A night at the bar can yield surprises to any college student. People can create new bonds, break old ones and in the morning wake up wondering exactly how it happened.
Apparently, these confused and random events are not too dissimilar from quantum physics, according to Louisa Gilder’s popular science book, “The Age of Entanglement.”
“The Age of Entanglement” explores the rich history of quantum physics, a cutting edge field that left some of the brightest scientific minds of the 20th century feeling befuddled and hung over.
For anyone who may not be a theoretical physicist, quantum physics studies the universe at the atomic and subatomic levels. The field gained attention thanks to the work of scientists such as Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein.
Gilder’s book focuses on a particular curiosity of the field called entanglement, or as Einstein described it, “spooky action at a distance.”
According to the theory, atoms or particles can form a lasting connection with another object that cannot be broken by distance or time.
“The Age of Entanglement” is a document of the battles fought over the perplexing oddity of Einstein’s “spooky action.”
The book is concerned with a daunting topic and at first glance might turn off casual readers, but Gilder overcomes the problem by turning the scientists who studied the phenomenon into rich, detailed characters.
Gilder uses the papers and opinions to create conversations that explain the complex ideas in the simplest terms possible. Readers are invited into the minds of great scientists to explore entanglement and quantum theory.
John Bell, a researcher from Northern Ireland, is Gilder’s protagonist on the journey through the quantum world.
Bell began his work on entanglement in the ’60s after the theory had been largely forgotten partly because of World War II and turmoil between physicists. His research picked up where Einstein and company left off, and it serves as Gilder’s anchor as she recreates scenes from all throughout the 20th century.
As a main character, Bell is extremely likable. Gilder portrays the Irishman as an observant, witty intellectual who is fascinated by his research and the work of his colleagues.
Gilder makes the point that Bell was a visionary, but he still seems completely relatable and this grounds the story of entanglement, even at its most confusing.
“The Age of Entanglement” is an educational and interesting look at a field most people probably don’t understand, but the complexity of quantum physics holds the book back. Despite Gilder’s excellent writing and characterization, the book still tackles topics that will require the attention and imagination of its readers.
Bell committed his life to understanding entanglement and still could not answer every question. Readers who can commit to the content will find an enriching experience that will definitely broaden horizons.
“The Age of Entanglement” is an excellent look into the men who shaped science in the past century. In looking at the past, Gilder provides insight into how quantum physics made a lasting impact and has gone on to influence science today.