The quantum story: a history in 40 moments

The quantum story: a history in 40 moments

Jim Baggott

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press 2011 |320pp |?16.99 (HB)

ISBN 9780199566846

Reviewed by Paul Stevenson


Source: © Oxford Univeristy Press

The book features a continuous development of ideas leading right up to the present day

There is no shortage of books exploring the history and the downright weirdness of quantum mechanics so any new book on the subject needs to differentiate itself from other offerings. The quantum story  does this by combining an engaging narrative history of key events in the development of quantum mechanics with a continuous development of ideas leading right up to the present day. 

Each chapter is set in a particular place and time, starting from Berlin, Germany in 1900 up to Vienna, Austria in 2006, and is sufficiently self-contained that you can dip in and out of the book fruitfully. Some of the stories may be quite familiar, but they stand re-telling to make an enjoyable book that covers the old and new, pure and applied, as part of a single story. 

The book treats the ’standard model’ of particle physics as part of the story, and devotes several chapters to its development. Much modern physics really is dependent on quantum theory, but I’m not sure I’d have chosen to single out particle physics to such an extent more than, say, solid state physics, quantum chemistry or nuclear physics, but it’s a reasonable enough choice. 

I found some of the attempts to explain difficult concepts confusing sometimes, but this is perhaps an unavoidable hazard of quantum mechanics. Overall, Jim Baggot’s The quantum story  is an enjoyable addition to the overall quantum story. 

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