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Quantum Theory

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  1. 7.6 hrs • 6/1/2016 • Unabridged

    More than fifty years ago, John Coltrane drew the twelve musical notes in a circle and connected them by straight lines, forming a five-pointed star. Inspired by Einstein, Coltrane had put physics and geometry at the core of his music. Physicist and jazz musician Stephon Alexander returns the favor, using jazz to answer physics’ most vexing questions about the past and future of the universe. Following the great minds that first drew the links between music and physics—a list including Pythagoras, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Rakim—The Jazz of Physics revisits the ancient realm where music, physics, and the cosmos were one. This cosmological journey accompanies Alexander’s own tale of struggling to reconcile his passion for music and physics, from taking music lessons as a boy in the Bronx to studying theoretical physics at Imperial College, London’s inner sanctum of string theory. Playing the saxophone and improvising with equations, Alexander uncovered the connection between the fundamental waves that make up sound and the fundamental waves that make up everything else. As he reveals, the ancient poetic idea of the “music of the spheres,” taken seriously, clarifies confounding issues in physics. Whether you are more familiar with Brian Greene or Brian Eno, John Coltrane or John Wheeler, the Five Percent Nation or why the universe is less than five percent visible, there is a new discovery on every page. Covering the entire history of the universe from its birth to its fate, its structure on the smallest and largest scales, The Jazz of Physics will fascinate and inspire anyone interested in the mysteries of our universe, music, and life itself.

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    The Jazz of Physics

    7.6 hrs • 6/1/16 • Unabridged
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  2. 8.6 hrs • 11/3/2015 • Unabridged

    What is space? It isn’t a question that most of us normally stop to ask. Space is the venue of physics; it’s where things exist, where they move and take shape. Yet over the past few decades, physicists have discovered a phenomenon that operates outside the confines of space and time. The phenomenon—the ability of one particle to affect another instantly across the vastness of space—appears to be almost magical. Einstein grappled with this oddity and couldn’t quite resolve it, describing it as “spooky action at a distance.” But this strange occurrence has direct connections to black holes, particle collisions, and even the workings of gravity. If space isn’t what we thought it was, then what is it? In Spooky Action at a Distance, George Musser sets out to answer that question, offering a provocative exploration of nonlocality and a celebration of the scientists who are trying to understand it. Musser guides us on an epic journey of scientific discovery into the lives of experimental physicists observing particles acting in tandem, astronomers discovering galaxies that look statistically identical, and cosmologists hoping to unravel the paradoxes surrounding the big bang. Their conclusions challenge our understanding not only of space and time but of the origins of the universe—and their insights are spurring profound technological innovation and suggesting a new grand unified theory of physics.

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    Spooky Action at a Distance by George Musser

    Spooky Action at a Distance

    8.6 hrs • 11/3/15 • Unabridged
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    12.6 hrs • 7/28/2015 • Unabridged

    Life is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the known universe; but how did it come to be? Even in an age of cloning and artificial biology, the remarkable truth remains: nobody has ever made anything living entirely out of dead material. Life remains the only way to make life. Are we still missing a vital ingredient in its creation? Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe Macfadden reveal the hitherto missing ingredient to be quantum mechanics and the strange phenomena that lie at the heart of this most mysterious of sciences. As they brilliantly demonstrate here, life lives on the quantum edge.

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    Life on the Edge

    12.6 hrs • 7/28/15 • Unabridged
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    10.4 hrs • 7/21/2015 • Unabridged

    A quantum physicist shocks the world with a startling experiment, igniting a struggle between science and theology, free will and fate, and antagonizing forces not known to exist. Eric Argus is a washout. His prodigious early work clouded his reputation and strained his sanity. But an old friend gives him another chance, an opportunity to step back into the light. With three months to produce new research, Eric replicates the paradoxical double-slit experiment to see for himself the mysterious dual nature of light and matter. A simple but unprecedented inference blooms into a staggering discovery about human consciousness and the structure of the universe. His findings are celebrated and condemned in equal measure, but no one can predict where the truth will lead. And as Eric seeks to understand the unfolding revelations, he must evade shadowy pursuers who believe he knows entirely too much already.

