Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Introducing Quantum Theory:
A Graphic Guide

J. P. McEvoy and Oscar Zarate

A Review

I was trained as a chemist - I even worked in the field for a short period of time.  I had one problem - I did not like physics.  I did not like high school physics (don’t tell Dr. Huber that); I did not like college physics (again, don’t tell Dr. Huber that - he was promoted after I left high school).  I did like chemistry; I did like math.  My career had me teaching computer science for 24+ years.  I still do not like physics.
If this book had crossed my path during those those formative years of my science career, maybe I would like physics (I won’t promise Dr. Huber that, but maybe).  The book is a non-mathematical  (read - “fun”) look at the field of quantum theory.  
The book is an historical walk through the history and development of quantum theory - its key people and ideas.  Filled with cartoonish (yet informative) illustrations, the book could easily hold the interest of a high school student or undergraduate, non-physics major.  If additional mathematically intense material available, the book might serve as a general introduction to quantum theory for the mathematics based physics course as well.
The pictures (at least in the e-copy) of the book I was provided were a bit small, leaving it a bit difficult to read and see detail on an e-reader.  My experience was a bit better on a app running on my laptop, but still not ideal.  The paper book’s illustrations are readable and clear.  Sadly, those pictures convey some of the vital ideas presented in the book. Thus, missing or skipping an illustration, because it is too small, may mean missing an important transition or concept in the author’s argument.  It would have been helpful to have electronic copies of the images that could be enlarged to an appropriate size for gleaning the information contained.
Save for the cartoons, the story is interesting and readable by the general reader.  Of course the mathematics would eventually needed to be filled in from some other source, if that would be the reader’s choice.  The history is compelling as one moves from classical physics (and its basic assumptions) to the deeper and more complex ideas inherent to quantum theory.  I enjoyed studying material I had seen earlier - though I still do not like physics.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

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