Friday, June 2, 2023

Review of In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality by John Gribbin

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Science
Book Club Event = Book List (10/14/2023)
Intriguing Connections = What Makes Science A Science?

Watch Short Review


“For what quantum mechanics says is that nothing is real and that we cannot say anything about what things are doing when we are not looking at them.  Schrödinger's mythical cat was invoked to make the differences between the quantum world and the everyday world clear.  |  In the world of quantum mechanics, the laws of physics that are familiar from the everyday world no longer work.  Instead, events are governed by probabilities.” – John Gribbin, Prologue: Nothing Is Real, Page 14

“Every problem in quantum physics had to be first “solved” using classical physics, and then be reworked by the judicious insertion of quantum numbers more by inspired guesswork than cool reasoning.  The quantum theory was neither autonomous nor logically consistent, but existed as a parasite on classical physics, an exotic bloom without roots.” – John Gribbin, Chapter 5: Photons and Electrons, Page 93

“This is where quantum theory cuts free from the determinacy of classical ideas.  To Newton, it would be possible to predict the entire course of the future if we knew the position and momentum of every particle in the universe; to the modern physicist, the idea of such perfect prediction is meaningless because we cannot know the position and momentum of even one particle precisely.” – John Gribbin, Chapter 8: Chance and Uncertainty, Page 140


Is This An Overview?

Quantum mechanics are the foundational principles to physics and every science.  Previous laws of physics no longer work.  Quantum mechanics deals in uncertainty and is governed by probabilities.  The outcome is always contingent on being observed.  No claims can be made about anything until it has been observed.  The status of Schrödinger's cat in the box is uncertain, until observed.  Before being observed, the cat could be alive or dead.  Possible outcomes only become reality when they are observed.  For the classical physicist, the future could be determined given the position and momentum of every particle.  To quantum physicists, perfect prediction is meaningless for the position and momentum of even one particle cannot be known. 



This book was meant to engage a broader audience, and to provide practical uses for quantum mechanics rather than just science fiction.  The examples and explanations are difficult to understand unless the reader already has a background in physics.  The scientific jargon and experiments are given in quick succession.  This book is for physicists to get to know quantum mechanics.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is quantum mechanics?
•How does quantum physics think about uncertainty? 
•What is the reference to Schrödinger's cat?
•Is light a wave or a particle? 
•What did Albert Einstein think of quantum mechanics? 
•What are Newton’s laws of motion? 
•What are the quantum physics paradoxes?
•How was quantum physics developed? 
•How is quantum physics different than classical physics? 

Book Details
Publisher:             Bantam Books [Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing]
Edition ISBN:      9780307790446
Pages to read:       220
Publication:          2011
1st Edition:           1984
Format:                 eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          2
Overall          1