Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics

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9780465075713: Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Quantum Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics

"A fascinating and thought-provoking story, one that sheds light on the origins of... the current challenging situation in physics."--Wall Street Journal
When the fuzzy indeterminacy of quantum mechanics overthrew the orderly world of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger were at the forefront of the revolution. Neither man was ever satisfied with the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics, however, and both rebelled against what they considered the most preposterous aspect of quantum mechanics: its randomness. Einstein famously quipped that God does not play dice with the universe, and Schrödinger constructed his famous fable of a cat that was neither alive nor dead not to explain quantum mechanics but to highlight the apparent absurdity of a theory gone wrong. But these two giants did more than just criticize: they fought back, seeking a Theory of Everything that would make the universe seem sensible again.

In Einstein's Dice and Schrödinger's Cat, physicist Paul Halpern tells the little-known story of how Einstein and Schrödinger searched, first as collaborators and then as competitors, for a theory that transcended quantum weirdness. This story of their quest-which ultimately failed-provides readers with new insights into the history of physics and the lives and work of two scientists whose obsessions drove its progress.

Today, much of modern physics remains focused on the search for a Theory of Everything. As Halpern explains, the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson makes the Standard Model-the closest thing we have to a unified theory- nearly complete. And while Einstein and Schrödinger failed in their attempt to explain everything in the cosmos through pure geometry, the development of string theory has, in its own quantum way, brought this idea back into vogue. As in so many things, even when they were wrong, Einstein and Schrödinger couldn't help but get a great deal right.

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About the Author:

Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of thirteen popular science books, most recently Edge of the Universe. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including "Future Quest," "Radio Times," several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special. He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and is also a regular contributor to NOVA's "The Nature of Reality" physics blog. He lives in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Review:

"A fascinating and thought-provoking story, one that sheds light on the origins of some aspects of the current challenging situation in physics...Mr. Halpern's engaging account is a great human story and should be of interest as well to anyone fascinated by the still-unsolved questions that they pursued together."-Wall Street Journal
"[A] fascinating book... Halpern, a professor of physics, takes the time to explain the intricacies and significance of the two men's work in wonderfully clear ways. He employs helpful analogies and metaphors to lower the reader gently into a strange new world...[written with] entertaining and evocative prose...[an] insightful book."-New Scientist
"Physicist Paul Halpern tells the entangled tale of Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger and their search for a Grand Unified Theory with humour and concision."-Nature

"This book can be put on the reading list of those who have enjoyed The Theory of Everything and want to know more."-Physics World
"Entralling."-Mathematics Teacher

"Halpern's book has an enormous richness of detail about both men's lives and work."-The Observatory
"That's a lot to cover in a single book, and the author masters this challenge most thoroughly. While the science is covered in detail, the tone and narrative are accessible to readers with all levels of mathematical and physics proficiency. The author has served science writing well by casting light on the relationship between these two pioneers of quantum physics....Indeed, there are lessons about the often-messy process of science in this book for students, scientists, and citizens alike."-MAA Reviews

"Assuming no science background from his audience, Halpern explains the necessary background physics to follow the evolution of the ideas. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels."-Choice
"A highly approachable book that will appeal to readers...who are interested in physics, the history of science, and the human and political aspects of scientists and their work."-Library Journal "With verve, Halpern explores the fragile nature of scientific collaboration... Halpern ably explores the clashing personalities and worldviews that had physics in churning ferment during the early part of the 20th century."-Kirkus Reviews

"We have seen books that celebrate Einstein and Schrodinger as two of the greatest scientists of all time. With clarity and diligence, Halpern does something different as he explores how intellectual curiosity and vanity get enmeshed with power struggles and the media to bring out the worst in good-willing people, especially when the stakes are as high as the creation of a God-like 'theory of everything.'" -Marcelo Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge
"As a fan of popular science books and someone who has used phrases such as 'God does not play dice' and 'Schrodinger's Cat' in my songs, I found Paul Halpern's book illuminating and entertaining." -Roland Orzabal, co-founding member of Tears for Fears
"Writing with verve and insight, Paul Halpern tells a striking cautionary tale about friendship, vanity, and the quest to make a great discovery. He gives an exceptionally lucid and engaging account of modern physics, embedded in a rich human tapestry centered on Einstein, Schrodinger, and their friends." -Peter Pesic, author of Music and the Making of Modern Science and Director of the Science Institute at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM

"This is history of science writing at its best-effortless prose, juicy details and a fascinating narrative that casts familiar territory in a whole new light. The friendship and betrayal between Einstein and Schrodinger is a little known story, and Halpern brings it to life with a historian's care, a physicist's knowledge, and a writer's charm. The book provides a poignant look at how philosophy drives scientific progress and an important critique of how the media shapes and distorts it." -Amanda Gefter, author of Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn
"Einstein's Dice and Schrodinger's Cat is a fascinating, well-written account of how these two men struggled with one of the most puzzling features of quantum mechanics, the appearance of randomness in nature. Both general and specialist readers will find it of interest." -David C. Cassidy, Professor of Chemistry at Hofstra University and author of Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb "With his trademark grace and clarity, Paul Halpern shines new light on the personalities, lives, and achievements of two of the twentieth century's greatest theoretical physics, at the same time illuminating the fascinating interactions between the two. Halpern has a rare talent for bringing both the physics and the human stories to life." -Kenneth W. Ford, former Director of the American Institute of Physics and author of 101 Quantum Questions and Building the H Bomb: A Personal History

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