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Schrödinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality

  1. Sep 21, 2004 #1
    Hey Guys,

    I have read, Schrödinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality by John Gribbin and also "The Whole Shebang" by Timothy Ferris. I have also read a lot of books on Cosmology. What I'm looking for now is a book specifically on Quantum mechanics that is light on the math. (Only have a few years of University math a long time ago) Does anyone have any good ideas? If there is a thread already devoted to this just direct me there as I would not want to re-hash old infomation.

    A book that tries to provide possible explanations to quantum weirdness.


  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2004 #2


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    A book I always liked is Nick Herberts's Quantum Reality. Another in the same line is Heinz Pagel's The Quantum Code. Both of them try to do what you want, bring out the quantum weidness with reason. Pagels is maybe a little more uptight than Herbert; I understood he originally wrote his book to counter the influence of The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters, which I DON'T recommend. Neither book has any math to speak of, but you do have to read carefully. Both of them are decades old now, but QM hasn't changed at all since then. Still the same issues - the measurement problem, the many worlds interpretation, and all the rest.
  4. Feb 27, 2005 #3
    Many Thanks
  5. Feb 27, 2005 #4


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    Don't mention it. Have you read any of them?
  6. Feb 28, 2005 #5
    Some books with a little bit of math, but not too much:

    David Albert - Quantum Mechanics and Experience

    Jim Baggott - Beyond Measure: Modern Physics, Philosophy and the Meaning Of Quantum Theory

    Tony Hey and Patrick Walters - The Quantum Universe

    I especially like Baggott's book, but Hey and Walters is full of pictures and really gives you a good idea of what quantum experiments are like in the lab.
  7. Feb 28, 2005 #6


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    I read a book a decade or more ago that I think was authored by David Z. Albert. I am not sure if the title was the same as you listed. My recollection is that Albert was a professor of something like philosophy rather than physics. Can you confirm that? Is his physics writing considered reliable by the physicists here?
  8. Mar 1, 2005 #7


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    See also:

    Wick, David: "The Infamous Boundary", Birkhauser, Boston (1995),

    and perhaps

    Aczel, Amir D: "Entanglement: The greatest mystery in physics", Four Walls Eight Windows, New York (2001)

    When it comes to the actual experiments supposed to show entanglement, though, neither author seems to have understood the importance of the various "loopholes" -- this despite (in Aczel's case) lengthy interviews with the people concerned. Both books are valuable for historical information but the only way to reach understanding is, I think, to look at reports of the actual experiments. The possibility remains open that there is little point in trying to understand entanglement, since maybe it simply does not happen!

    Last edited: Mar 1, 2005
  9. Aug 25, 2005 #8
    The Transactional Interpretation.

    Hello again,

    I ended up reading John Gribbin's later book, "Schrödinger's Kittens and the search for Reality. At the end of his book he explains John Cramer's model of QM called "transactional interpretation" which is a clear easy way to conceptualize and understand these bizarre experimental results with light.

    The only issue I have now is that in a Discover article (June 2005) about Roger Penrose they state they have had objects as large as buckyballs (soccer-ball-shaped carbon molecules) in a state of quantum superposition.

    If anyone here has read John Gribbin's book or is familiar with "transactional interpretation" model could they tell me if this model is compatible with non photons. Works very well at clearing up all the bizarre photon interactions, but I don't see how it translates to larger objects.


    … all models of the world beyond the reach of our immediate senses are fictions, free inventions of the human mind. … Reality is in a very large measure what you want it to be. Still, though, almost everybody wants to know ‘the answer’. The quest for a really real model is what drives theoretical physicists, just as it motivates other folk to study philosophy or to subscribe to a particular religion. I still have this hankering myself, even though the logical part of my mind tells me that the search is fruitless, and that all we can ever hope to find is a self-consistent myth for our times.

    - John Gribbin
  10. Aug 25, 2005 #9


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    Yup, that's the same David Albert. He is in the philosophy dept at Columbia University. He has a PhD in physics, and has published a whole slew of important papers (on the foundations of quantum theory) in physics journals. Not only is his physics writing reliable, it is far, far more reliable than the writings of the vast majority of physicists on this same topic. If you want to really understand the foundational issues of quantum theory (the measurement problem, non-locality, hidden variables theories, many worlds, etc.) there is no better introduction than "Quantum Mechanics and Experience."
  11. Aug 25, 2005 #10
    Maybe take a look here. Gribbin also wrote "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantam Physics and Reality" if you wanted to look at that as well.
  12. Aug 25, 2005 #11
    Feynman's lecture, Quantum mechanics is a must-read !

    It is very light on maths, not comparable to any other book on quantum mechanics, truly exceptional.

    Personally, I did a lot of QM with all the maths, but I came to understand it after reading Feynman.
  13. Aug 25, 2005 #12
    I have to second that!
    The David Z Albert book is an experience!..amazing.

    I have a number of books mentioned in this thread, starting with :

    John Gribbin:Shrodingers Kittens[not read yet]

    Timothy Ferris:The whole Shebang [read-twice]

    David Albert - Quantum Mechanics and Experience [read-twice]

    Tony Hey and Patrick Walters - The Quantum Universe [not-read yet]

    Probably the best introduction book for me personally, has been a little paperback I had given to me called:Observation and Interpretation in the Philosophy of Physics with special reference to Quantum Mechanics

    it's a collection of writings by many author's.
  14. Aug 25, 2005 #13


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    Glad to hear my time spent reading it was not wasted. :smile:
  15. Aug 26, 2005 #14
    Just wondering, any comments on the Book "The Elegant Universe"

    Its quite publicised on the Shelves on physics on my side of the world..

    Personally i find the details quite definitive. No equations though. I guess its just a light read as catered to newbies like me haha
  16. Aug 26, 2005 #15
    One more

    I like

    Understanding Quantum Mechanics by Roland Omnes

    Some math but not too heavy.
  17. Aug 26, 2005 #16
    Physics Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann's popular science book The Quark and the Jaguar has a very interesting couple of chapters on quantum physics. The book itself is on a wide variety of subjects but you will not find a greater physicist writing about fundamental physics than Gell-Mann here.
  18. Aug 31, 2005 #17
    Philosophy vs. physics

    Most of the better technical books on the interpretation of quantum theory tend to be written by philosophers rather than physicists (although there are quite a number of bad books by philosophers as well). I suppose this is because they are trained to consider every possibility, and so they tend to give a clearer picture of the arguments for and against each interpretation. Physicists, on the other hand, are trained in an area where there is usually only one right answer (although there may be several ways of getting to it). Therefore, they sometimes end up pushing their own position as if it were the only viable alternative.

    Other books by philosophers which I enjoyed are those by Jeff Bub, Michael Dickson and Tim Maudlin. They are quite a bit more technical than most of the books we have been discussing though.

    Generally, the foundations of quantum theory is an area which is on the borders of both physics and philosophy. It is not really possible to completely disentangle the philosophy from the physics, although each field has its own particular emphasis. Therefore, I wouldn't say that a randomly chosen book by a philosopher is likely to be more or less accurate than a randomly chosen book by a physicist.
  19. Aug 31, 2005 #18
    Transactional Interpretation

    The basic problem with the transactional interpretation is that it only really works for single particle wavefunctions. It regards the wavefunction as a real wave in 3-dimensional space, but for multiple particles the wavefunction exists on configuration space and can't be reduced to a real wave on 3d space.

    Therefore, the TI falls short of being a full-blown interpretation of QM because it cannot account for all observed phenomena. As a way of thinking about single-particle QM it is quite cute and maybe it can somehow be extended to the multi-particle case, but this has not been done yet.
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