On April 16, 2019, the book club met to discuss “What is Real: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics,” by Adam Becker. The arithmetic mean of the rankings, on a five-point scale, are as follows-
“Enjoyable for science/philosophy person.”
“A good primer on quantum theory for beginners as well as an interesting discussion of the intersection of philosophy and science.”
“Fascinating social and historical exploration of science (in general) and physics (quantum). Loved it”!
“Loved this book-the organization, the content, the layout of information, and the background material made this a page-turner.”
Niels Henrik David Bohr
Werner Karl Heisenberg
Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger
David Joseph Bohm
Thomas Samuel Kuhn
Wolfgang Ernst Paul
John von Neumann
John Stewart Bell
1.Adam Becker’s “What is Real?” provides a carefully-researched but non-technical overview of “the unfinished quest for the meaning of quantum physics.” Did you enjoy his writing style? Was the book accessible?
2.According to Bohr’s “Copenhagen interpretation,” largely devised in the 1920s, subatomic particles have no definite properties until they are measured. One can only calculate the probability of a certain result—for example, the location of an electron—and the very act of measurement changes matters. Until his death, Einstein insisted that this bizarre picture couldn’t be correct, but most colleagues disagreed.
Which side is correct? Quantum physics works, so does the actual state of reality matter?
3. A century after its inception, quantum mechanics continues to puzzle us with dead-and-alive cats, waves “collapsing” into particles, and “spooky action at a distance.” Did this book serve to demystify some of those concepts?
4. The book displays the intersection of philosophy and science. The Copenhagen School, although not monolithic, thought it foolish to ask if “what is real?” if the question cannot be meaningfully answered. Do you agree with this proposition? Is not science the rejection of that which cannot be tested and proven untrue? What is the utility of positing the existence of infinite quantum universes that, even if “real,” can never be perceived?
5. Finally, did you like this book? Would you recommend it to a friend lacking a background in science?