What Is Real? by Adam Becker

What Is Real?

The untold story of the heretical thinkers who dared to question the nature of our quantum universeEvery 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 r...

Details What Is Real?

TitleWhat Is Real?
Release DateMar 20th, 2018
PublisherBasic Books
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Physics, Philosophy, History

Reviews What Is Real?

  • Manny
    What is real? This ought to be a question of burning interest to almost everyone, and yet, for some reason, hardly anybody over the age of seventeen seems to take it seriously. If you ask the adults, no one's sure whose responsibility it is. They send you over to talk to the sociologists, who shrug their shoulders; sorry guv, nuffin to do wiv us. Try philosophy, they're just down the street. The philosophers look embarrassed, and explain that yes...
  • Manuel Antão
    If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Quantum Ontology: The Universal-Wave-Function vs. The Pilot-Schrödinger-Wave-Function vs. the Collapsing-Schrödinger-Wave-function as a Stab at Explaining Reality.The diversity of possible comments on this book reflects ironically the Everett paradigm of quantum ontology. There are as many views of reality as there are observers. Thankfully in all instances, given the depth of some of...
  • Radiantflux
    59th book for 2018.A very interesting and accessible book on quantum ontology.With no math (!) Becker takes the reader effortlessly through nearly a hundred years of back-and-forth debate as what quantum mechanics implies about the universe we live in. The history itself is fascinating. I had no idea (blush) that Heisenberg (of uncertainty fame) was actually a Nazi who headed the Nazi's atomic bomb project, which according to Heisenberg (postwar)...
  • Science (Fiction) Comedy Horror and Fantasy Geek/Nerd
    Interdisciplinarity between scientists, philosophers and neuroscientists will eventually crack the well-deciphered code of reality.Please note that I have put the original German text to the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.The game of knowledge acquisition has always been played back and forth between three groups. The philosophers, scientists and, more recently, the neuroscientists. Philosophers can design the inspirational i...
  • Peter Mcloughlin
    Solid debate on the rise and fall of the Copenhagen interpretation and rise of its competitors like Bohmian mechanics, Many Worlds. Covers Einstein's qualms of around the probabilities and the EPR thought experiment which was meant to show that QM couldn't be the whole picture because it involved entanglement which implied a spooky action at a distance between particles. Also talks about the Vienna's Circle's logical positive being used for the C...
  • Charlene
    If this book were a meal, it would be bursting with such flavor that you could not help going back for seconds. Indeed I read it a second time and chose to listen to Sean Carroll's Mysteries of Modern Physics lectures, from The Great Courses series, as the accompanying glass of wine and dessert because it reenforced the ideas presented in Becker's book. Listening to Sean Carroll's lecture series along with reading this book allowed me to think ab...
  • Ramin
    Here's a brief excerpt of my review of "What is Real?" for Nature magazine, which was just published today. Please check out the full review here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d4158...All hell broke loose in physics some 90 years ago. Quantum theory emerged — partly in heated clashes between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. It posed a challenge to the very nature of science, and arguably continues to do so, by severely straining the relations...
  • David
    This reads like an edge-of-the-seat detective story about quantum physics. I never thought this subject was particularly friendly to being portrayed with this kind of drama. Most reading on sub-atomic physics is a kind of slog; a perfunctory sweat-labor with the objective of obtaining a walking around knowledge of the subject. This book sets out the characters and the stakes involved with great narrative momentum. The assumptions behind the pheno...
  • Ed Erwin
    QM is undeniably non-intuitive and weird, but the Copenhagen Interpretation(s) are far more weird than necessary, and have been used to sell a lot of quack-pot ideas. There are other interpretations, which are still weird, but much less so. The other interpretations don't require crazy claims about conscious observers affecting the behavior of electrons or cats that are alive and dead at the same time and so forth.This book has ZERO equations and...
  • Erik
    In his book Superintelligence, philosopher Nick Bostrom tells a story about an evolutionary algorithm tasked with designing an efficient oscillator. After running through many generations, it eventually presented a “solution” with a strange absence: it had no power source!At first, the engineers declared the design a failure. Upon closer examination, however, they discovered the algorithm had reconfigured its circuit board into a makeshift ra...
  • Ari
    Quantum mechanics is one of the most solid, well-tested parts of physics. Everybody (at least, everybody relevant to this book) agrees how to use quantum mechanics to do things like predict the behavior of semiconductors and molecular bonds. But not everybody agrees on what the theory "means" -- what sorts of things exist in the universe and so forth.This is not a tightly focused book. Instead of stating a claim and then proving it, the reader is...
  • Seth Benzell
    I am ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, I nearly put the book down a few chapters in. The early material about the initial development of quantum theory was all old news to me, covered (better) in books like ``Thirty Years Which Shook Physics." The actual mechanics of quantum theory are not covered in depth. The only part of this book I felt was novel was the details of how central Bohr was to how QM is thought about.The book's novelty ...
  • Jim Coughenour
    One of the grand narratives of the 20th century is the history of physics – the elucidation of relativity by Einstein and the subsequent development of quantum physics by Bohr, Heisenberg, Schroedinger et al. Richard Rhodes provides a superlative account in The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but there is a wealth to choose from, and I seem to pick up one or another of these histories every year because I enjoy the story so much. Becker’s book is ...