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    The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

    The Flicker Men

    10.4 hrs • 7/21/15 • Unabridged
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  5. 13.7 hrs • 7/14/2015 • Unabridged

    Does the universe embody beautiful ideas? Artists as well as scientists throughout human history have pondered this “beautiful question.” With Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek as your guide, embark on a voyage of related discoveries, from Plato and Pythagoras up to the present. Wilczek’s groundbreaking work in quantum physics was inspired by his intuition to look for a deeper order of beauty in nature. In fact, every major advance in his career came from this intuition: to assume that the universe embodies beautiful forms, forms whose hallmarks are symmetry—harmony, balance, proportion—and economy. There are other meanings of “beauty,” but this is the deep logic of the universe—and it is no accident that it is also at the heart of what we find aesthetically pleasing and inspiring. Wilczek is hardly alone among great scientists in charting his course using beauty as his compass. As he reveals in A Beautiful Question, this has been the heart of scientific pursuit from Pythagoras, the ancient Greek who was the first to argue that “all things are number,” to Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and into the deep waters of twentieth-century physics. Though the ancients weren’t right about everything, their ardent belief in the music of the spheres has proved true down to the quantum level. Indeed, Wilczek explores just how intertwined our ideas about beauty and art are with our scientific understanding of the cosmos. Wilczek brings us right to the edge of knowledge today, where the core insights of even the craziest quantum ideas apply principles we all understand. The equations for atoms and light are almost literally the same equations that govern musical instruments and sound; the subatomic particles that are responsible for most of our mass are determined by simple geometric symmetries. The universe itself, suggests Wilczek, seems to want to embody beautiful and elegant forms. Perhaps this force is the pure elegance of numbers, perhaps the work of a higher being, or somewhere between. Either way, we don’t depart from the infinite and infinitesimal after all; we’re profoundly connected to them, and we connect them. When we find that our sense of beauty is realized in the physical world, we are discovering something about the world but also something about ourselves. A Beautiful Question is a mind-shifting book that braids the age-old quest for beauty and the age-old quest for truth into a thrilling synthesis. It is a dazzling and important work from one of our best thinkers, whose humor and infectious sense of wonder animate every page. Yes, the world is a work of art, and its deepest truths are ones we already feel, as if they were somehow written in our souls.

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    A Beautiful Question

    13.7 hrs • 7/14/15 • Unabridged
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    10.3 hrs • 4/14/2015 • Unabridged

    Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger were friends and comrades-in-arms against what they considered the most preposterous aspects of quantum physics: its indeterminacy. Einstein famously quipped that God does not play dice with the universe, and Schrödinger is equally well known for his thought experiment about the cat in the box who ends up “spread out” in a probabilistic state, neither wholly alive nor wholly dead. Both of these famous images arose from these two men’s dissatisfaction with quantum weirdness and with their assertion that underneath it all, there must be some essentially deterministic world. Even though it was Einstein’s own theories that made quantum mechanics possible, both he and Schrödinger could not bear the idea that the universe was, at its most fundamental level, random. As the Second World War raged, both men struggled to produce a theory that would describe in full the universe’s ultimate design, first as collaborators, then as competitors. They both ultimately failed in their search for a Grand Unified Theory—not only because quantum mechanics is true but because Einstein and Schrödinger were also missing a key component: of the four forces we recognize today (gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, and the strong force), only gravity and electromagnetism were known at the time. Despite their failures, much of modern physics remains focused on the search for a Grand Unified Theory. As Halpern explains, the recent discovery of the Higgs boson makes the Standard Model—the closest thing we have to a unified theory—nearly complete. And while Einstein and Schrödinger tried and failed to explain everything in the cosmos through pure geometry, the development of string theory has, in its own quantum way, brought this idea back into vogue. As in so many things, even when he was wrong, Einstein couldn’t help but be right.

