The Odd Quantum

Posted By: maxxum

Sam B. Treiman, «The Odd Quantum»
Princeton University Press | ISBN 0691009260 | 1999-11-08 | PDF | 1,07 Mb | 280 pages


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Whenever you cross a street, sad to say, you run the risk of being struck down by a misguided vehicle. The probability of such a tragedy is infinitesimal under most circumstances, but, as the statisticians say, it is non-negligible nonetheless. By the same token, when energy travels, it may bend this way or that in response to the vagaries of gravity, following a seemingly random course. The probability that it will wander in a certain direction given certain conditions is the province of quantum mechanics, a branch of physical science that concerns itself with small-scale phenomena that cannot be observed without instruments–and that cannot be described in the terms of classical Newtonian physics.

Using such phenomena as the disintegration of light and the decomposition of radioactive matter as cases in point, Princeton University physicist Sam Treiman takes his readers through the latest theories of quantum mechanics in his aptly titled primer. He surveys the history of the field, drawing on the 20th-century work of Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Max Planck to explain key terms; he then proceeds to enumerate some of the problems that quantum mechanics seeks to describe on the way to showing, in Richard Feynman's cheerful phrase, how the world really is.

Although accessible, Treiman's book is not for novices; its pages bristle with complex formulas and terms like lepton conservation and neutrino oscillations. Nonspecialist readers with some background in physics, however, will find Treiman's discussions to be clear and even elegant, and an altogether useful introduction to the discipline. –Gregory McNamee

American Journal of Physics
A concise and beautifully written summary of an expert¹s view of the subject.

A concise and beautifully written summary of an expert's view of the subject.

Book Description:

This is a rare and much-needed book: a concise but comprehensive account of quantum mechanics for popular science readers written by a respected physicist. Sam Treiman–internationally renowned for his work in particle physics–makes quantum mechanics accessible to nonspecialists. Combining mastery of the material with clear, elegant prose and infectious enthusiasm, he conveys the substance, methods, and profound oddities of the field.

Treiman begins with an overview of quantum mechanics. He sketches the early development of the field by Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and others, and he makes clear how the quantum outlook flies in the face of common sense. As he explains, the quantum world is intrinsically probabilistic. For example, a particle is not in general in some particular place at a given instant, nor does it have a definite momentum. According to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, there is a limit to how well both location and momentum can be specified simultaneously. In addition, particles can move through barriers and otherwise move in regions of space that are forbidden by classical mechanics. If a particle has a choice of different paths, it pursues all of them at once. Particles display wave-like characteristics and waves show particle-like characteristics. Treiman pays special attention to the more fundamental wave outlook and its expression in quantum field theory. He deals here with the remarkable fact that all the particles of a given species are strictly identical, and with the unnerving fact that particles can be created and destroyed. As Treiman introduces us to these and other wonders, he also touches–without resolution–on some of the deep philosophical problems of quantum mechanics, notably how probabilities become facts.

Weaving together impeccable and up-to-date science, engaging writing, and a talent for clear explanation honed over Treiman's distinguished career as a physicist and teacher, The Odd Quantum is a remarkable survey of a field that changed the course of modern scientific and philosophical thought.

From the Back Cover

"Many books and articles have been written in which it is attempted to make the basic ideas of quantum physics available to a larger public. None of these is remotely as lucid as Treiman's book. His entertaining style, his mastery, as well as his love of the subject are manifest on nearly every page. It is superbly written."–Abraham Pais, Rockefeller University, author of A Tale of Two Continents and Subtle is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein

"Sam Treiman brings to the general reader an enormous wisdom and depth of understanding accumulated over a distinguished career in particle physics. An outstanding book!"–A. Zee, Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Fearful Symmetry and An Old Man's Toy

"Professor Treiman has achieved a pedagogical miracle. He jumps over the drudgery of standard introductory physcis courses and reaches the excitement of modern elementary particle physics by going directly to the quantum theory that describes this sub-microsopic world and its constituents."–Marvin L. Goldberger, University of California, San Diego
–This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author
Sam Treiman is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics Emeritus at Princeton University. He cowrote Current Algebra and Its Applications (Princeton) with R. Jackiw and D. Gross, Current Algebra and Anomalies (Princeton) with R. Jackiw, B. Zumino, and E. Witten, and Formal Theory of Scattering with C. Grosjeans. He has written numerous articles, mostly centered on the study of fundamental particles, for leading physics journals.