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Understanding the Quantum World


The word “quantum” evokes mystery and unreality. Yet quantum mechanics is the most successful theory of reality ever developed, describing exactly how matter and radiation work, and leading to such inventions as lasers, atomic clocks, flash drives, PET scans, and much more. Quantum mechanics is also responsible for such baffling paradoxes as the wave-particle duality of matter and Schrödinger’s cat—a hypothetical pet that is supposedly both dead and alive in a quantum experiment. How can a theory be so practical and yet so mystical? Taught by award-winning Professor Erica W. Carlson of Purdue University, Understanding the Quantum World addresses these paradoxes in 24 stimulating half-hour lectures that explain the basics of quantum theory using minimal mathematics. Professor Carlson does this with ingenious analogies, insightful graphics, experiments involving everyday objects, and an inquisitive and playful approach to an immensely rich and rewarding subject. Quantum mechanics just might be the most entertaining branch of physics ever, posing such riddles as: What kind of object can be in two places at once? Can you use quantum mechanics to walk through walls, speed down the road without getting a ticket, or even create your own reality? Dr. Carlson answers these questions and many others. She also looks at how physicists analyze and classify quantum states and highlights the ability of quantum mechanics to explain the periodic table of elements. She even discusses the probable fate of Schrödinger’s cat.


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