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    Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat by Paul Halpern, PhD

    Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat

    10.3 hrs • 4/14/15 • Unabridged
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    9.5 hrs • 10/13/2014 • Unabridged

    The fascinating story of how quantum mechanics went mainstream The discovery of the quantum—the idea, born in the early 1900s in a remote corner of physics, that energy comes in finite packets instead of infinitely divisible quantities—planted a rich set of metaphors in the popular imagination. Quantum imagery and language now bombard us like an endless stream of photons. Phrases such as multiverse, quantum leap, alternate universe, the uncertainty principle, and Schrödinger’s cat get reinvented continually in cartoons and movies, coffee mugs and T-shirts, and fiction and philosophy—phrases reinterpreted by each new generation of artists and writers. Is a quantum leap big or small? How uncertain is the uncertainty principle? Is this barrage of quantum vocabulary pretentious and wacky or a fundamental shift in the way we think? All of the above, say Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber in this groundbreaking book. The authors—one a philosopher, the other a physicist—draw on their training and six years of co-teaching to dramatize the quantum’s rocky path from scientific theory to public understanding. Together, they and their students explored missteps, mistranslations, jokes, and gibberish in public discussions of the quantum. Their book explores the quantum’s manifestations in everything from art and sculpture to the prose of John Updike and David Foster Wallace. The authors reveal the quantum’s implications for knowledge, metaphor, intellectual exchange, and the contemporary world. Understanding and appreciating quantum language and imagery, and recognizing its misuse, is part of what it means to be an educated person today. The result is a celebration of language at the interface of physics and culture, perfect for anyone drawn to the infinite variety of ideas.

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    The Quantum Moment by Robert P. Crease, Alfred Scharff Goldhaber

    The Quantum Moment

    9.5 hrs • 10/13/14 • Unabridged
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    10.2 hrs • 1/1/2014 • Unabridged

    What if you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of van Gogh and Picasso, weren’t even told they existed? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry. In Love and Math, renowned mathematician Edward Frenkel reveals a side of math we’ve never seen, suffused with all the beauty and elegance of a work of art. In this heartfelt and passionate book, Frenkel shows that mathematics, far from occupying a specialist niche, goes to the heart of all matter, uniting us across cultures, time, and space. Love and Math tells two intertwined stories: of the wonders of mathematics and of one young man’s journey learning and living it. Having braved a discriminatory educational system to become one of the twenty-first century’s leading mathematicians, Frenkel now works on one of the biggest ideas to come out of math in the last fifty years: the Langlands Program. Considered by many to be a Grand Unified Theory of mathematics, the Langlands Program enables researchers to translate findings from one field to another so that they can solve problems, such as Fermat’s last theorem, that had seemed intractable before. At its core, Love and Math is a story about accessing a new way of thinking, which can enrich our lives and empower us to better understand the world and our place in it. It is an invitation to discover the magic hidden universe of mathematics.

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    Love and Math

    10.2 hrs • 1/1/14 • Unabridged
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  9. 10.6 hrs • 8/1/2013 • Unabridged

    Why is the sky dark at night? Is it possible to build a shrink-ray gun? If there is antimatter, can there be antipeople? Why are past, present, and future our only options? Are time and space like a butterfly’s wings? No one but Dave Goldberg, the coolest nerd physicist on the planet, could give a hyper drive tour of the universe like this one. Not only does he answer the questions your stoner friends came up with in college, but he also reveals the most profound discoveries of physics with infectious, Carl Sagan–like enthusiasm and accessibility. Goldberg’s narrative is populated with giants from the history of physics, and the biggest turns out to be an unsung genius and Nazi holocaust escapee named Emmy Noether, the other Einstein. She was unrecognized, even unpaid, throughout most of her career simply because she was a woman. Nevertheless, her theorem relating conservation laws to symmetries is widely regarded to be as important as Einstein’s notion of the speed of light. Einstein himself said she was “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” Symmetry is the unsung great idea behind all the big physics of the last one hundred years and what lies ahead. In this book, Goldberg makes mindbending science not just comprehensible but gripping. Fasten your seat belt.

