times


7 thoughts on “Six Impossible Things: The ‘Quanta of Solace’ and the Mysteries of the Subatomic World

  1. A. Frost A. Frost says:

    An excellent summary of six of the main interpretations of quantum theory, all of which are of course probably not even close Considering in polls of physicists qualified to give an opinion the largest number usually vote for the ridiculous Copenhagen interpretation held up to almost ridicule as it deserves IMO here it is easy to see that despite the incredible intelligence of modern physicists, they would score very low in any poll of their common sense If one had any doubts about this then the fact many believe in the MWI interpretation would be the clinching factor in confirming their below average common sense Personally I have long thought that quantum physics should go back to 1927 and start again, progressing in step with understanding although I understand there are recent developments giving hope.The book is excellent but too short not allowing space for Gribbin to develop easily understandable explanations of these very short summaries of each interpretation Perhaps Gribbin thought what s the point writing its all rubbish.Sadly I have nowhere near the academic and intellectual prowess to come up with a better interpretation, but at least I am aware of my own limitations The originators of these interpretations probably could have eventually come up with better ones but again sadly rested content, having often put down the alternatives, once they had mathematics that worked.


  2. Galada Galada says:

    An excellent exposition, far better than Rovelli s short book on similar subject No mathematics in it but Gribbin clearly knows his stuff and writes well An authoritative yet brief and readable account which contained material new to me, e.g chapter on the ensemble theory of QM one hears very little about A sane verdict if an unwelcome one after 100 years QM still makes little sense and yet it s our best physical theory Something that we re all missing I wonder if the Chinese from a very different culture to ours can resolve the problem, let s hope so.


  3. Mikey Mikey says:

    An electron can have spin up or spin down in exactly 50 50 chance measurements gave round about values The Universe has been derived from amorphous love energy and when it is condensed enough its particle nature appears That s why local reality doesn t apply to this universe Neither is spooky action at a distance nor hidden values Quantum Entanglement is observed purely because of the intrinsic nature of the wave particle duality.In the future world, no one needs a password for anything Everyone respects everyone else s property and territory We only saw glimpses of the Quantum World because The Gods hadn t completely coded all the laws in Quantum Mechanics yet.The deciding moment is Do you want to be part of this exciting future in the Universe


  4. Brian Clegg Brian Clegg says:

    On first handling John Gribbin s book, it s impossible not to think of Carlo Rovelli s Seven Brief Lessons in Physics both are very slim, elegant hardbacks with a numbered set of items within yet Six Impossible Things is a far, far better book than its predecessor Where Seven Brief Lessons uses purple prose and vagueness in what feels like a scientific taster menu, Gribbin gives us a feast of precision and clarity, with a phenomenal amount of information for such a compact space It s a TARDIS of popular science books, and I loved it.Like rather a lot of titles lately notably Philip Ball s excellent Beyond Weird , what Gribbin is taking on is not the detail of quantum physics itself although he does manage to get across its essence in two fits named after the sections of Hunting of the Snark Gribbin includes Lewis Carroll s epic poem in his recommended reading, though it s such a shame that the superb version annotated by Martin Gardiner is out of print Instead, the focus here is the interpretation of quantum theory the attempts to theorise about what is really going on underneath the so successful mathematics.Different interpretations make up the six impossible things , which Gribbin poetically describes as the quanta of solace in his subtitle He covers the Copenhagen interpretation, pilot waves, many worlds, decoherence, the ensemble interpretation and the timeless transactional interpretation Each is dealt with in just a few pages, accompanied by some excellent full page illustrations of key players, and I was extremely impressed by the way that Gribbin manages to encapsulate what are sometimes very complex ideas in an approachable fashion This could well be the best piece of writing this grand master of British popular science has ever produced, condensing as it does many years of pondering the nature of quantum physics into a compact form.Inevitably, there were one or two moments when even Gribbin managed to potentially lose the reader though this was far less the case than with Rovelli In his section on decoherence, it s pretty much assumed that the reader knows what coherence means in a physics sense , which probably is an assumption too far And there are a couple of examples of leaps of logic brought on by the compactness Notably, at one point in the ensemble interpretation section, Gribbin comments In an infinite universe, there would be infinitely many copies of you that s quite a big leap I can certainly envisage plenty of types of infinite universe which don t have infinite sets of copies of everyone in them.Early on, Gribbin says that he will offer an agnostic overview of some of the main interpretations and that I have my own views on their relative merits, which I hope I shall not reveal I think he succeeds in this It s clear he s no Copenhagen enthusiast, but where from previous interactions I assumed there would be a many worlds bias lying beneath the apparent fair dealing, I found at least two of the other interpretations to come across acceptably, given his words.Sadly, I suspect Six Impossible Things won t be such a big seller as Rovelli s book but it deserves to be.


  5. rhodri j hewitt rhodri j hewitt says:

    The best summary of the different interpretations of quantum mechanics, that I ve ever read Thoroughly recommended, it won t disappoint 10 10


  6. Mr. G. Savage Mr. G. Savage says:

    I ve read a fair amount of general level books on quantum physics and none were as lucid or pithy as this It brought the difficult concepts into new focus and told me brand new stuff about the crazy subatomic world All in a 100 pages.


  7. Gerard de Zeeuw Gerard de Zeeuw says:

    The book provides a good overview but in a number of chapters the depth and clarity is less than in similar summaries of the same length Even so very useful Delivery was very good.