Book Review: Entanglement

Entanglement is the unusual behavior of elementary particles where they become linked so that when something happens to one, something happens to the other; no matter what the distance. Two entangled particles could be separated by the entire distance of the Universe and yet they can still communicate instantly with each other. Confused? Well, you’re in good company – this stuff is hard, and weird, and it defies common sense. In his latest book, “Entanglement”, Amir D. Aczel hopes to shed some light on this puzzling behavior.

With Entanglement, Aczel covers a pretty tough topic – the bizarre behavior of particles that become inextricably linked together; what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” In order to set the groundwork, the book begins with a series of one-chapter biographies, covering each of the major players in the research to uncover the nature of quantum entanglement, from Thomas Young (1773 – 1829) to physicists who only did their experiments in the last couple of years.

The book then moves into a detailed description of the major experiments that physicists have done to push the field of quantum theory forward. Some of these experiments will blow your mind when you consider the amazing stuff that’s going on in the world of the very small. Each time we encounter the concepts of entanglement, Aczel tries to present them differently hoping something will eventually stick in the reader’s mind.

The test of a good science writer is the ability of walk the line when including difficult concepts, and it’s here that Aczel really excels – he can explain complex scientific and mathematic concepts without baffling you; but also without dumbing it down too much. My eyes glazed over some of the formulae, but most of the time I could follow the points that Aczel was trying to get across.

I’ve got a special place in my heart for quantum theory; I really feel that it encapsulates what’s great about science. Here’s a field of study that defies common sense at every turn. Every advancement was made through experimentation, studying the results, and then working out the math to help describe what’s going on. The human mind can’t really conceive of what’s going on, and yet the science keeps uncovering more and more details about how the universe seems to work on the smallest scale. I wish other disciplines could leave their preconceived notions at the door like the quantum scientists. Nature seems to give up her secrets more willingly when we don’t try to force them one way or the other. (That’s a quantum pun there… )

I’ll warn you in advance, I’ve got some university math under my belt and I’ve read my share of quantum theory books, so the concepts were a little more accessible to me. This isn’t an introduction to quantum theory, but it’s not overly complex either; a nice compromise in my opinion. If this kind of thing interests you, then I recommend you give “Entanglement” a read – you won’t be disappointed.

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