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Books By John Gribbin
Rules of the quantum world seem to say that a cat can be both alive and dead at the same time and a particle can be in two places at once. And that particle is also a wave; everything in the quantum world can described in terms of waves—or entirely in terms of particles. These interpretations were all established by the end of the 1920s, by Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac, and others. But no one has yet come up with a common sense explanation of what is going on. In this concise and engaging book, astrophysicist John Gribbin offers an overview of six of the leading interpretations of quantum mechanics.
Gribbin calls his account “agnostic,” explaining that none of these interpretations is any better—or any worse—than any of the others. Gribbin presents the Copenhagen Interpretation, promoted by Niels Bohr and named by Heisenberg; the Pilot-Wave Interpretation, developed by Louis de Broglie; the Many Worlds Interpretation (termed “excess baggage” by Gribbin); the Decoherence Interpretation (“incoherent”); the Ensemble “Non-Interpretation”; and the Timeless Transactional Interpretation (which theorized waves going both forward and backward in time). All of these interpretations are crazy, Gribbin warns, and some are more crazy than others—but in the quantum world, being more crazy does not necessarily mean more wrong.
The twentieth century gave us two great theories of physics. The general theory of relativity describes the behavior of very large things, and quantum theory the behavior of very small things. In this landmark book, John Gribbin—one of the best-known science writers of the past thirty years—presents his own version of the Holy Grail of physics, the search that has been going on for decades to find a unified “Theory of Everything” that combines these ideas into one mathematical package, a single equation that could be printed on a T-shirt, containing the answer to life, the Universe, and everything. With his inimitable mixture of science, history, and biography, Gribbin shows how—despite skepticism among many physicists—these two great theories are very compatible, and point to a deep truth about the nature of our existence. The answer lies, intriguingly, with the age of the universe: 13.8 billion years.
“Gribbin is a confident, engaging guide . . . a lovingly rendered history.”—The Wall Street Journal
“An exciting chronicle of a monumental scientific accomplishment by a scientist who participated in the measuring of the age of the universe.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A book that hits readers with unrelenting detail. And with a story as grand as this one, that’s exactly the way a good science book should have it. Nothing will be lost here, and everything—a clear understanding—will be gained.”—Astronomy
“A welcome and relatively quick read for cosmology buffs, students, and amateur astronomers.”—Booklist
How frequently do Ice Ages occur? How do astronomical rhythms affect the Earth's climate? Have there always been two polar ice caps? What does the future have in store?
With startling new material on how the last major Ice Epoch could have hastened human evolution, Ice Age explains why and how we learned the Earth was once covered in ice—and how that made us human.
"Best work of science exposition and history that I've read in many years!"
—Charles Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corporation
In this ambitious new book, John Gribbin tells the stories of the people who have made science, and of the times in which they lived and worked. He begins with Copernicus, during the Renaissance, when science replaced mysticism as a means of explaining the workings of the world, and he continues through the centuries, creating an unbroken genealogy of not only the greatest but also the more obscure names of Western science, a dot-to-dot line linking amateur to genius, and accidental discovery to brilliant deduction.
By focusing on the scientists themselves, Gribbin has written an anecdotal narrative enlivened with stories of personal drama, success and failure. A bestselling science writer with an international reputation, Gribbin is among the few authors who could even attempt a work of this magnitude. Praised as “a sequence of witty, information-packed tales” and “a terriﬁc read” by The Times upon its recent British publication, The Scientists breathes new life into such venerable icons as Galileo, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Linus Pauling, as well as lesser lights whose stories have been undeservedly neglected. Filled with pioneers, visionaries, eccentrics and madmen, this is the history of science as it has never been told before.
Drawing on the latest ideas from both relativity and quantum theory, award-winning science writer John Gribbin (In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat) addresses the questions that have baffled philosophers since antiquity and Zeno’s arrow paradox. Along the way, we find that in the quantum world it is literally true that a watched pot never boils, and learn how physicists have come to terms with the idea of the four-dimensional block universe as an explanation of the distinction between past, present and future.
Why do eggs break when we drop them, but never unbreak? The Universe as we know it began in a Big Bang, which in some sense marks the beginning of time. Is it possible that we need to invoke the Big Bang to explain why we never see unbroken eggs? This idea glories in the name “the past hypothesis”, but many physicists regard it as no more than an attempt to sweep the problem of the arrow of time under the rug. Read The Time Illusion and see if you agree!
Here in one volume, the award-winning science writer and physicist John Gribbin has provided everything you need to know about the quantum world —the place where most of the greatest scientific advances of the last hundred years have been made.
This exceptional A to Z reference begins with a thorough introduction setting out the current state of knowledge in particle physics. Throughout, Gribbin includes articles on the structure of particles and their interactions, accounts of the theoretical breakthroughs in quantum mechanics and their practical applications, and entertaining biographies of the scientists who have blazed the trail of discovery. In a special section, "Timelines," key dates in our quest to understand the quantum world are mapped out alongside landmarks in world history and the history of science.
