REVIEWS OF Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You
In the UK
The Independent, 19 September 2008
A charming and revelatory guide to the innards of atoms.
The Daily Telegraph, Christmas Reading 2007
I would certainly plug Marcus Chown's Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You just for being bonkers enough to
attempt to popularise the most tricky and arcane area of science.
New Humanist, December 2007
This brief, non-mathematical introduction to quantum theory and relativity aims to “help ordinary people understand
the principal ideas of 21st-century physics”, and it succeeds magnificently. It succeeds because Marcus Chown is a
skilled and capable writer who clearly understands his subject and knows just how far to push and analogy or
metaphor. Instead of simply rehashing the inadequate explanatory devices of those who have previously tried to
popularise this most abstract science, Chown sets out on his own journey. Freed from the need to re-present the
analogies and metaphors of others, he has relied on his own insights and understanding to come up with a story which
has the narrative drive and explanatory force that this vitally important subject merits. One of the great achievements of
this short book – just 200 pages – is that it explains the basics of modern physics without the need to resort to anything
that could be considered mystical, spiritual or theological. The book has already been passed to by 16-year-old
daughter. I can’t think of a better way of giving her a sound understanding of our current model of the how the
Universe works than this excellent and accessible book.
Oxford Times, October 2008
A readable account of special and general relativity, probability waves, quantum entanglement, gravity and the Big Bang.
Sunday Herald, October 2008
Chown's guide to quantum theory aims to inform the reader, in non-jargonistic language, about our "Alice In Wonderland universe" where the most extraordinary things go on ... Chown succeeds in persuading us that physics is fun.
New Scientist, 1 December 2007
For a quick briefing on the biggest ideas behind modern physics you would be hard-pressed to find a better guide than
Marcus Chown, cosmology consultant to this magazine. His latest book is subtitled A Guide to the Universe, and it does what it says on the tin. With customary style and panache, Chown takes us on a tour of quantum theory and relativity, revealing their puzzling paradoxes, extraordinary efficacy and breathtaking beauty. Science doesn't come harder than this but he makes it all look so easy.
Daily Mail, 23 November 2007
A bright and challenging book. I wholly recommend it.
The Times, 17 November 2007
It comes as news to me that there is no such thing as gravity, but I now understand that gravity is an effect, a warp of
time, space and possibly matter, caused by mass. I think that's right. Maybe not. But lay readers, delighted by Chown's
vivid imagery and lively humour, will experience several such happy Eureka moments. His coherent picture of current
quantum physics, the general theory of relativity and the behaviour of cosmological everything causes less warp
damage to the brain than might be expected.
The Guardian, 27 October 2007
Chown discusses special and general relativity, probability waves, quantum entanglement, gravity, and the Big Bang,
with humour and beautiful clarity, always searching for the most vivid imagery, as when he notes that if you could
squeeze all the space out of atoms, the whole human race would fit into a sugar cube; or describes the mass being lost
by the sun every second as “the equivalent of a million elephants”.
BBC Sky at Night, January 2008
There’s no need to be scared. The author is right to coax you inside with the reassurance that quantum theory cannot hurt. Expect to be thoroughly entertained. Chown proves it is perfectly possible to explain hard physics without needing mathematics and graphs. Thoroughly recommended.
Nature, November 2007
Quantum theory and Einstein’s general theory of relativity made simple? To be read in one morning? Chown shares his
amazement at “how much stranger science is than science fiction”.
Waterstone’s Quarterly Books, Autumn 2007
Chown does an impressive job of stitching a patchwork of fragments into one seamless garment.
In Hong Kong
South China Morning Post, 14 September 2008
Will appeal to lay readers who normally quiver at the mere mention of the subject. Although presenting itself as a volume for dummies, it doesn't simplify the concepts so much that you feel you are reading crib notes. Nor does Chown patronise his readers, who may want to understand more about not only quantum theory but also relativity (half of the book is devoted to Einstein's theory, formulated in 1905).
In New Zealand
Otago Daily Times, 5 July 2008
Chown does an impressive job of stitching a patchwork of fragments into one seamless garment. Compared with the
treatments by other popular-science writers, the author raises us to a considerably higher plane of detail about the
quirkiness of subatomic particles and the strange distortions of space-time. He has succeeded through a quantum leap,
so to speak, in lucidity, expressing opaque concepts with a unique clarity. Marcus Chown stands out as a master of
vivid explanation. Yes, it's all been said before, many times, but as the author says himself of Einstein, sometimes it
takes a genius to state the obvious. Beautiful.
In South Africa
A quantum read to blow your mind away. If you tend to feel a little nervous when quantum theory, the theory of the microscopic world of atoms, crops up in a conversation, help is at hand. Marcus Chown is truly fearless. Possibly the most fun you can have on an unspeakably small scale.
Sunday Times (South Africa), 2 March 2008
A lot of popular science books try to explain the two big brain benders, relativity and quantum theory, but they deal with areas where sense breaks down, making these fields hard to explain in everyday language. Marcus Chown makes a great attempt. For anyone interested in what we know of the universe, and why we know what we know, this is an excellent primer.
In the US
Every week I receive one or two e-mails asking if I can recommend a book on quantum physics or relativity. Despite the huge number of books on these subjects, it seems that readers are still hungry for something intelligent, fun, readable and slimmer than War and Peace. The Quantum Zoo fits the bill. Chown's brief primer on quantum physics and relativity introduces the reader to a series of weird and wonderful physics: time travel, multiple realities, multiverses, superfluids.
