The Quantum Moment

In February we will discuss a book selected by me:
The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber

The book includes some technical stuff about quantum physics, but is mostly about how ideas derived from quantum physics have permeated our culture, showing up in novels, poetry, visual arts and film. You might be surprised to find references to several of the books we have read previously here in our book club, ones that you probably did not think would be relevant to this topic.


About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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12 Responses to The Quantum Moment

  1. Richard Smaby says:

    I am reading a book that is related to your selection for February: Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn by Amanda Gefter. It’s a fun read, a story about an aspiring science journalist, who insinuates her way into interviews with quantum physicists and cosmologists. In the process she explains how they attempt to unify the quantum world and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Thank you for bringing this delightful book to our attention. I just finished reading it. The Quantum Moment emphasizes the dramatic revolutionary ideas generated by the founders of quantum physics in the early 20th Century, and the influences of those ideas on our current society.

      Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn is written at a somewhat higher technical level of sophistication, but for our members who are up to the challenge, it provides a nice opportunity for supplemental reading that brings the reader up to date about the current scientific understanding of many quantum physics concepts.


  2. David Gilmour says:

    Over the years I have read several books that deal with the dawning of uncertainty, some from the ancient world such as Lucretius’s On the Nature of the Universe, how all things in their juggled mass of composition came about because of one wayward atom that swerved in the normal parallel rain of things. Just a very teeny swerve in the normal run of things.

    I plucked John Horgan’s The End of Science out and have found much of interest in its chapters about the uncertain world of scientific theory, and how dogmatic the certain-minded ones become, like Dawkins. Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher, has long argued for being reasonable rather than certain, since certainty is a myth. One of his works that was really revealing was Cosmopolis. The Agenda of Modernism was its subtitle, I think. Which comes down to modernism in literature, and I suppose post-modernism, the problem of living in an uncertain world, making the best of crises that have imperfect solutions. Like climate control or change, there’s always a few wayward particles that can’t be managed or contained, and once they swerve off on their own, there’s no getting back to “normal.” Even paradise was uncertain in the beginning and ours is so today. –David

  3. Linda Quinet says:

    Einstein as a child at right in the picture, along with Newton’s apple and Dali’s clock

    • Burk Ketchem says:

      Hi Linda:

      Yesterday I got to page 153 out of 287 of The Quantum Moment and still could not give you a definition of quantum theory. I hope they pull it all together before page 287. I sent your message to Ron Boothe who selected the book and he was able to post it as a comment here on our Tacoma Retired Men’s Book Club blogsite.

      I have had propinquity to Einstein and others who had talked with him. In 1943 the Navy put me in their then wartime college training program at Princeton. And it was there as a freshman that I took my first and only class in physics. My dorm would have been within a mile of The Institute for Advanced Studies where Albert was having quantum thoughts. My grandparents had a summer home on Little Peconic Bay on New York’s Long Island and I learned many years later from a cousin that so did Einstein where he loved to sail and on occasion would stop at my grandparents dock for a chat with my older cousins. Lastly, one of my rowing friends grew up in Princeton in a house around the corner from Einstein’s tiny house. He and his siblings used to stop by and ask Mr. Einstein for help on their math lessons!

      When I was in Berlin a few years ago after rowing in Poland I needed a contact should anything go wrong. Another of my rowing friends had a boyhood friend who was living in Berlin as the director of physics research at the Max Planck Institute. Planck was one of the pioneers of quantum physics.

      Finally, in 1993 a few years after my wife died, I went on a month long backpacking trip to New Zealand. One of my stops was the Richardson Hostel in Havelock on the north end of the South Island. It was in this small community of less than 500 where Ernest Richardson grew up. A teacher recognized this poor boy’s talents and arranged for him to go to Cambridge where he became a professor and later Sir Ernest Richardson, another pioneer in physics research

      That physics course 73 years ago is not much help nor did any of those quantum theories float over from my near misses with geniuses.

      Take care, Burk

  4. Ron Boothe says:

    Prior to my retirement I did research and taught courses on the topic of visual perception. An act of observation during which photons of light are absorbed in the eye is an essential step in the causal chain that leads to a visual percept. Thus, I had to think about and try to deal with some of the implications of Quantum Theory. I summarized some of these implications in a book I wrote shortly before my retirement:

    Ronald G Boothe Perception of the Visual Environment, 2002, Springer-Verlag, New York.

    Here is a link to a page from my book that addresses some of these issues:

  5. FRED ACOSTA says:

    My husband is very interested in joining this book club. So when and where are you meeting this month?

    • Ron Boothe says:

      Fred and Mengjiao,
      Unfortunately, we do not have any openings for new members in our group right now. We limit our group to 12 members because we meet in one of our homes and most of our living rooms do not easily accommodate more than a dozen people. If you live in the Tacoma area, and would be interested in joining our group if an opening comes up, send an email to me, Ron Boothe, and I will gladly put you on our waiting list.

  6. We’d like to know when and where this book club is going to meet this month, we would like to participate.

  7. Van Perdue says:

    Justifying (to a small degree) the hours I waste on Facebook, I’m sending this link for a pretty darned amusing video that seems to fit your recommended book pretty well.


  8. Richard Smaby says:

    The Missing Chapter in The Quantum Moment:

  9. Ron Boothe says:

    I have heard from several of our members that the technical discussion of scientific issues in The Quantum Moment is sometimes not very clear. I have to agree.

    Don’t know if it will help or not, but I sat down and wrote out a summary of what I consider to be the major disruptions to classical physics posed by Quantum Theory. I just posted it here on our blogsite.

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