What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker, Basic Books, New York, 2018
From wandering around the cosmos [see my earlier adventure with Bentov], I somehow ended up trying to understand what quantum physics was talking about. Not quite as much of a disconnect as you might imagine seeing that particle physicists began expanding their interests into cosmology in the 1970s in search of new grand unified theories, something that had long been their holy grail.
First googling the term “quantum”, [Wikipedia: In physics, a quantum is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction.], I was fortunate in putting my hands on the recently published work of Adam Becker. Anyone interested in, or even slightly curious about, the fundamental nature of the physical world we inhabit will likely benefit from and enjoy the storytelling style of Becker, as I did, following the tale of how this world’s most currently eminent scientists have bickered about what is really real for almost a century now. From the debates between Danish physicist Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein to Schrodinger’s cat to Hugh Everett’s suggestion that all is explained by the theory of parallel universes, we are introduced to a science of physics that challenges the imagination.
In the midst of this, while the reader is given a sampling of the studies being engaged in, Becker demonstrates how the socio-political environment within which the work is being attempted has influenced the structure of the research being done. Science, after all, works within the world in which we all live and only occasionally breaks free to expand our thinking. This is a telling that goes beyond equations into a very human history of how we stumble sometimes towards new learning and the forces that may help or hinder us.
I recommend this as an entertaining and educational trip to the least possible speck of what is considered (by some) to be real to find out that it won’t stand still long enough for us to understand it, measure it, or agree about what it is. Somehow, I find it reassuring that the mystery is still there.