Experimentalists...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.
If you find it hard to think about half-silvered mirrors, then be warned that there are a great many of them in this book. Suitably arranged, they can be used to create a variety of photon mazes rich in theory-testing possibilities. Mr. Ananthaswamy helpfully supplies schematic diagrams, though the actual mirrors are unlike the ordinary kind ... Mr. Ananthaswamy interviewed many leading theoreticians and experimentalists in the course of writing this book, and he covers a large and complex field in an admirably accessible way. Historical or biographical details are mostly subordinated to scientific and philosophical issues, though we glimpse a few colorful characters.
Ananthaswamy...is mostly using the 'double slit' as a means of exploring the various possible interpretations of quantum physics, in much the same way that Adam Becker's book from my last group of book reviews does. Along the way, he hits a pretty good range of stuff—the obvious Copenhagen and Many-Worlds discussion, but also a nice and detailed discussion of Bohmian mechanics and a couple different varieties of spontaneous-collapse theories, and even a section devoted to the epistemic new-kid-on-the-block, 'quantum Bayesianism' (usually shortened to 'QBism') ... Ananthaswamy explores the variations on the double-slit formula through interviews with a variety of physicists ... This provides some diversity of viewpoints that helps the book feel less narrow than the focus on a single experiment would suggest. Ananthaswamy's own voice is not terribly intrusive, making for a very balanced treatment of all the various interpretations considered: each interpretation is described by its own proponents, with a minimum of editorializing.
Throughout, Ananthaswamy depicts the various ways the experiment has been performed and also describes its impact on the greatest scientists of the 20th century, shedding light on how they have interpreted the findings ... An engaging and accessible history of a fascinating and baffling experiment that remains inconclusive to this day. Recommended for those interested in the subject or anyone wishing to delve further into the double-slit experiment.
Ananthaswamy explains that this is what is so strange about quantum mechanics: it can seem impossible to eliminate a decisive role for our conscious intervention in the outcome of experiments. That fact drove physicist Eugene Wigner to suppose at one point that the mind itself causes the ‘collapse’ that turns a wave into a particle. Ananthaswamy offers some of the most lucid explanations I’ve seen of other interpretations ... Ananthaswamy’s conclusion—that perhaps all the major interpretations are 'touching the truth in their own way'—is not a shrugging capitulation. It’s a well-advised commitment to pluralism, shared with Becker’s book and mine. For now, uncertainty seems the wisest position in the quantum world.
A thrilling survey of the most famous, enduring, and enigmatic experiment in the history of science ... The author is a brilliant scientific storyteller, and he makes sense of even the most nonsensical concepts in clear, compelling prose. Combining archival research and first-person interviews, Ananthaswamy deftly navigates both the foundational principles of quantum mechanics and the many iterations of the two-slit experiment with such ease that readers of any scientific acumen can revel in the implications without being bogged down by the math ... Once again, Ananthaswamy delivers a book that has all the intrigue of science fiction while remaining rooted in the scientific real, however bizarre. A fantastic book for anyone interested in the quantum and what it reveals about the world around us.
Over the course of this intellectual journey, Ananthaswamy introduces a fascinating array of ideas, e.g., that quantum mechanics means humans should 'give up notions of locality in 3-D space [and] our notions of time too,' and characters, e.g., 'quantum cowboy' Marlan Scully, famed for 'pioneering research on the nature of reality and beef cattle production.' This accessible, illuminating book shows that no matter how sophisticated the lab setup, the double-slit experiment still challenges physicists.