An encyclopedia of the fundamental science of the future, Q is for Quantum is an essential companion for anyone interested in particle physics.
"Astronomer Gribbin presents an overview of a hundred years of particle physics through a handy, accessible A-Z dictionary of definitions and identifications."
Erwin Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist famous for his contribution to quantum physics. He won the Nobel Prize in 1933 and is best known for his thought experiment of a cat in a box, both alive and dead at the same time, which revealed the seemingly paradoxical nature of quantum mechanics.
Schrödinger was working at one of the most fertile and creative moments in the whole history of science. By the time he started university in 1906, Einstein had already published his revolutionary papers on relativity. Now the baton of scientific progress was being passed to a new generation: Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac, Niels Bohr, and of course, Schrödinger himself.
In this riveting biography John Gribbin takes us into the heart of the quantum revolution. He tells the story of Schrödinger's surprisingly colourful life (he arrived for a position at Oxford University with both his wife and mistress). And with his trademark accessible style and popular touch, he explains the fascinating world of quantum mechanics, which underpins all of modern science.
Drawing on the latest measurements of the ‘ripples in time’ that mark the birth of the Universe, John Gribbin goes beyond the Big Bang to address the questions of how and why the Universe came into being, and what its future evolution holds in store. His controversial contention is that the Universe itself can be regarded as a living entity which, rather than being unique, has evolved through Darwinian selection among a multitude of rival universes, competing for existence in spacetime.
This vision of the Universe as a product of evolution by natural selection echoes and extends the idea that all the living things on Earth may form an interlocking web which can be regarded as a single living organism, Gaia. On scales intermediate between that of a single planet and that of the entire Universe, whole galaxies of stars, like our Milky Way system, also show properties usually associated with living systems, and evidence of evolution. Along the way we learn why the laws of physics should be as they are, and whether human beings have a special place in the living Universe.
In the Beginning is Dr Gribbin’s tour de force – science writing at its best.
Praise for John Gribbin:
‘One of the finest and most prolific writers of popular science around’ – The Spectator
John Gribbin is an award-winning science writer best known for his book In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. He studied astrophysics under Fred Hoyle in Cambridge, before working as a science journalist for Nature and later the New Scientist, and is now a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.
The search began with Darwin's historic voyage on the Beagle and it continues today in the laboratories of the genetic engineers. How did life on earth begin? What is the key to evolution that insures only the fittest survive? How do we differ from other species? And how might tomorrow's scientists read—and alter—the biological blueprint to eliminate disease, birth defects, and even create new life forms?
Acclaimed science writer John Gribbin draws on his expertise in quantum physics to tell the story of one of the greatest and most dramatic of scientific discoveries. His search for the elusive double helix takes us through the twists and turns of disappointment and discovery on a fascinating quest to the source of life itself. In clear, straightforward language, he presents the lives and thoughts of the men and women whose pioneering work in physics, biology, genetics, and chemistry combined to provide a basic understanding of how life evolved—and continues to evolve—on earth. He follows the trail of discovery from X-rays, mutations, quantum mechanics, the molecular clock, and sexual reproduction—all the way to the innermost workings of the human cell. And he shows how modern science first learned to "crack" the genetic code of life and the profound consequences this new knowledge will have on our future.
The quantum computer is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Pioneering physicists are on the brink of unlocking a new quantum universe which provides a better representation of reality than our everyday experiences and common sense ever could. The birth of quantum computers – which, like Schrödinger’s famous ‘dead and alive’ cat, rely on entities like electrons, photons or atoms existing in two states at the same time – is set to turn the computing world on its head.
In his fascinating study of this cutting-edge technology, John Gribbin updates his previous views on the nature of quantum reality, arguing for a universe of many parallel worlds where ‘everything is real’. Looking back to Alan Turing’s work on the Enigma machine and the first electronic computer, Gribbin explains how quantum theory developed to make quantum computers work in practice as well as in principle. He takes us beyond the arena of theoretical physics to explore their practical applications – from machines which learn through ‘intuition’ and trial and error to unhackable laptops and smartphones. And he investigates the potential for this extraordinary science to create a world where communication occurs faster than light and teleportation is possible.
The Dragon, an enormous comet, is on a trajectory that will bring it perilously close to an Earth that is still suffering from the scars of a nuclear incident, and from the problems of the Greenhouse Effect. For the optimists - those that remain - it is a sign of change for the better; for others, the comet foreshadows humanity's final doom.
But to Francis Reese and the hard-pressed astronauts of the depleted space programme, the Dragon presents a third outrageous, yet irresistible possibility - the transformation of a barren world into a new home for the beleaguered peoples of Earth.