Review: Unfinished Revolution: The search for what lies beyond the quantum by Lee Smolin

What do you know of the quantum world?

Whatever it is, Lee Smolin’s advice is to forget it all as everything you think you know is wrong – or at least, incomplete.

In his new book Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution: The search for what lies beyond the quantum, Smolin tackles the mind-boggling world of quantum theory in an attempt to introduce it to the layperson.

An important step towards understanding the quantum world is first in examining our current theories.

Step-by-step, Smolin takes the reader from the Copenhagen to the Objective Collapse Theory to the Many Worlds Interpretation, labelling them as anti-realist and realist views.

After gaining a good grip on the old, he begins with the new and what is currently being explored to advance our understanding of quantum physics.

Smolin explores the different routes and ideas in three sections: An Orthodoxy of the Unreal to understand the origins of this relatively young branch of physics, through Realism Reborn, and Beyond the Quantum.

Outlining his objectives to introduce the reader to the quantum world and to convince them of a, what Smolin has termed, ‘realist’ view, the overall structure is an accessible path for any scientific reader.

An almost anecdotal start gives the impression of a Feynman-like style of questioning, investigating, and answering; asking ‘what is a rock?’ is reminiscent of Richard Feynman once asking if a brick is an essential object.

By introducing the basic beginnings of quanta in the early 1900s, Smolin brings in a brief history of the big names in physics at the time- Einstein, Schrodinger, Bohr- before defining the major terminologies.

Smolin has a tendency to completely define a term before stating the term itself which may leave some confused as to what he is referring to for a paragraph but the explanation does allow a full grasp of the terminology.

However, the definition of entanglement could benefit from a fuller explanation as it, along with superposition, is one of the more important behaviours of the quantum world.

Also, some of the diagrams to aid the description do nothing to add to the story and some points lack a visual aid for the reader where they would be beneficial.

The second part brings the reader into the latter half of the 20th century with a particular focus on Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation of putting Schrodinger’s cat in a box.

Following on from the old guard, the final part of the tale gives an overarching glance of what is being explored today along the path of quantum theory.

Overall, scientific readers will find Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution an essential addition to their quantum physics bookshelves but anyone wanting to start learning may want to consider a slightly less advanced book first.

Recommends: Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman! by Richard Feynman, In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat by John Gribbin, The Quantum World New Scientist Instant Expert.

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