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Review - Schrödinger's Rabbits - Colin Bruce

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It's perhaps the most joyous aspect of quantum theory (though it offends some and horrifies others) that it's possible to have a book like this that disagrees on most points with other excellent books in the quantum field like Marcus Chown's Quantum Zoo and Brian Clegg's The God Effect, yet it's hard to say that either side of the viewpoint is right or wrong.

Having said that, Colin Bruce come at quantum theory with near religious fervour in his support for the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum physics, to the extent that he seems inclined to bend the truth to match his beliefs. He tells us that the majority of physicists (or quantum physicists) support the many worlds interpretation - I really don't think this is true.

Where Bruce is very effective is in explaining how many worlds isn't just an interpretation that requires there to be a multiverse of parallel universes, but is a more subtle concept - in essence, according to Bruce, you are a many worlds supporter as soon as you accept the statement that a photon, passing through a Young's slits experiment, passes through both slits at once and interferes with itself. (Don't worry if this sounds faintly disgusting, it's not.) This makes his statement about supporters for many worlds more comprehensible.

In the end, though, the interpretation is just that, and most scientists get by without really worrying too much about it, just accepting that at the quantum level much that happens is inconceivable at a macro level. Where Bruce is a lot less successful is in putting across the aspects of quantum theory itself. For example, he uses a very complicated and confusing metaphor for quantum entanglement involving two sets of magic cards with 60 spots on that does nothing to help with explanation and plenty to leave the reader even more confused. In the end, the writing standard of this book isn't high enough to make it a good popular science title.

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Reviewed by Martin O'Brien

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Last update 05 June 2007