Quantum Legacies

Dispatches from an Uncertain World

David Kaiser

Quantum Legacies

David Kaiser

With a Foreword by Alan Lightman
360 pages | 47 halftones | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2020
Cloth $26.00 ISBN: 9780226698052 Will Publish April 2020
E-book $26.00 ISBN: 9780226698199 Will Publish April 2020
The ideas at the root of quantum theory remain stubbornly, famously bizarre: a solid world reduced to puffs of probability; particles that tunnel through walls; cats suspended in zombie-like states, neither alive nor dead; and twinned particles that share entangled fates. For more than a century, physicists have grappled with these conceptual uncertainties while enmeshed in the larger uncertainties of the social and political worlds, a time pocked by the rise of fascism, cataclysmic world wars, and a new nuclear age.
In Quantum Legacies, David Kaiser introduces readers to iconic episodes in physicists’ still-unfolding quest to understand space, time, and matter at their most fundamental. In a series of vibrant essays, Kaiser takes us inside moments of discovery and debate among the great minds of the era—Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Stephen Hawking, and many more who have indelibly shaped our understanding of nature—as they have tried to make sense of a messy world.

Ranging across space and time, the episodes span the heady days of the 1920s, the dark times of the 1930s, the turbulence of the Cold War, and the peculiar political realities that followed. In those eras as in our own, researchers’ ambition was often to transcend the vagaries of here and now, to contribute lasting insights into how the world works that might reach beyond a given researcher’s limited view. In Quantum Legacies, Kaiser unveils the difficult and unsteady work required to forge some shared understanding between individuals and across generations, and in doing so, he illuminates the deep ties between scientific exploration and the human condition.
Alan Lightman



1 All Quantum, No Solace
2 Life-and-Death: When Nature Refuses to Select
3 Operation: Neutrino
4 Quantum Theory by Starlight


5 From Blackboards to Bombs
6 Boiling Electrons
7 Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
8 Training Quantum Mechanics
9 Zen and the Art of Textbook Publishing


10 Pipe Dreams
11 Something for Nothing
12 Higgs Hunting
13 When Fields Collide


14 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
15 Gaga for Gravitation
16 The Other Evolution Wars
17 No More Lonely Hearts
18 Learning from Gravitational Waves
19 A Farewell to Stephen Hawking
Review Quotes
Matthew Stanley, author of Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I
"Kaiser is a master writer, and this is some of his finest work. An extraordinary combination of technical science, rich history, and telling anecdote, Quantum Legacies is cutting-edge scholarship rendered in a style equal to any popular science writing. When a non-academic asks me ‘what is the history of science?’ I will give them this book."
Amanda Gefter, author of Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn
"Friendships and rivalries, the demands of war, the limits of technology . . . these are among the rich universe of forces that conflict and conspire to bring us what we usually gloss over as the inevitable march of scientific progress. Kaiser’s book provides a wonderful glimpse behind the curtain into the messier—but far more human—truth of the matter. Beautifully written and extraordinarily well researched, the book makes a profound point about the sociopolitical nature of science that all readers—from physics buffs and historians to students and laypeople—need to hear."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://www.press.uchicago.edu
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