Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Seeking a non-technical book on the weirdness of QM

  1. Jul 17, 2013 #1

    andrewkirk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I am in a philosophy club where we meet to discuss a topic each month. Next month I have undertaken to kick off a discussion on the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics. I expect interpretations of QM, especially things like MWI, to be a significant part of that.

    I need to find some material such as web-sites and book suggestions to list for people that want to do preparation. The trouble is that I'm the only person with a technical understanding of QM, so the material needs to be non-technical.

    I would be grateful for any suggestions of books that explain aspects of QM that non-technical people would find weird and awe-inspiring. Also any web-sites. With a bit of Googling I've come across several references to Heisenberg's books "Philosophical problems of quantum physics" and "Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science". Does anybody know if they are suitable for a non-technical philosophical discussion? Is he an engaging writer?

    By the way, some of the things I was thinking of covering were:

    quantum tunnelling, quantum suicide, appearance of virtual particles 'out of nowhere', Hawking radiation, Bose-Einstein condensates, superfluids, zero point energy, double-slit experiment, delayed-choice quantum eraser, non-locality (EPR, Bell), non-existence of particle locations and paths between observations (at least in some interpretations), Schrodinger's cat and the measurement problem, indistinguishable particles.

    Any suggestions for other weird things to throw in there would be much appreciated too.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2013 #2

    Nugatory

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You could do worse than "Where Does the Weirdness Go" by David Lindley.
     
  4. Jul 18, 2013 #3

    Demystifier

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Selected popular books:
    A. Rae: Quantum Physics - Illusion or Reality?
    B. Greene: The Fabric of the Cosmos

    Selected more serious, but still largely non-technical books:
    A. Whitaker: Einstein, Bohr and the Quantum Dilemma
    D. Home, A. Whitaker: Einstein’s Struggles with Quantum Theory - A Reappraisal
    A. Whitaker: The New Quantum Age
    G. Greenstein, A. Zajonc: The Quantum Challenge
     
  5. Jul 19, 2013 #4
    I've read "Entanglement" by Amir Aczel recently.
    Half (or maybe a bit more) of the book is about the people behind QM and it's history.
    But his explanations about the science are not over simplified (something I really hate about pop sci). It is readable, and you would understand what entanglement and super-position are - and these are the magic of QM.
     
  6. Jul 19, 2013 #5

    clem

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    You would need a non-technical book because there is no weirdness in good technical QM books.
     
  7. Jul 19, 2013 #6

    George Jones

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Do you mean that you don't find anything weird about "real" (i.e., non-popular level) quantum mechanics, or that technical books don't treat quantum weirdness, or something else?

    How physicists feel about the weirdness of quantum mechanics is very subjective. For example, in his recently published grad-level book on quantum mechanics, Stephen Weinberg writes

     
  8. Jul 20, 2013 #7

    vanhees71

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2016 Award

    The dilemma is that one cannot adequately discuss quantum theory without the proper mathematical and physical foundations. Whether there is weirdness in quantum theory or not depends on the person looking at these foundations. My personal view is that there is no weirdness in quantum theory as soon as you take the Born rule as an independent postulate and take it literarly, leading you to the minimal statistical interpretation of quantum theory.

    If, however, you insist that a physical theory should precisely describe single events, then quantum theory appears to be pretty weird. However, there is no solid physical foundation of a probabilistic model of nature that applies to a single event. If you want to experimentally test a probabilistic model you have to repeat the experiment on many equaly and independently prepared systems in order to establish a sufficient significance for the proof or rejection of the probabilistic assertion.
     
  9. Jul 20, 2013 #8

    Demystifier

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Technical books on weirdness in QM also exist, such as
    F. Laloe: Do we Really Understand Quantum Mechanics? (2012)
    Y. Aharonov, D. Rorhlich: Quantum Paradoxes - Quantum Theory for the Perplexed (2005)

    For me, the first one is one of the best books on QM I ever seen.
     
  10. Jul 20, 2013 #9

    stevendaryl

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I've heard people say that adopting a statistical, or ensemble, view of quantum mechanics somehow makes it less weird, but I don't see that, at all. It's weird in the sense that we have a theory that makes definite predictions about statistics for observations, but seems to say nothing at all about what actually happens. What's weird about that is that an observation, after all, is a physical event. Why should the theory single those events out as special?

    Yes, I understand that they are special to US, because that's how we learn about the world, through observations. But for most notions of "learning", you learn something to the extent that the facts or the model or the picture in your head becomes closer to the reality that you are learning about. If there is no notion of a reality outside of your observations, then in what sense are they observations? In what sense are they learning something about the world?

    The minimalist interpretation would seem to me to be a solipsistic theory about the state of your own brain, rather than a theory about the world. Maybe that's inevitable--we can never get beyond what we perceive to the "reality" behind it. But surely we don't want to consider all brain states as equivalent. If I misremember the result of an experiment, (or if there's a malfunction in the measuring equipment) surely that's a mistake? But for something to be a mistake, there has to be a notion of reality beyond whatever I think reality is.
     
  11. Jul 20, 2013 #10
    Consider watching the following set of four Feynman lectures on video, your group will have lots to think about.

    Richard Feynman on Quantum Mechanics Part 1 - Photons Corpuscles of Light.FLV



    QED: Fits of Reflection and Transmission -- Quantum Behaviour -- Richard Feynman (2/4)



    QED: Electrons and their Interactions -- Richard Feynman (3/4)



    QED: New Queries -- Richard Feynman (4/4)

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  12. Jul 21, 2013 #11

    andrewkirk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    So far as I can see, the Born rule only specifies the probability for observing specific values of an observable, for a system in a given state. In particular, it does not include the statement that some, Shankar in particular, often bracket with it, that the measurement makes the system change to the eigenstate corresponding to the eigenvalue that is the result.

    Is it correct that the Born rule says nothing about the change of state, leaving that to be covered in a separate postulate?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Seeking a non-technical book on the weirdness of QM
  1. Basic QM technicalities (Replies: 11)

Loading...