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    The Universe in the Rearview Mirror

    10.6 hrs • 8/1/13 • Unabridged
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  10. 11.0 hrs • 6/28/2013 • Unabridged

    What is time? This deceptively simple question is the single most important problem facing science as we probe more deeply into the fundamentals of the universe. All of the mysteries physicists and cosmologists face—from the Big Bang to the future of the universe, from the puzzles of quantum physics to the unification of forces and particles—come down to the nature of time. The fact that time is real may seem obvious. You experience it passing every day when you watch clocks tick, bread toast, and children grow. But most physicists, from Newton to Einstein to today’s quantum theorists, have seen things differently. The scientific case for time being an illusion is formidable. That is why the consequences of adopting the view that time is real are revolutionary. Lee Smolin, author of the controversial bestseller The Trouble with Physics, argues that a limited notion of time is holding physics back. It’s time for a major revolution in scientific thought. The reality of time could be the key to the next big breakthrough in theoretical physics. What if the laws of physics themselves were not timeless? What if they could evolve? Time Reborn offers a radical new approach to cosmology that embraces the reality of time and opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. There are few ideas that, like our notion of time, shape our thinking about literally everything, with huge implications for physics and beyond—from climate change to the economic crisis. Smolin explains in lively and lucid prose how the true nature of time impacts our world.

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    Time Reborn

    11.0 hrs • 6/28/13 • Unabridged
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  11. 7.8 hrs • 1/18/2013 • Unabridged

    No one can escape a sense of awe when reflecting on the workings of the mind: we see, we hear, we feel, we are aware of the world around us. But what is the mind? What do we mean when we say we are “aware” of something? What is this peculiar state in our heads, at once utterly familiar and bewilderingly mysterious, that we call awareness or consciousness? In Physics in Mind, eminent biophysicist Werner R. Loewenstein argues that to answer these questions, we must first understand the physical mechanisms that underlie the workings of the mind. And so begins an exhilarating journey along the sensory data stream of the brain, which shows how our most complex organ processes the vast amounts of information coming in through our senses to create a coherent, meaningful picture of the world. Bringing information theory to bear on recent advances in the neurosciences, Loewenstein reveals a web of immense computational power inside the brain. He introduces the revolutionary idea that quantum mechanics could be fundamental to how our minds almost instantaneously deal with staggering amounts of information, as in the case of the information streaming through our eyes. Combining cutting-edge research in neuroscience and physics, Loewenstein presents an ambitious hypothesis about the parallel processing of sensory information that is the heart, hub, and pivot of the cognitive brain. Wide-ranging and brimming with insight, Physics in Mind breaks new ground in our understanding of how the mind works.

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    Physics in Mind

    7.8 hrs • 1/18/13 • Unabridged
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  12. 12.2 hrs • 3/26/2012 • Unabridged

    The second half of the twentieth century witnessed a scientific gold rush as physicists raced to chart the inner workings of the atom. The stakes were high: the questions were big, and there were Nobel Prizes and everlasting glory to be won. Many mysteries of the atom came unraveled, but one remained intractable—what Frank Close calls the “Infinity Puzzle.” The problem was simple to describe. Although clearly very powerful, quantum field theory—the great achievement of the 1930s—was making one utterly ridiculous prediction: that certain events had an infinite probability of occurring. The solution is known as renormalization, which enables theory to match what we see in the real world. It has been a powerful approach, conquering three of the four fundamental forces of nature and giving rise to the concept of the Higgs boson, the now much-sought particle that may be what gives structure to the universe. The Infinity Puzzle charts the birth and life of the idea and the scientists, both household names and unsung heroes, who realized it. Based on numerous firsthand interviews and extensive research, The Infinity Puzzle captures an era of great mystery and greater discovery. Renormalization—the pursuit of an orderly universe—has led to one of the richest and most productive intellectual periods in human history. With a physicist’s expertise and a historian’s care, Close describes the personalities and the competition, the dead ends and the sudden insights in a story that will reverberate through the ages.

