Through Two Doors at Once: The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality

Anil Ananthaswamy. Dutton, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-98609-7
Science writer Ananthaswamy (The Man Who Wasn’t There) guides readers through the odd byways and revelations of one of modern physics’s most groundbreaking experiments. The tale begins some 200 years ago when Thomas Young, a youthful member of the Royal Society of London, challenged Isaac Newton’s assertion that light is made of tiny particles. Young’s experiment—shining light through a barrier with two slits cut into it and a screen beyond—showed the light beams recombined beyond the slits to create a row of alternating bright and dark stripes, or interference fringes, “created when two waves overlap.” But that wasn’t the end of the matter, and the particle versus wave question raised new hackles with the early 20th-century breakthroughs of Albert Einstein and the rise of quantum theory. 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. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2018
Release date: 08/07/2018
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