University of Chicago Press, 2020, 2020

Quantum Legacies: Dispatches from an Uncertain World

David Kaiser David Kaiser

“A masterpiece of historical analysis … Skillfully written and a pleasure to read.” — Nature

“Engrossing … Leave[s] us with a richer picture of physics as a lived activity.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“[A] witty and insightful overview of the development of modern physics. … An engrossing read that will give specialists and nonspecialists alike a deeper understanding of how phenomena as diverse as geopolitics and eastern mysticism have shaped physics in the past century.”—Science

“It is a breath of fresh air to see physics writing like this: lucid and friendly, sober and thoughtful, and willing to trust the reader’s engagement and intelligence rather than demanding the former and underestimating the latter.”—Physics World

The ideas at the root of quantum theory remain stubbornly, famously bizarre: a solid world reduced to puffs of probability; particles that tunnel through walls; cats suspended in zombielike states, neither alive nor dead; and twinned particles that share entangled fates. For more than a century, physicists have grappled with these conceptual uncertainties while enmeshed in the larger uncertainties of the social and political worlds around them, a time pocked by the rise of fascism, cataclysmic world wars, and a new nuclear age.

In Quantum Legacies, David Kaiser introduces readers to iconic episodes in physicists’ still-unfolding quest to understand space, time, and matter at their most fundamental. In a series of vibrant essays, Kaiser takes us inside moments of discovery and debate among the great minds of the era as they have tried to make sense of a messy world. In doing so, the book illuminates deep ties between scientific exploration and the human condition.