How to Teach Physics to Your Dog
By Chad Orzel
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9781416572282, 256pp.)
Publication Date: December 22, 2009
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When physics professor Chad Orzel went to the pound to adopt a dog, he never imagined Emmy. She wasn't just a friendly mutt who needed a home; she was a talking dog with an active interest in what her new owner did for a living and how it could work for her.
Soon Emmy was trying to use the strange ideas of quantum mechanics for the really important things in her life: chasing critters, getting treats, and going for walks. She peppered Chad with questions: Could she use quantum tunneling to get through the neighbor's fence and chase bunnies? What about quantum teleportation to catch squirrels before they climb out of reach? Where are all the universes in which Chad drops steak on the floor? And what about the bunnies made of cheese that ought to be appearing out of nothing in the backyard?
With great humor and clarity, Chad Orzel explains to Emmy, and to human readers, just what quantum mechanics is and how it works -- and why, although you can't use it to catch squirrels or eat steak, it's still bizarre, amazing, and important to every dog and human.
Follow along as Chad and Emmy discuss the central elements of quantum theory, from particles that behave like waves and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle to entanglement ("spooky action at a distance") and virtual particles. Along the way, they discuss the history of the theory, such as the experiments that discovered that electrons are waves and particles at the same time, and Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr's decades-long debate over what quantum theory really meant (Einstein may have been smarter, but Bohr was right more often).
Don't get caught looking less informed than Emmy. How to Teach Physics to Your Dog will show you the universe that lies beneath everyday reality, in all its randomness, uncertainty, and wonder.
"Forget Schrödinger's Cat," says Emmy, "quantum physics is all about dogs." And once you see quantum physics explained to a dog, you'll never see the world the same way again.
Chad Orzel was born and raised in central New York, and received a degree in physics from Williams College, and his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Maryland. He is now a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He lives near campus with his wife Kate, their daughter, and, of course, Emmy, the Queen of Niskayuna.