Werner Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle" challenged centuries of scientific understanding, placed him in direct opposition to Albert Einstein, and put Niels Bohr in the middle of one of the most heated debates in scientific history. Heisenberg's theorem stated that there were physical limits to what we could know about sub-atomic particles; this "uncertainty" would have shocking implications.In a riveting account, David Lindley captures this critical episode and explains one of the most important scientific discoveries in history, which has since transcended the boundaries of science and influenced everything from literary theory to television.More
A quick Google search is enough to suggest that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is the most widely referenced theory in modern physics. It is frequently employed by academics in virtually every field, to discuss the challenges inherent to studying history, or government, or literature, to name a few. The famous principle even makes its way into entirely non-academic settings; for example, it was recently invoked by actor Steve Martin to explain the effect of the public eye on a star's private life.
Frequent extra-scientific application aside, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is important because of its profound implications for science. In Uncertainty, author David Lindley brings those implications to light through a compelling, concise narrative of early 20th-century physics. Narrator Robert Blumenfeld delivers a robust, congenial reading notable like Lindley's prose for both its explanatory and storytelling power.
Uncertainty follows a sizeable shift in human thought, with all its accompanying tension and turmoil. Lindley tracks the entrance of unpredictability into the world of science, from its faint whispers in kinetic theory to its clear, undisputable voice in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
While focusing on the development of theory, Lindley creates a dynamic portrait of the scientific process by drawing on the events and people that shape it. Employing a remarkable talent for a variety of accents, Blumenfeld develops this cast of brilliant, bizarre characters including Bohr, Schrodinger, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Born with consistency and charm.
The authenticity of Lindley's narrative is enhanced by his use of primary source data. He often allows his characters to speak for themselves, favoring the original voice over paraphrase even when their words are not in English. Blumenfeld handles these languages primarily German and French with apparent fluency, adding richness to the auditory experience of the story.
"Lindley brilliantly captures the personalities and the science surrounding the most revolutionary principle in modern physics. At stake are our deepest philosophical beliefs about reality. This book is so lucid that the issues are not merely understandable but truly thrilling." (Walter Isaacson)
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- Davide Di Maio