Where Does the Weirdness Go? is a fascinating, informative and highly readable explanation of one of the most dramatic and far-reaching revolutions in modern science.
This is a great account of that most weird of all subjects: quantum mechanics. Lindley eschews the increasingly popular approach of arranging his material historically and biographically. Rather, he orders his material in a way more appropriate to explaining the subject matter, focussing on describing the essential physics in a logical manner, and leaving the people involved where they belong: on the periphery. This focus in no way makes the book dry or inaccessible. Lindley has a light touch, describing his material clearly and amusingly. His prose style is delightfully transparent throughout. However, there is one place where he uses a deliberately obscure style to make his point; I laughed out loud when I got to the end of
The majority of the book is taken up with a careful description of quantum measurements, and what the implications are. Entanglement emerges “for free” from this treatment – it’s just the way the quantum universe is. Then towards the end we get an equally careful description of decoherence: why the macroscopic world doesn’t exhibit quantum weirdness (except in very carefully arranged circumstances), and why Schrodinger’s cat isn’t a problem.
Lindley clearly describes the science and the philosophy: what it does, and what it means. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the implications of living in a quantum world.
In the early seventeenth century, Galileo broke free from the hold of ancient Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. When he asserted that we should base our understanding of reality on what we can observe rather than on pure thought, he drastically changed the way we view the natural world. In the process, he invented what came to be called science. This set the stage for Kepler, Newton, and Einstein. But in the early twentieth century, science began to change course. As quantum physics opened up realms increasingly far removed from what could be observed directly, theorists were forced to trust in the elegance and aesthetics of mathematics to develop their conception of physical reality. For many physicists, the power of math began to supersede the scientific insights upon which their predecessors relied. But this process rendered their theories more and more resistant to experimental and observational scrutiny. As a result, much of theoretical physics today is once again more akin to the philosophy of Plato than to the centuries-long model of science from which it springs. In The Dream Universe, Lindley asks whether science that has become completely untethered from measurable phenomena is really science at all.