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Quantum profiles
Bernstein, Jeremy, 1929-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991.
Physical Description:
viii, 178 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QC174.12 .B464 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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For the prominent science writer Jeremy Bernstein, the profile is the most congenial way of communicating science. Here, in what he labels a "series of conversations carried on in the reader's behalf and my own," he evokes the tremendous intellectual excitement of the world of modern physics, especially the quantum revolution. Drawing on his well-known talent for explaining the most complex scientific ideas for the layperson, Bernstein gives us a lively sense of what the issues of quantum mechanics are and of various ways in which individual physicists approached them.

The author begins this series of interconnected profiles by describing the life and work of John Stewart Bell, the brilliant physicist employed at the gigantic elementary particle laboratory near Geneva (CERN), whose "Bell's Inequality" inspired a generation of researchers to confront, by experiment, just how peculiar and counterintuitional quantum mechanics really is. Bernstein then discusses the career of the prodigiously active and creative John Archibald Wheeler, who worked in the beginning stages of almost every branch of contemporary physics and invented the terms "black hole," "ergo-sphere," "geon," "Planck length," and "stellarator." The book closes with a moving commentary on the correspondence, of fifty-two years duration, between Einstein and the gentle, talented, but little-known Swiss engineer Michele Angelo Besso. "Of all the Einstein letters I have read these are surely the most striking, on a purely human level," writes Bernstein of the Einstein-Besso correspondence. "Einstein was not given to close friendships--`the merely personal,' as he once put it--but these letters are filled with `the merely personal,' even though the deep issues of physics and its philosophy are never very far away."

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Not another history of the development of quantum theory, Bernstein's book complements the other works of the subject, approaching quantum theory from a study of the work, personalities, and personal lives of a few key scientists. The book is written for the general reader as a series of conversations, working in personal and professional details about scientists like Niels Bohr; and the author's personal interviews with John Stewart Bell from CERN (Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire) and John Archibald Wheeler (inventor of the term "black hole") add a sense of immediacy that is missing from secondhand accounts. The book closes with a discussion of the written communications between Albert Einstein and his close friend and confidant, the Swiss engineer Michele Angelo Besso, in which Einstein discusses his ideas concerning quantum theory and reveals a personal side of this great scientist that is not often seen. Although some previous contact with quantum theory would be helpful, and the subject requires some effort on the part of the reader, the book is well written and the educated general reader with an interest in science should find it both interesting and informative. -P. R. Douville, Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Quantum Profilesp. 2
John Stewart Bell: Quantum Engineerp. 3
Epiloguep. 90
John Wheeler: Retarded Learnerp. 93
Epiloguep. 135
Bessop. 143
Select Bibliographyp. 167
Indexp. 169