Chown immediately captures the reader's attention with a series of staggering factoids. You age faster at the top of a building than at the bottom. One per cent of the static on a television tuned between channels is radiation left over from the Big Bang. Every breath you take contains an atom exhaled by Marilyn Monroe. Chown also quotes the Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder saying: "A hydrogen atom in a cell at the end of my nose was once part of an elephant's trunk."
Such facts are amazing, but Chown invests them with mind-blowing power by examining the physics behind them. As such, the book is an effective antidote to some of the baloney that now and then creeps into popular introductions to quantum physics. Best of all, it is all good physics as told by a good physicist.
The Quantum Zoo is divided into "Small Things," which deals with quantum theory, and "Big Things," which deals with relativity and our understanding of the universe. Toward his goal of presenting this complex science in a way that both educates and entertains, Chown enlists a range of noteworthy explainers, from Einstein and the physicist Richard Feynman to "Star Trek" and the comic Steven Wright. It is a largely successful endeavor, with wonderful takes on such things as the nature of atoms (if all of the empty space in them could be removed, all of humanity would fit into a space the size of a sugar cube) and relativity (which, among other things, means that a person ages more slowly on the bottom floor of a building than on the top floors).
Nature, Dr Jim Al-Khalili, April 13, 2006
Weird, sexy and mind-blowing. An entertaining little gem that leads the reader through many of the wonders of twentieth century physics with a light and sometimes quirky touch that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is so full of little insights and neat analogies that I found myself folding over the top corners of countless pages containing quotable passages. I have seen many of the descriptions and analogies elsewhere, but that is to be expected. What is remarkable is the number of new ways Marcus Chown has found to explain difficult and often abstract concepts. This is what good popular science writing is all about.
Publishers Weekly, January 9, 2006
Chown admirably takes on the task of elucidating two of the most commonsense-defying concepts in modern science: quantum mechanics and relativity. He divulges the mysteries hidden in the very building blocks of matter, piques reader curiosity with every question and then satisfies it using language that is light, companionable and full of wonder. From why tables are solid when atoms contain lots of empty space, to the fact that gravity isn't a real force and you age faster the higher up you are, Chown touches on the intriguing consequences of quantum mechanics and relativity. The success of any popular science book about these unfathomable realities hinges upon the deployment of metaphor and imagery; in this, the author stands out. Readers who want to know what the big deal is about quantum mechanics but want to avoid more nitty-gritty examples (such as black body radiation) will find a clear window into the utter strangeness that defines our universe.
Science, September 8, 2006
Writing for a broad, popular audience, Chown offers an entertaining description of two key strands of modern physics: quantum mechanics and relativity.
Chown is an excellent science writer. He puts one word in front of another with grace and wit and marches us through a century of physics with amusing anecdotes and without a whiff of calculus. He does not insult us - his writing is clear and simple without being condescending. He conveys extremely complex ideas with relative simplicity and mentions the multitude of questions unanswerable by current theories. His book is as interesting as a trip to the zoo, and you get a bonus view-from-far-above.
Fairfield Citizen, Connecticut, July 31, 2006
Marcus Chown makes everything clear in this surprisingly readable volume on quantum physics. Funny and engaging, Chown has made a valuable addition to the field of popular science.
Spartanburg Herald-Journal, South Carolina, July 30, 2006
Chown takes on the task of
elucidating two of the most commonsense-defying concepts in modern science:
quantum mechanics and relativity. He divulges mysteries, piques reader
curiosity and uses language we can actually understand.
Science A Go Go,
May 4, 2006
While quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity are two of the most immense scientific achievements in physics to date, it seems that hardly anyone in the general community understands them. Perhaps you’ve been put off becoming familiar with Schrodinger’s cat or getting to grips with the twin paradox by some officious know-it-all, who scoffs at your limited knowledge of scientific intricacies. Well, never fear, Chown is here! In The Quantum Zoo, Marcus Chown, award-winning writer and broadcaster, lifts the shroud of mystery surrounding the two theories by explaining them in a manner that is both clear and concise. Chown makes the steep learning curve easy and entertaining, and has dispensed with those tortuously complex, brain-warping examples that you’d need a PhD in physics to be able to decipher. So go out and grab yourself a copy of The Quantum Zoo, and you too can sound like an expert.
Gamester at Large, May 22, 2006
Small, easily digestible review of key concepts of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. Worth a look if you are interested. Plenty of neat facts and no mathematics.
ForeWord Magazine, May/June, 2006
The Quantum Zoo is a commendable introduction to both quantum theory or of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, particularly to the microscopic world that can’t be seen, a world that’s governed not by laws but by unpredictability, random chance, and uncertainty. Readers will emerge with a greater appreciation for the very small and the very large, of how particles from the Big Bang remain connected across the universe, and with a renewed respect for the genius of Einstein, who, by applying his theory of relativity to the entire universe, created cosmology, the ultimate science.
Brian May, Guitarist, "Queen"
"Quantum theory and relativity normally evoke a shudder of fear in the mind of the Man in the Street. 'Isn't this way to difficult for me to understand?' Well, no more! In this elegantly written book, Marcus Chown takes you to the heart of the most challenging concepts known to man and makes you feel that understanding is truly within your grasp. Marcus Chown rocks!
Universe Today, October 30, 2006
By continually using everyday language and colourful examples, Marcus Chown delivers a fresh review of modern physics. He makes ideas fun and visual, describing a Ferrari which ‘Houdini-like’ escapes a garage; photons which strike a comet’s tail like the air against a windsock; or pollen grains getting moved by water molecules the same way many hands push a giant inflatable rubber ball about a field. In The Quantum Zoo, Chown ably puts modern physics into order and a smile on a reader’s understanding face.