Philosophy and the Interpretation of Quantum Physics

With such an irresistible title, this book will likely attract a wide range of interested readers—many of whom might be surprised and left wanting. Heavy on quantum physics and lighter on philosophy, covering a wide range of challenging topics in quantum physics, the book may be most accessible to a reader already familiar with quantum formalism.

The author moves swiftly from one key concept to another, generously scattering equations but without explaining variables. For those in the know, the equations will look familiar, but for those trying to learn both quantum physics and philosophy, the text is rather forbidding. The book’s editing raises additional challenges. For example, a detector incorrectly placed outside the path of the intended light beam is not a problem for the educated reader, who can mentally correct the issue, but it is a mental trap for the novice.

In the text, the reader encounters word confusion (for example, observer and observable are not interchangeable) and notations that require mind-reading (for example, N1 = N1 + N2, with the two N1 terms referring to different entities). Some sentences start out of the blue with “in summary” or with “however,” with no prior text to warrant those transitions. Even the famous Schrodinger’s-cat experiment is dumped on the page early in the book, skipping over the quantum nature of the radioactive decay that might or might not kill the cat, only to be reintroduced in a much later chapter with the proper explanations.

Readers knowledgeable and patient enough to overcome all these roadblocks will eventually gain a deeper understanding of the philosophical implications of quantum physics. Maybe the unstated intention of the author is to enhance rather than dispel the mysteries of quantum physics, or even to convince readers that Feynman’s famous quote applies: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Review by Bogdan Hoanca, University of Alaska Anchorage, USA.

The opinions expressed in the book review section are those of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or its publisher, Optica (formerly OSA).

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