cover image The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

Louisa Gilder, . . Knopf, $27.50 (443pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4417-7

The story of quantum mechanics and its lively cast of supporters, “heretics” and agnostics has always fascinated science historians and popular science readers. Gilder's version differs from the familiar tale in two important ways. First, by focusing on the problem of entanglement—the supposed “telepathic” connection between particles that a skeptical Einstein called “spooky action-at-a-distance”—Gilder includes more recent developments leading to quantum computing and quantum cryptography. Second, Gilder exercises—not wholly successfully—a daring creative license, drawing excerpts from papers, journals and letters to construct dialogues among the scientists. “Science is rooted in conversations,” Werner Heisenberg once wrote, and Gilder's created conversations reveal personalities as well as thought processes: “Do you really believe the moon is not there if no one looks?” asks Einstein. Less comfortable aspects of the era are also part of Gilder's story, the uncertainty and fear as one scientist after another fled Nazi Germany, the paranoia of the Manhattan Project and the McCarthy era. Gilder's history is rife with curious characters and dramatizes how difficult it was for even these brilliant scientists to grasp the paradigm-changing concepts of quantum science. 20 illus., 15 by the author. (Nov. 12)