Quantum Enigma, by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner. (Hardcover, June, 2006)|
Mark Lamendola, author of over 5,000 articles.
For a long time, I've been felt a bit guilty because I don't understand quantum mechanics and soon feel dizzy after a short foray into the Theory of Relativity. To my delight, I discovered early in this book that even Albert Einstein didn't readily understand this stuff. Hmm. Score one for these authors.
The basic premise of
Quantum Enigma is that Quantum Mechanics--which is hugely important to modern civilization and the technology we enjoy---presents some intriguing questions that appear to have their answers beyond science. Those questions center around the idea of consciousness.
Rosenblum and Kuttner present and explore these questions, taking the reader on a ride that is sometimes exciting, sometimes tedious, and frequently mind-boggling. The tedious parts last only a moment and you shoot right past them.
What about the mind-boggling parts? Those are probably where
Quantum Enigma most earns its cover price. Rosenblum and Kuttner don't pretend to have pat answers. What they do is present a particular aspect of the enigma (there are several to look at) and seemingly rotate it around so you can see all sides of it. You're often left with more questions than you started with, but that is apparently the point. And it puts you in good company--count among your co-questioners such celebrity physicists as Niels Bohr, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Erwin Schrodinger.
One technique they use to present a particular aspect of the enigma is they tell a story. For example, we first go to a fictional place called Neg Ahne Poc. That's Copenhagen spelled backwards. The reason for that name becomes very clear in the book. We go there through the eyes of a fictional physicist, who is the one actually going there in the story. We observe the physicist engage in an experiment conducted by the Rhob of the village. Rhob is Bohr, as in Niels Bohr, spelled backwards. There's a lot of this cute stuff in the book, which shows the authors do try to keep from taking themselves and other physicists too seriously.
It's interesting to know how an author came to write a particular book. In this case, the authors had been teaching a course by the same name as this book. So,
Quantum Enigma makes use of that experience, including the reactions of students. It provides quite a bit of interesting information, going back to Copernican physics and highlighting the differences between (and commonalities of) classic physics and modern physics.
The book itself is controversial, because many people feel polite scientists aren't supposed to discuss these kinds of things. They especially aren't supposed to discuss them with non-scientists. Why the concern? The world is full of pseudo-science, false claims, and downright whacky notions. When physics looks at the non-physical, purveyors of whacky notions may gain credence and deceive even more people. So, "crossing the line" from physical particles to non-physical consciousness makes physicists uncomfortable.
Rosenblum and Kuttner are not only comfortable discussing the link between physics and consciousness, they are adept at it. If you want something that will stimulate your intellect without frying your brain,
Quantum Enigma--at barely over 200 pages--is just the thing.
A note on the writing: form is important, as it dictates readability.
Fortunately, this book scored very well on substance and on form.
This book actually uses Standard Written English (SWE). This was a
refreshing change from the Pidgin English that so many of today's authors
slop onto our reading palettes. The care taken in writing this book shows
that the author and publisher actually cared about the reader. That's a