by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw

Da Capo Press, $25.00, 256 pages

Quantum physics arose as a mathematical tool to make predictions about a realm, the sub-atomic, that did not seem to make sense from the truths of normal science.  When Cox and Forshaw, professors of particle physics both write, “… we would not get very far in physics if we decided to restrict our description of the Universe to things we can directly sense”, they emphasize the radical and counter-intuitive reality of high level quantum theory. This book is their attempt to ‘demystify’ the science, a task made difficult because the science itself requires a foundation that does not bear “any relation to the way we perceive the world at large.”

Facing that challenge, the book offers an inconsistent experience, partially alleviated by clear language and description. It combs a mostly swift, simple narrative history of the people involved in field and their experiments which developed it. But too often the authors indulge their expertise, and the reader bogs down into mathematical exegesis lacking such elevated explanations. At its best, the writing can be sweet, giving to the complicated something almost serene. That’s when it succeeds in keeping the reader grounded in the rather mundane attitude about how science really works.

Neil Liss