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Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time--and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything Hardcover – Illustrated, November 3, 2015
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Long-listed for the PEN / E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
Short-listed for Physics World's 2016 Book of the Year
Ten Physics Books of 2015, Symmetry Magazine
The Science Books We Loved Most in 2015, Gizmodo
Best Astronomy and Astrophysics Books, Space.com
“An important book that provides insight into key new developments in our understanding of the nature of space, time and the universe. It will repay careful study.” ―John Gribbin, The Wall Street Journal
“Musser deftly traces the history of our quest to understand this curious phenomenon, covering an ambitious breadth of challenging topics from string theory to the multiverse to the unification of physics.” ―Science
“[An] enlightening (and highly entertaining) book, one that takes us beyond earlier popular treatments into the speculative thickets of contemporary physics.” ―Jim Holt, The New York Review of Books
“A good science writer has to show us the fallible men and women who made the theory, and then show us why, after the human foibles are boiled off, the theory remains reliable. No well-tested scientific concept is more astonishing than the one that gives its name to a new book by the Scientific American contributing editor George Musser, Spooky Action at Distance. The ostensible subject is the mechanics of quantum entanglement; the actual subject is the entanglement of its observers. Musser presents the hard-to-grasp physics of 'non-locality,' and his question isn't so much how this weird thing can be true as why, given that this weird thing has been known about for so long, so many scientists were so reluctant to confront it.” ―Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“A highly enjoyable tour-de-force . . . Amid the superb writing here is a lot of information that will bring you up to date on everything you should know about this compelling mystery . . . this book will be one of the reading highlights of your year.” ―David Eicher, Astronomy magazine
“Ambitious . . . the author has done a monumental job of translating recondite theory into laymen's terms.” ―Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History
“In this polished study of the concept that Albert Einstein dubbed 'spooky action at a distance', science writer George Musser tours the entangled research, history and philosophical speculation surrounding it . . .
proving that this is one of the most engrossing disputes in science.” ―Nature
“Musser explores the history of humans grappling with nonlocality and what these strange effects are teaching quantum mechanics researchers, astronomers, cosmologists and more about how the universe works―and while doing so, showing the messy, nonlinear and fascinating way researchers push forward to understand the physical world.” ―Sarah Lewin, Space.com
“The journalistic style of this book is smooth and pleasing, rich with personal interviews that touch on the inner workings of researchers, and vignettes from contributors’ lives to add colour. Musser is a witty writer . . . As an experimental physicist, I certainly learned a lot, and am armed with new visual metaphors and fresh insight into an often perplexing field.” ―James Millen, Physics World
“I join many others in regarding Musser as one of the best science writers covering cutting-edge physics research . . . His book contains fascinating, mind-expanding ideas, and I’ve been thinking about them for days on end.” ―Ben P. Stein, Inside Science
“An endlessly surprising foray into the current mother of physics' many knotty mysteries, the solving of which may unveil the weirdness of quantum particles, black holes, and the essential unity of nature.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Accessible and imaginative . . . Clarity and humor illuminate Musser’s writing, and he adroitly captures the excitement and frustration involved in investigating the mysteries of our universe.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Can two subatomic particles on opposite sides of the universe truly be instantaneously connected? Or is any theory that predicts such a connection necessarily flawed or incomplete? Are the results of experiments that demonstrate such a connection being misinterpreted? Such questions challenge our most basic concepts of spatial distance and time. In Spooky Action At A Distance, George Musser beautifully navigates through the history, science, and philosophy of these mind-boggling conundrums, and expounds cutting edge thinking.” ―Mario Livio, astrophysicist and bestselling author of Brilliant Blunders and The Golden Ratio
“George Musser gives us a fascinating tour of the latest attempts on the frontiers of physics to answer one of the oldest questions in science: What is space? And the wonderful lesson is that the deeper we look into the question, the more captivating it becomes.” ―Lee Smolin, founding faculty member at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and author of The Trouble with Physics
“With clever metaphors and dry humor, acclaimed science communicator George Musser is the perfect tour guide on this wild ride through wormholes and emergent dimensions to the cutting edge of physics. This quest to understand the ultimate nature of space may forever transform how you think about the very fabric of reality.” ―Max Tegmark, physicist and author of Our Mathematical Universe
“Modern physics is in the process of dismantling the very space all around us, and the universe will never be the same. In this engaging book, George Musser leads us through the thickets of science and philosophy and takes us to the brink of a very different view of the world.” ―Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
“Locality has been a fruitful and reliable principle, guiding us to the triumphs of twentieth-century physics. Yet the consequences of local laws in quantum theory can seem 'spooky' and nonlocal-and some theorists are questioning locality itself. Spooky Action at a Distance is a lively introduction to these fascinating paradoxes and speculations.” ―Frank Wilczek, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and author of The Lightness of Being and A Beautiful Question
About the Author
- ASIN : 0374298513
- Publisher : Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Illustrated edition (November 3, 2015)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780374298517
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374298517
- Item Weight : 1.12 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.13 x 9.27 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #605,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Don't get me wrong. If this is your first introduction to this field, I highly recommend it. And even if not, it does give a good description of the scientific process in general.
One more thing. The page count is highly padded by the end notes, bibliography, etc. Consequently, it's a much quicker read than one might think at first blush.
The author delves into the history of thought and philosophy concerning the idea of nonlocality. From Parmenides and Democritus of the fifth century B.C.E. and their conception of nature, through Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Newton, Hans Christian Orsted, Michael Faraday, and up to Einstein and other scientists of the twentieth century, we are given the history of thought on the subject. He then spends a bit of time reflecting on the work of many scientists in quantum mechanics and their discoveries and reactions to these strange phenomena.
