Sunday, 14 March 2010

Book Review - Introducing Quantum Theory

After publishing my own introduction to Quanum Theory, something I am no expert on, I decided I should read a few more books on the subject in case there were a few blanks I could fill in to better expand upon my own introduction.

So it was that I came by "-> Introducing : Quantum Theory - A Graphic Guide To Science's Most Puzzling Discover" written by J.P. McEvoy and Oscar Zarate. By the look of the cover and the very descriptive title, I thought I had found exactly what I was looking for. (Just to be sure, however, I also picked up a couple of Stephen Hawking books while I was browsing.)

But I was certain this was the book for me - just look at that cartoon, skeleton cat!

I couldn't have been more wrong. (Which just goes to show, you should never, ever, judge a book by its cover).

What I found inside was a mess of cartoon depictions of 'famous' scientists, complete with 'witty' speech bubbles, but entirely lacking in handy captions that may explain who any of them are. This was obviously written by an elder person trying to be 'hip' with the kids and clearly missing his target audience.

Instead of clear, well-written explanations that both educate and entertain (something Hawking does very well), what you'll find if you ever (and I hope you don't) read this book is a mass of equations (the kind that mysteriously replace numbers with seemingly randomly chosen letters, with no reason behind the choice), a focus on dates that have no relevance (dates of birth when discussing the publication of a theory, for instance), out of place illustrations that serve to depict our most brilliant minds as bumbling men accidentally creating fortunate disasters (and a few of them, Schrödinger in particular, just look plain menacing). The final nail in the coffin that truly exposes the author as a misguided man trying (and failing) to grasp a young audience comes with a talking computer (complete with ultra-cool floppy disk drive) and amazement that "the EPR paradox still lives ... as noted from the web page recently down-loaded from the Internet" showing a poorly rendered website dated November 1995, complete with 90s era graphics.

One could forgive such shortcomings had the book been published in 1995 - however, the final page makes mention of December 2000 being the 100th Anniversary of the discovery of the quantum, in a manner that suggests it is right around the corner. The best is saved for last, in a post-script containing a list of other books for further reading. One I won't be picking up is J.P. McEvoy's "Stephen Hawking For Beginners" - from what I have read from both, it would appear easier for 'beginners' to just jump straight in to "A Brief History Of Time" than try to wade through the swamp that is McEvoy's patronisingly idiotic writing style.

Not to sound too harsh, but this book neither makes Quantum Theory easy to understand nor makes it seem exciting, or even intelligent, in any way. One to avoid.

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