four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
23-July-Aug-2006
By: 
Marcus Chown
user_rating: 
0

A Tourist’s Guide to the Never-Ending Universe

A-TheQuantumZooYou did know that you age faster at the top of a building than at the bottom of one, didn’t you? Or how about the fact that 1 percent of the static on a television is leftover radiation from the Big Bang? Using stunning, everyday examples, Chown explores two complex concepts in modern science: the theory of relativity and quantum physics, which together explain the workings of the modern world (such as computers, nuclear reactors, and reasons why the entire human race could be compressed into the volume of a sugar cube). With chapters that start with examples illustrative of strange ideas ("wavicles," electrons, time travel, multiple realities) and then explore these concepts for a nontechnical audience, Chown makes quantum theory accessible to the casual reader.
Joseph Henry Press. 200 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0309096227

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"[Chown’s] facts are amazing, but [he] invests them with mind-blowing power by examining the physics behind them. … Best of all, it is all good physics as told by a good physicist." Simon Singh

Nature 4 of 5 Stars
"It is so full of little insights and neat analogies that I found myself folding over the top corners of countless pages containing quotable passages. … What is remarkable is the number of new ways Marcus Chown has found to explain difficult and often abstract concepts." Jim Al-Khalili

New Scientist 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Each chapter begins with a short vignette that highlights how bizarre the key ideas in modern physics are and then describes them in a non-technical way. An entertaining romp for those who want to get to grips with physics, yet struggle with standard explanations." Valerie Jamieson

Critical Summary

Marcus Chown, a former radio astronomer at Caltech, author of popular science books (The Universe Next Door), and a cosmology consultant to the New Scientist, will attract many readers with his anecdote-rich, jargon-poor explanation of quantum theory and relativity. Although not written for dummies, The Quantum Zoo contains such a light, entertaining touch, copious insightful analogies, and so many "little gem[s]" that critics were astounded that the book clearly explained difficult, abstract concepts (Nature). Many popular books exist on this subject, but Chown’s approach—describing bizarre phenomena and then explaining the science behind them—offers readers an accessible, entertaining volume.