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    The Infinity Puzzle

    12.2 hrs • 3/26/12 • Unabridged
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  13. 12.0 hrs • 6/27/2011 • Unabridged

    The surprising story of eccentric young scientists who stood up to convention—and changed the face of modern physics In the 1970s, amid severe cutbacks in physics funding, a small group of underemployed physicists in Berkeley decided to throw off the constraints of academia and explore the wilder side of science. Dubbing themselves the “Fundamental Fysiks Group,” they pursued a freewheeling, speculative approach to physics. Some dabbled with LSD while conducting experiments. They studied quantum theory alongside Eastern mysticism and psychic mind reading, discussing the latest developments while lounging in hot tubs. Unlikely as it may seem, this quirky band of misfits altered the course of modern physics, forcing mainstream physicists to pay attention to the strange but exciting underpinnings of quantum theory. Their work on Bell’s theorem and quantum entanglement helped pave the way for today’s advances in quantum information science. A lively and entertaining Cinderella story, How the Hippies Saved Physics takes us to a time when only the unlikeliest heroes could break the science world out of its rut.

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    How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser

    How the Hippies Saved Physics

    12.0 hrs • 6/27/11 • Unabridged
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  14. 4.0 hrs • 6/2/2011 • Unabridged

    Are you seeking a deeper understanding of consciousness? Are you interested in meditation or currently practicing meditation? The Buddha and the Quantum is about the connection between meditation and physics. Many books show parallels between consciousness and physics; a few of these attempt to explain consciousness in terms of the physics of everyday experience. This is the only book that explains physics and the everyday world in terms of consciousness alone. It also demonstrates why we think there is a world independent of consciousness, explained in the same structure that explains quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Buddha and the Quantum describes how experience in the physical world is built not from objective reality, but from experience within. Avery’s brilliant model of consciousness makes difficult and subtle ideas understandable, with very surprising implications.

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    Buddha and the Quantum

    4.0 hrs • 6/2/11 • Unabridged
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  15. 10.4 hrs • 11/8/2010 • Unabridged

    Our intuition about how things should behave is usually right in the everyday world. We see the baseball soar in the air, arc, drop, and lie stationary on the ground. Through data gathered by our senses and basic knowledge of the laws of classical mechanics, the motion of a ball makes perfect sense.But enter the world of the tiniest particles on earth-the motion of electrons, the shapes of molecules-and everything we think we know about the world radically changes. To understand what's really happening in the world around us, to comprehend the mysterious, counterintuitive science of the small, we must take a quantum theory view of nature.Like no other book before it, Absolutely Small makes the inherently challenging field of quantum theory understandable to nonscientists, without oversimplifying and without bogging down in complicated math. Written by an award-winning professor at Stanford University, the book uses clear explanations and real-world examples instead of dense equations to help you understand:Why strawberries are red and blueberries are blueHow particles can change from "mixed states" to "pure states" based solely on observationHow a single photon can be in two places at the same timeWhy quantum matter sometimes acts like particles, and other times like wavesWhy a piece of metal will glow red when it is hot, and turn blue when it's even hotterWhat makes salt dissolve in water, while oil does not, and much moreIn the tradition of Stephen Hawking and Lewis Thomas, but without the rigorous mathematical requirements, Absolutely Small demystifies the fascinating realm of quantum physics and chemistry, complete with compelling accounts of the scientists and experiments that helped form our current understanding of quantum matter. Challenging without being intimidating, accessible but not condescending, Absolutely Small develops your intuition for the nature of things at their smallest and most intriguing level.

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    Absolutely Small

    10.4 hrs • 11/8/10 • Unabridged
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  16. 12.8 hrs • 7/7/2008 • Unabridged

    This is the inside account of the battle over the true nature of black holes—with nothing less than our understanding of the entire universe at stake. What happens when something is sucked into a black hole? Does it disappear? Three decades ago, a young physicist named Stephen Hawking claimed that it did—and in doing so, put at risk everything we know about the fundamental laws of the universe. Leonard Susskind and Gerard ’t Hooft realized the threat and responded with a counterattack that changed the course of physics. The Black Hole War is the thrilling story of their united effort to reconcile Hawking’s theories of black holes with their own sense of reality, an effort that would eventually result in Hawking admitting he was wrong and Susskind and ’t Hooft realizing that our world is a hologram projected from the outer boundaries of space. A brilliant book about the deepest mysteries of modern physics, The Black Hole War is mind-bending and exhilarating reading.

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    The Black Hole War by Leonard Susskind

    The Black Hole War

    12.8 hrs • 7/7/08 • Unabridged
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