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Book Reviews - Review 122

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Amir D Aczel


Category: Science | Published: 2002 | Review Added: 30-10-2005

Rating: 1 - Impressively bad

Supposedly a layman's guide to the phenomenon of entanglement in quantum physics. This is when a quantum event produces two or more particles that seem to be able to "communicate" properties to one another instantaneously, defying Einstein's claim that information cannot be transmitted faster than light.

Most of the book comprises a history of the development of quantum theory, from Max Planck's discovery in 1900 that matter and energy exist in tiny packets or quanta, to John Bell's proof in 1964 that particles really can influence each other across theoretically infinite distances in ways that defy the classical rules of causality.

Unfortunately, Amir Aczel fails to strike an effective balance between the anecdotal and the technical, one minute speculating on scientists' private lives, the next proffering involved equations and (invariably unlabelled) diagrams with minimal explanation. He seems to have given little thought to his intended audience, instead just churning out information from his notes and his brain until he had enough material for a book. The history of quantum theory is elucidated much more thoroughly and clearly by Heinz Pagels in The Cosmic Code.

Aczel at least has the advantage of writing more recently than Pagels, and therefore of being able to describe the experimental proofs and theoretical elaborations of John Bell's theorem from the 1980s and 1990s. Here again, however, his writing is lazily elliptical, failing to introduce concepts properly before reproducing (in undigested form?) the technical detail given him by his physicist sources. (Aczel himself is a mathematician.)

Frankly, I got little out of this book, and would have got nothing out of it if I hadn't read better expositions of quantum theory beforehand.

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