Monday, 10 September 2007

Feeling Dumb

I decided to read a little more about Quantum Physics after watching the excellent 'Atom' series on BBC4 recently. So I picked up "Quantum, A Guide for the Perplexed" by Jim Al-Khalili (who, not coincidently, presented 'Atom') and am currently about 2/3 of the way through it.

Now, I consider myself fairly intelligent but perhaps I'll have to revise down that assessment. I found myself struggling to understand some of the concepts far to often for my liking, in fact several times I had to go back and reread a paragraph or an entire section before I grasped the point. Bearing in mind that this book is intended for the lay reader and that Mr Al-Khalili makes every effort to explain the (often bizarre) concepts of Quantum Theory in plain English this book was a real kick in the pride.

I should point out that the fault here is mine and not Mr Al-Khalilis. The book is well laid out, written in a friendly conversational tone and contains many helpful illustrations & diagrams. Thats why I'm so surprised! I honestly expected to find the book fascinating instead of mind-boggling, unbelievable and fascinating. I mean, what has Mr Al-Khalili got to do? Use sock puppets?

I realise of course I'm no Einstein but when I consider just what these guys figured out and here I am struggling to understand just the basic concepts, well, its just no good for my self esteem. Maybe I'll read a history book next so I can feel clever again. Or 'Calvin & Hobbes', they always take the pain away ...

So, would I recommend the book?
It really is a fascinating introduction to the very small, what the current theories are and how it all got started.