RaveThe Washington PostAn intricate tapestry in which the lives of these women, and dozens of other scientific and literary figures, are woven together through threads of connection across four centuries, linking one to another in unexpected chains through mutual friends, serendipity, meetings, letters and even lovers. It is as if in her vast reading of source materials, especially original correspondence, she has fitted her brain with a set of filters to sift out references that might link any of her figures to any other. One is reminded of the 18th-century polymath Athanasius Kircher’s declaration: \'The world is bound by secret knots\' ... In Figuring, we are thrust into a waltz of exquisitely honed minds—most of them belonging to women, many of them sexually queer—all insisting on living to their fullest.
PositiveThe Washington PostExperimentalists...have entered territory truly hard for nonexperts to comprehend, and it’s extraordinary that they’ve been able to push things to this edge. Nothing like these experiments happens in the natural world. These are products of hand-made human craft. At a time when popular physics writing so valorizes theory, a quietly welcome strength of Ananthaswamy’s book is how much human construction comes into focus here. This is not \'nature\' showing us, but us pressing \'nature\' for answers to our increasingly obsessional questions ... is the wavefunction a part of objective reality, or is it a subjective tool that we see and use, but ultimately just a descriptive device? Ananthaswamy ends his book without resolving these issues. And when so many people are so assuredly proffering answers, this is an honest, courageous move. Rather, he suggests, the double-slit experiment will continue to deliver surprises.
RaveThe Washington PostIn addressing these questions Becker takes a historical approach, leading us through responses starting with that of Bohr, the de facto leader of a group of early quantum theorists including Heisenberg (discoverer of the uncertainty principle), Max Born and Pascual Jordan, who collectively formulated the influential 'Copenhagen interpretation' — though, strictly speaking, there isn’t a single unified view ... Becker’s intent is not to sway us to any one of the newer interpretations; rather he hopes to convince us that the Copenhagen interpretation has had too great an influence on physics for historically contingent reasons, including Bohr’s outsize charisma.