The Adventure of Physics - Vol. IV: The Quantum of Change
Copyright Year: 1990
ISBN 13: 9781447560371
Publisher: Motion Mountain
Conditions of Use
full disclosure: i only read the first 2 chapters, at which point i determined the book would not be useful for undergraduate classes. However, the table of contents for the multivolume series certainly covers all topics in commonly used... read more
full disclosure: i only read the first 2 chapters, at which point i determined the book would not be useful for undergraduate classes. However, the table of contents for the multivolume series certainly covers all topics in commonly used textbooks, and more.
The physics content is generally accurate, although in some places readers might be misled about the universal acceptance of some opinions presented as facts. The flat, black and white statements the author prefers do not let the reader know that many topics in QM are still works in progress. One example is the statement that the term "quantization" is obsolete - i believe we are still trying to "quantize" gravity although the task might better be described as "attempts at unification".
The material covered is likely to be relevant for a long time, although some topics like quantum computing and entanglement are subjects of intense current work and may become obsolete. It would be good if the author could add warnings in such places, as opposed to parts like the discussion of "uncertainty" relations or "wave-particle duality" (btw, a term the author scorns but one that has been used so long its use will not stop) which are unlikely to be overturned or significantly revised within a decade.
the text is very well written, but assumes readers much more sophisticated (in terms of vocabulary and tolerance for complexity) than contemporary undergraduates. I think the proper audience for this book would be adult education students (for example OLLI course-takers, in the USA): people of considerable education and broad cultural knowledge who are interested in making the effort to learn something substantial of the "quantum weirdness" they have heard so much about in popular media. Without reading the preceding volumes it is hard to determine if all terms used have been previously defined, but it is always good practice to locally repeat definitions of terms that are not commonplace and may have been defined far away within the text, such as dispersion relation, vector potential, etc.
the style and terminology are both quite consistent. The author's style will certainly be taken as annoying or arrogant by many readers. the point of view is that of an all-knowing informant who is delighted to demonstrate how much more he knows than you. One might say that authors ought to be all-knowing, but Einstein and Feynman wrote books for public consumption that seemed much less "superior" in tone. the level of depth and complexity fluctuates but that is not a problem in my opinion.
The chapters are well defined and are nicely divided into sections. BTW, I could certainly see the value of taking chunks from this book as helpful supplementary readings for a class. Unfortunately the author chose the no-derivs version of cc, so snipping out useful bits is not allowed, much less the broader type of community editing that might transform this very personal opus into a practical textbook.
The material is presented in a logical and well organized sequence.
interface was fine; i prefer reading on paper so printed it out and this worked well.
Grammar was excellent and very clear.
People mentioned in the parts i read are all white european or american males, mostly dead. This is hard to avoid due to the time period when the physics concepts discussed were discovered (17th through mid-20th C). There is no explicitly offensive material, other than personal value judgements presented in the same context as biographical facts (eg, Feynmann as a failed aspirant to the accomplishment level of Pauli!)
The author has taken an approach that seems unique, emphasizing the startling aspects of QM in order to ensure the reader's attention. The first chapter is a list of statements most readers will find counterintuitive, which is clearly the author's goal. This approach makes for an interesting book, on the lines of Hofstadter's Godel/Escher/Bach, or for that matter the Feynman lectures (famously intended for freshmen but actually useful by seniors). However, it may give readers an exaggerated view of the "weirdness" of quantum theory.
Table of Contents
- 1 Minimum Action – Quantum Theory For Poets
- 2 Light – The Strange Consequences Of The Quantum Of Action
- 3 Motion Of Matter – Beyond Classical Physics
- 4 The Quantum Description Of Matter And Its Motion
- 5 Permutation Of Particles – Are Particles Like Gloves?
- 6 Rotations And Statistics – Visualizing Spin
- 7 Superpositions And Probabilities – Quantum Theory Without Ideology
- 8 Colours And Other Interactions Between Light And Matter
- 9 Quantum Physics In A Nutshell
About the Book
This book is written for anybody who is curious about nature and motion. Have you ever asked: Why do people, animals, things, images and space move? The answer leads to many adventures; this volume presents those due to the discovery that there is a smallest change value in nature. This smallest change value, the quantum of action, leads to what is called quantum physics. In the structure of modern physics, quantum physics covers three points; this volume covers the introduction to the point in the lower right: the foundations of quantum theory.
The present introduction to quantum physics arose from a threefold aim I have pursued since 1990: to present the basics of motion in a way that is simple, up to date and captivating.
In order to be simple, the text focuses on concepts, while keeping mathematics to the necessary minimum. Understanding the concepts of physics is given precedence over using formulae in calculations. The whole text is within the reach of an undergraduate.
In order to be up to date, the text is enriched by the many gems – both theoretical and empirical – that are scattered throughout the scientific literature.
In order to be captivating, the text tries to startle the reader as much as possible. Read- ing a book on general physics should be like going to a magic show. We watch, we are astonished, we do not believe our eyes, we think, and finally we understand the trick. When we look at nature, we often have the same experience. Indeed, every page presents at least one surprise or provocation for the reader to think about. Numerous interesting challenges are proposed.
The motto of the text, die Menschen stärken, die Sachen klären, a famous statement by Hartmut von Hentig on pedagogy, translates as: ‘To fortify people, to clarify things.' Clarifying things – and adhering only to the truth – requires courage, as changing the habits of thought produces fear, often hidden by anger. But by overcoming our fears we grow in strength. And we experience intense and beautiful emotions. All great adventures in life allow this, and exploring motion is one of them. Enjoy it!
About the Contributors
Christoph Schiller, born in 1960, is European. Raised in Varese, he studied physics at the Universität Stuttgart and received his Ph.D. in physics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, in the department of Ilya Prigogine. Christoph Schiller is an innovation manager. He is convinced that exploring and applying physics can provide as much pleasure as anything else in life - and he explains why in the present text. He started the Motion Mountain Textbook project in Yokohama in 1990, wrote most of the text in Eindhoven and is finishing it during his business trips.