What Is Real?:
The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
This event includes a book signing
November 15, 2018
Harvard Science Center
Hall C, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA
This event is free; no tickets are required.
The Harvard Division of Science, the Cabot Science Library, and Harvard Book Store welcome astrophysicist, writer, and public speaker ADAM BECKER for a discussion of his new book, What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics.
About What Is Real?
Every physicist agrees quantum mechanics is among humanity's finest scientific achievements. But ask what it means, and the result will be a brawl. For a century, most physicists have followed Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation and dismissed questions about the reality underlying quantum physics as meaningless. A mishmash of solipsism and poor reasoning, Copenhagen endured, as Bohr's students vigorously protected his legacy, and the physics community favored practical experiments over philosophical arguments. As a result, questioning the status quo long meant professional ruin. And yet, from the 1920s to today, physicists like John Bell, David Bohm, and Hugh Everett persisted in seeking the true meaning of quantum mechanics. What Is Real? is the gripping story of this battle of ideas and the courageous scientists who dared to stand up for truth.
"A thorough, illuminating exploration of the most consequential controversy raging in modern science . . . [Becker] leads us through an impressive account of the rise of competing interpretations, grounding them in the human stories, which are naturally messy and full of contingencies. He makes a convincing case that it's wrong to imagine the Copenhagen interpretation as a single official or even coherent statement." ―New York Times Book Review
"Spellbinding . . . This very book could prove to be a watershed moment for the physics community if it faces up to its own past and its present . . . If you have any interest in the implications of quantum theory, or in the suppression of scientific curiosity, What is Real? is required reading. There is no more reliable, careful, and readable account of the whole history of quantum theory in all its scandalous detail." ―Boston Review
"Impressive . . . [Becker's] strength is the excavation of stories that show how deeply quantum physics was in thrall to the personalities of its developers. The cast is colourful and expansive, and provides engaging drama . . . The subtext running through this hugely enjoyable book is that, if we still have a long way to go before we understand reality, we may only have our own prejudices to blame." ―New Scientist
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The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here.
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