Sunday, September 18, 2011

Quantum Man by Lawrence M Krauss ****

Like many boomers, I have are morbid fear of acting my age, especially as my age keeps increasing. I constantly strive to join the next generation or the one after that - the generation of my kids and even my grandkids. Some times I succeed, like playing War of Warcraft, but others ... like rock climbing for example ... I am just resigned to be left behind.

One such generational challenge is physics. My generation learned physics (I took two years of the stuff at MIT) before quantum electrodynamics (QED) really took hold. In order to catch up, I try to read a (popular) book on quantum physics every few year in the hope that eventually it will become clear to me.

Quantum Man by Lawrence M Krauss is just such a book. The author follows the discovery and evolution or QED and QCD through the life story of Richard Feynman, one the the great physicists of the 20th century. Unfortunately the book is neither science or biography, but a mixture of both, and left me wanting more science and more biography.

I felt that the author was so close to his subject - he is a physicist and knew Feynman personally - that he assumed too much of his readers. Even with my previous knowledge of QED and Feynman, I found many sections too abbreviated. Many biographical points were touched just briefly, as for example Feynman's long relationship with strip clubs, and many points of quantum physics were described as historical disagreements without ever clearly presenting the ultimate resolution.

The biography and science presented were interesting, even if incomplete.

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