When the fuzzy indeterminacy of quantum mechanics overthrew the orderly world of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger were at the forefront of the revolution. Read more...
When the fuzzy indeterminacy of quantum mechanics overthrew the orderly world of Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger 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 Schrodinger 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 Schrodinger's Cat, physicist Paul Halpern tells the little-known story of how Einstein and Schrodinger 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 Schrodinger 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 Schrodinger couldn't help but get a great deal right.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Halpern (Edge of the Universe) attempts his own grand unification in this look at the lives, work, and friendship of two giants of physics. He details the romances, careers, and politics of contemporaries Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger from their earliest childhood brushes with science to their deaths, updating what is known of Einstein’s life thanks to a recently released trove of early letters. Both Einstein and Schrödinger staunchly believed that randomness had no place in a theory that described the universe and spent much of their later years futilely crafting explanations that failed to fully explain reality. Halpern, himself a physics professor, is challenged by the task of summarizing and explaining the work of his two principal subjects, as well as that of every other serious physicist of the 20th century. Quantum physics, even in précis form, is a level beyond rocket science, and the author does his best, even giving a taste of current progress in the field. Like this pair of geniuses, Halpern has his own difficulties with quantum theory, but as he notes of Einstein and Schrödinger, “even the most brilliant scientists are human.” Agent: Giles Anderson, Anderson Literary Agency. (Apr.)