On negative side, this is the second book I’ve read by Musser, and I find the same style of explanation, which, to me anyway, is somewhat confusing. I just have some difficulty in really getting any clear substance from the material. I think there is too much meandering through all the ideas relating to the concept of nonlocality, and in an attempt to use analogies to make thinks more clear, I actually get more confused.
Some theorist claim spacetime is an illusion. Since particles one and two behave as one, there is no space-time for a signal to travel making time unnecessary in the first place. The two particles are somehow one in the same yet appear to us as being light years away from each other. This is one of the more enticing ideas mentioned in the book. Other explanations for non-locality include Bohm's guiding field, super determinism. reverse causation, and parallel universes; each has its advantages and disadvantages in explaining spooky action at a distance.
Experiments with non-locality puts physics in a twilight zone; things can outpace light, cause and effect are reversed, distance does not exist, two objects are actually one, and there is no such thing as a specific place. One of the latest ideas in physics is that the universe is not made of either particles, space, time or fields; where do you go with that?
The author presents a picture of reality that is about as weird as it can get and boarders on metaphysics or even mysticism, yet based on physics. Non-locality is found in a number of other phenomenon aside from particles and these are discussed in the book as well. There is a lot more about non-locality in this material than in most over-the-counter quantum mechanics books. This book is a good read and highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
He starts with the classic experiment: produce two photons in correlated polarisation states. Set them going in opposite directions. If the polarisation of one photon is measured, its value instantly determines the polarisation state of the other, no matter how far away it has flown. This is quantum non-locality and it tells us that something is wrong with our understanding of spacetime as a smooth continuum with light cones determining cause and effect.
Physicists tend to hate this kind of observation. Given that quantum theory itself defies any straightforward interpretation as a theory of ‘reality’ it seems that non-locality is just one more piece of ontological weirdness. Better to shut up and calculate: we know the theory work incredibly well and we know how to interpret the answers (as probabilities).
The sense that ‘reality’ is real and should make sense in its own terms is a powerful intuition. It has frequently been use to highlight conceptual weaknesses in otherwise successful theories. Musser recounts just how much trouble Newton’s contemporaries (and Newton himself) had with the apparently infinite speed of gravity in his theory – this is also a kind of non-locality. It was nineteenth century field theories (Faraday, Maxwell), followed by General Relativity, which (briefly) restored locality to physics.
Quantum non-locality is something else. Musser writes (p. 125), “Instead of thinking of quantum non-locality as an effect which operates within space, I think we need to take it as a sign that space itself is a doomed concept.” What would a theory of emergent spacetime look like? There are a number of ideas; naturally none are fully worked out.
Fay Dowker talks about causal sets - space is built out of discrete units, ordered in a complex network whose structure creates space. Fotini Markopoulou has a similar networked theory of ‘atomic grains of space’ in an approach punningly-termed quantum graphity; the link density is determined by the available energy, from which emerges space as we know it. String theory has a model of emergent-space based on matrix models: the matrices catalogue the web of interactions between D0-branes, dimension zero building blocks of space. Leonard Susskind is associated with this line of research.
Musser explains these various theories in some detail, as best he can, describing their applications to black hole modelling and the early universe. AdS/CFT makes its obligatory appearance with yet another brave attempt to explain the holographic principle. But these diverse approaches deal mainly in space, treating time asymmetrically.
The book finishes with the Amplituhedron. Built on the foundations of S-matrix theory and twisters with a dash of string theory, the amplituhedron is a geometric structure used for calculating transition probabilities for particle interactions. Each particle contributes a polyhedron vertex with its momentum setting the size of the corresponding polyhedral face. The interior volume gives the resulting amplitude.
‘“There are no fields, no particles, no interactions,” Trnka says. The locality we observe in daily life is a consequence of the way the faces fit together – specifically that they form a closed shape, as opposed to disconnected planes.’
I don’t think the reader is expected to fully grasp this.
The idea that the 13.8 billion light year observable universe is an emergent artefact of an underlying non-spatial non-temporal quantum reality is surely the most mind-blowing concept of modern physics. Yet there are excellent reasons for taking it seriously. George Musser has written a clear, accessible and intelligent review of how this might be possible – it’s as near as most of us are ever going to get to understanding it – and he is to be congratulated.
The truth is quantum mechanics is insane, and very difficult to see clearly how the world works at the smallest levels, we get a good concise history of entanglement and the experiments that show us it is true and it works, and yet it does not get along with classical physics, as in relativity for instance.
Enjoyed immensely and have a much better understanding of this incredible phenomenon that has had scientists at loggerheads for many years and still does.
Quantum entanglement is true, relativity is true and we still don't know what is really true and how to bring them together but looking forward to see any breakthroughs in the future.
Reading this book was a humbling experience because it brings home, all too clearly, just how poorly we understand the Universe in which we live. We once again have a scientific community trying to get to grips with theories, albeit very successful (as Newton's Gravity was), but incomplete.
We need a new Newton/Einstein to do for Einstein's spacetime what Einstein did for Newton's gravity. This book lays the groundwork on where we are at the moment.
Non locality is still a big problem today because it seems to be something that goes over the concept of space and time.
There are many explanation inside the book about what the right answer could be for these problems and at the second half of the book you start to dive into the real deal (physics that treat space and time as non fundamental properties of our universe but as emergents).
Really good if you want to begin to understand why quantum gravity is needed!