The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn (Hardcover)

When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

By Louisa Gilder

Knopf, 9781400044177, 464pp.

Publication Date: November 11, 2008



A brilliantly original and richly illuminating exploration of entanglement, the seemingly telepathic communication between two separated particles—one of the fundamental concepts of quantum physics.

In 1935, in what would become the most cited of all of his papers, Albert Einstein showed that quantum mechanics predicted such a correlation, which he dubbed “spooky action at a distance.” In that same year, Erwin Schrödinger christened this spooky correlation “entanglement.” Yet its existence wasn’t firmly established until 1964, in a groundbreaking paper by the Irish physicist John Bell. What happened during those years and what has happened since to refine the understanding of this phenomenon is the fascinating story told here.

We move from a coffee shop in Zurich, where Einstein and Max von Laue discuss the madness of quantum theory, to a bar in Brazil, as David Bohm and Richard Feynman chat over cervejas. We travel to the campuses of American universities—from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Berkeley to the Princeton of Einstein and Bohm to Bell’s Stanford sabbatical—and we visit centers of European physics: Copenhagen, home to Bohr’s famous institute, and Munich, where Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli picnic on cheese and heady discussions of electron orbits.

Drawing on the papers, letters, and memoirs of the twentieth century’s greatest physicists, Louisa Gilder both humanizes and dramatizes the story by employing their own words in imagined face-to-face dialogues. Here are Bohr and Einstein clashing, and Heisenberg and Pauli deciding which mysteries to pursue. We see Schrödinger and Louis de Broglie pave the way for Bell, whose work is here given a long-overdue revisiting. And with his characteristic matter-of-fact eloquence, Richard Feynman challenges his contemporaries to make something of this entanglement.

About the Author

Louisa Gilder graduated from Dartmouth College in 2000. She lives in Bodega Bay, California. This is her first book.

Praise For The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn

“Gilder’s book brings the reader into a mix of ideas and personalities, which she handles with verve.”
            -The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009
“[A] fascinating yarn . . . For anyone who wants to understand the human angle of modern physics and separate quirks from quarks, this is your book.”
            -The Providence Journal Best Books of 2008
“Highly readable . . . A delightfully unconventional history . . . which brings the scientist actors to life as complex personalities with interesting lives . . . [A] welcome addition to the popular history of twentieth-century physics.”
            -Don Howard, Nature
“Highly entertaining . . . A surprisingly effective re-creation of some of the most subtle intellectual history of the 20th century . . . Gilder is a fine storyteller who brings to life one of the great scientific adventures of our time.”
            -N. David Mermin, American Scientist
“A sparkling, original book . . . Gilder brings the reader into a mix of ideas and personalities handled with a verve reminiscent of Jeremy Bernstein’s scientific portraits in The New Yorker . . . Gilder beautifully evokes [the experimentalists’] world.”
            -Peter Galison, The New York Times Book Review
“A witty, charming, and accurate account of the history of that bugaboo of physics—quantum entanglement . . . There are many books out there on the history or foundations of quantum mechanics.  Some are more technical, others more historical, but none take the unique approach that Gilder has—to focus on the quantum weirdness of entanglement itself as her book’s unifying them and to present it in an inviting and accessible way . . . I was enthralled and found the book delightful.”
            -Jonathan P. Dowling, Science
"An admirable, unexpected book, historically sound and seamlessly constructed, that transports those of us who do not understand quantum mechanics into the lives and thoughts of those who did."
           -George Dyson, author of Darwin Among the Machines
"Louisa Gilder disentangles the story of entanglement with such narrative panache, such poetic verve and such metaphorical precision that for a moment I almost thought I understood quantum mechanics."
           -Matt Ridley, author of Genome
"Louisa Gilder breathes new life into a story of intellectual daring and makes its protagonists come alive. A deep, beautiful, and thoroughly original book." 
           -George Johnson, author of The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments
The Age of Entanglement is a marvelous guide to the endlessly fascinating mystery of quantum mechanics—and to the equally fascinating way some of the world's smartest scientists have wrestled with understanding it.”
              -Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
“Captivating . . . a movingly human and surprisingly accessible picture of the unveiling of the quantum universe . . . Admirably lucid . . . on these challenging ideas.”
            -Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune
“Unusual . . . [Gilder] displays an ability to capture a personality in a few words.”
            -James Trefil, The Washington Post
“Compelling . . . No book more fully delivers the creative excitement of science.”
            -Booklist (starred review)
“[This] fast-paced history . . . is less simplified than other popular accounts, but those who pay attention will find it highly rewarding. A tour-de-force by a talented young author who makes a difficult subject accessible.”
“Astonishing . . . The courage and even audacity of a nonscientist to investigate the evolution of ideas about the most esoteric aspects of quantum physics are truly remarkable . . . This is not the textbook one would pick up in order to learn quantum mechanics, but it is the book one should read before that first textbook . . . Gilder is a phenomenal writer.”
            -Frank L. Cloutier, Charleston Post & Courier
“The clearest and most intriguing history of the manner in which the scientific method continues to advance knowledge . . . that I’ve ever read . . . Gilder’s book tells an amazing story.”
            -Kel Munger, Sacramento News & Review
“A welcome addition to the genre . . . Once Gilder leaves the already well-trod ground of pre-World War II quantum mechanics, her book really shines . . . Gilder proves that the neglected last fifty years of quantum mechanics is just as full of brilliant, quirky personalities and mind-bending discoveries [as the first thirty years] . . . She clearly understands what makes science exciting and science history interesting.”
            -Michael White,