The Quantum Universe by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw

As a truth-seeker who has investigated everthing from Christianity, to atheism, Satanism and Eastern philosophy, I thought it was about time I tackled the daunting arena of quantum theory – in particular because, philosophically speaking, I’m a non-dualist, and quantum physics does seem to talk of a world that is fundamentally interconnected in a manner that is at odds with relativistic science.

The book started out as intelligible and fascinating, but after a few chapters I quickly got lost in the mathematics. Nevertheless, I persisted, and I’m glad I did, because even though quantum physics continues to be desperately complicated, I’m definitely not quite so in the dark as I was before. The book stumbles into the same “error” that Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time makes: those readers who can understand the later chapters didn’t need the early ones, while those who benefit from the early chapters can’t understand the later ones. The target audience for the book just isn’t clear. There are some funky chapter headings like “Being in Two Places at Once,” “Everything That Can Happen Does Happen,” and “The Universe in a Pin-head (and Why We Don’t Fall Through the Floor).” These give the impression that this is definitely a book for the lay reader. Not really!

The book fell into a pattern for me. With each chapter, I was able to extract something intelligible and useful from the first few pages, then I would get bamboozled by complex math. The best part of the book for me was a brilliantly clear and thorough explanation of the famous double-slit experiment. This I can understand and appreciate – and it does fill me with a sense of wonder that space-time is underpinned by this extremely odd particle-wave duality. But as for the fine-print of how the quantum world operates, I’m afraid I will simply have to take physicists word for it when they say that an electron travels to its destination via every point in the Universe.

Worth reading for the ten percent of it that I could understand.