  • Terry
    This book is a consideration on the failures of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and the difficulties in advancing a science without a model. The Copenhagen interpretation states that quantum states collapse when a measurement is made but seemingly every word in that description is open to interpretation. The messiest being the word "measurement". What counts as a measurement or observation or interaction? If large systems are b...
  • R Nair
    Terrific work not only on the history of quantum mechanics but also the dogmatic influence of Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum mechanics on Physics. This book really delves into how physicists correctly pointing out the problems within the Copenhagen interpretation were not taken seriously for decades based purely on blind faith that reality could not be explained within the Quantum mechanical framework. The 'shut-up and calculate' par...
  • Michael Flick
    History of some of the confusions, questions, and controversies surrounding quantum mechanics, unfortunately without clear answers because there aren’t any—except that the long and generally accepted Copenhagen interpretation is wrong and has held things back from its outset. When the mighty say “shut up and calculate,” you know that it’s time to ask questions. No answer to the “What is Real?” question—but an urgent need to keep a...
  • Ilya
    My mind has never been messed up so amazingly. A very inspiring book.
  • Tomas Sedovic
    I picked this book up thinking it would be an accessible overview of the state of the art of quantum physics peppered up with the history of this extremely successful century-old theory and some anecdotes about the people involved.Technically, What is Real is just that. But it's so much more in ways I did not anticipate.It is a redemption of Albert Einstein who, the common lore (even among physicists) would have us know, has lost touch as he got ...
  • Daniel
    What physics question can’t Einstein solve? The meaning of Quantum Physics, the ‘Measurement problem’ a.k.a. Schrödinger’s cat or collapse of Quantum Wave function when a measurement is made. So the cat is neither dead or alive before measurement, but once an observation is made it has to settle in either of one state. Bohr received a Nobel prize for discovering the different energy states (quanta) of electrons in an atom. Together with ...
  • Jim Crocker
    WHAT IS REAL?I also called this: Adventures in the Foundations of Quantum Physics! Or Cracks in the Edifice of Silence.It took me awhile to get through this one, but it was a fascinating, compelling read. Now I know it has been criticized. But, hey! Whaddaya gonna do? I’m sure that Adam Becker can take it. I thought his research was outstanding. He mentioned so many quantum physicists whose works contributed to knowledge and discovery, that I w...
  • Rāhul
    Adam Becker, a Ph. D. in Physics, writes about interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, the enormously successful 20th century theory underpinning everything from semiconductor electronics to satellite navigation. At the heart of quantum mechanics is the "weirdness" summed up by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle that binds the combined accuracy with which both the position and momentum of a particle can be measured, even though the wavefunction unde...
  • Carsten
    Quantum Mechanics is one of the foundations of physics (jointly with relativity). Its predictions have been confirmed time and time again and underpins modern technology. It has helped us to understand how the electromagnetic and the two nuclear forces work. It is a remarkable theory. But what does the mathematical formalism mean? This book tells the story how the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics has evolved over the last 90 years or so. It is...
  • Odo
  • Piers
    Light on science but a good overview of the basic theories, history, and main characters of the last century of physics.
  • Jason Furman
    An excellent book that does not answer the title question—but is mostly convincing that the question is worth asking and that we can make scientific progress in addressing it. The book is well written with an interspersing of human stories, scientific description, and Becker’s own more original analysis/arguments/interpretation of the historical field of “quantum foundations”, which is to say understanding what the weird equations of quan...
  • Mishehu
    WIR is a superb popular history and pop science overview of the continuing controversies surrounding the interpretation of quantum theory. In short, it appears: there's no external reality; there is a an external reality, but it's bizarre in one or more of any number of ways (depending on specific theory you subscribe to); or there are infinitely many external realities, only one of which I have access to as I type this review (and an infinite nu...
  • Paperclippe
    I first heard about this book when the author, Adam Becker, was first on Cara Santa Maria's "Talk Nerdy" podcast, and he had such a cool personality and a sound worldview that I knew I was gonna have to pick this book up.I was not disappointed. This is the popsci book I've been waiting for. Most books of this type take way too long detailing the history of physics and then don't have much steam or space left to talk about recent advances in the f...
  • Stefan Poth
    This book is so redundant. Could relate all the details in half the pages if things were not repeated so many times.
  • Ian Scuffling
    It was a bastardization of Schrödinger's cat that introduced me to the ideas of quantum physics, and since then the topic has been something that I've held deep interest in (albeit from a very amateur's view, not really digging into the nuances other than to understand the prevailing ideas)—my interest has been particularly in terms of the philosophy and existentialism inherent in the problems that the theories present to our experience of the...
  • metralindol
    Personally, I take it as a right book at right time. Comprehensive enough, it deals with intertwined ideas which have originated in the field of quantum physics, their mutual influence, evolution and collisions. All in a neatly presented landscape of personalities, institutions, trends, and policies. It's a thorough and genuine attempt at deconstructing certain established myths, which have grown out of scientific discourse and ethics. For this, ...