Helgoland: Making Sense of the Quantum Revolution by Carl Rovelli

Review by Jamie Stanley

helgoland

In Helgoland, the history of quantum theory originates in 1923 when Werner Heisenberg, seeking allergy relief, relocated to the island of a treeless piece of rock in the North Sea. During his stay, Heisenberg thought over a problem he had been discussing with Niels Bohr about the erratic behavior of the electron orbital within atoms. The matrix solution Heisenberg theorized jump-started a generation of other well-known physicists from that era trying to figure out what is going on with electron pathways. A summary of their theories (unfortunately Lucy Mensing, a pioneer in quantum mechanics who worked with Wolfgang Pauli is not mentioned) are presented in the book. These summaries of the contributions of these other seminal figures in developing early quantum theory require close reading but is worth the effort. For example, the origin of the thought experiment known as Schrodinger’s cat is included in this book. In 1966, Richard Feynman said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” It still holds. Now how cool is that?

Review courtesy of Northfield Public Library
210 Washington St. | Northfield | guides.mynpl.org

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