[ilds] quantum durrell

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Thu Jan 7 07:34:26 PST 2010

*Quantum Leaps, By Jeremy Bernstein
Reviewed by Peter Forbes
Thursday, 7 January 2010*

More guff has been spouted by non-scientists on quantum mechanics than 
any other subject excepting... relativity, of course. Jeremy Bernstein 
is a physicist who has lived quantum theory for more than 60 years and 
in Quantum Leaps he writes about both the solid core of the subject and 
the wilder fringes. Accompanying some rigorous philosophical workouts 
are clubby musings on the lives and thoughts of great men, mostly 
physicists and mathematicians, but also W H Auden, the theologian 
Reinhold Niebuhr, and the Dalai Lama.

The heart of the book concerns the work of the Irish physicist John Bell 
(1928-90), who is thought to have solved the problem that one particle 
can seem to "know" what has happened to another one thousands of miles 
away. But Bernstein's brief also takes in the broader ramifications of 
quantum mechanics as it has engaged with ideology (Marxist dialectical 
materialism, religion – mainly Buddhism – and New Age philosophy).

Bernstein is something of an accidental physicist, who at Harvard was 
enchanted by the quantum problem of double and single slits. He has 
followed his nose ever since, as a visiting professor at Princeton and a 
prolific science author. He explores the depiction of quantum physics in 
literature (both literally and metaphorically), including works by Tom 
Stoppard, *Lawrence Durrell,* Michel Houellebecq and, little known here, 
Rebecca Goldstein. He finds that writers such as Stoppard have been 
seduced by the paradoxes but have mostly missed the point, and he is 
especially scathing about New Agers Gary Zukav and Frtijof Capra. The 
Dalai Lama, whom Bernstein has met (he has met everybody), is treated 
more kindly.

Bernstein is an erudite polymath and, at 79, is not about to make 
concessions to the make-it-easy reader. His exposition of the quantum 
conundrums is clear and bracing, and a stimulating challenge. Quantum 
Leaps is an intellectual curiosity, redolent of the strange mental 
landscape inhabited by the world's greatest intellects.


Title Quantum Leaps
Author Jeremy Bernstein
Publisher Harvard University Press, 2009
ISBN 0674035410, 9780674035416
Length 230 pages
Subjects Quantum theory
Quantum theory - Miscellanea
Quantum theory/ Miscellanea
Science / Essays
Science / Mathematical Physics
Science / Nuclear Physics
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
Science / Physics
Science / Quantum Theory

Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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