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"Quantum Physics: A Beginner's Guide" by Alastair I.M. Rae

An okay attempt at teaching an advanced topic to the average reader. Despite our overall rating, we may recommend other titles.

Quantum Physics is most certainly a mysterious subject, and a beginner's guide to such subject doesn't hurt at all. However, in the case of this book, it was a tough one to follow.

The first few chapters, author Rae gently introduced us to the quantum world and why "it's [quantum physics] not rocket science." As you progress, you learn about the properties and behavior of atoms and various other entities roaming in a quantum perspective, mainly the properties of light. You then learn about the applications of quantum physics in the real world, in this case, having produced energy-efficient devices that are environment friendly in an effort to reduce the biggest threat to humanity: climate change.

The middle chapters are about Semiconductors (computer chips) and Superconductivity. These talk about the properties of quantum physics dealing with the patterns and waves conducting electricity. Rae also talks about particle spins in these chapters. The last few chapters are about Spin Doctoring and interpreting what it all means. In the chapter of Spin Doctoring, Rae talks about Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Computing—uses in which quantum physics may be able to develop super-secure codes and insanely-fast computing. However, it seems Rae feels that producing such devices is unpredictable, and development of quantum computing will take a long while despite its progress and direction it's headed currently. In addition, you also learn a little philosophical point of view of quantum physics itself. This is where the issue and case of reality comes into play (there are a handful of books explaining the nature of reality in quantum physics).

I really wanted to like this book a lot. As judged by the minimal writing of this review, I immediately got lost after the second chapter. It seems that, having witnessed the writing, it's a beginner's guide to someone who wants a better understanding of the quantum subject, as opposed to a beginner's guide to quantum physics for the laymen. As for me, I jumped in not knowing what to expect and having to 'think like a quantum physicist' seeing things at an atomic point of view. Although I am familiar (somewhat) in the case of Schrödinger's Cat, I was hoping for a more deeper sense of the "attempted murder trial of the cat." (I remember reading that Albert Einstein himself couldn't accept it.) Nevertheless, Erwin's Paradox of the Cat became the main reason I wanted to dig up Quantum Physics.

It pains me to give such a low rating because I found Rae's writing to be friendly and engaging. (The same could said about my review of Beginner's Guides: Humanism by Peter Cave in which the writing could've been better but his presentation of the subject was really good.) It was the introduction of the topics which I felt was rushed, wasn't explained thoroughly and seemed to be targeted toward soon-to-be quantum physicists (which is fine, but others may get the wrong interpretation that it's geared toward the laymen). The math presented, on the Mathematical Boxes, was okay but again, to anyone who has forgotten the math may be at a loss.

Unless you've had a previously huge knowledge, and/or have taken lots of classes, on physics and are familiar with its concepts, this book will immediately drain you out. I have done a moderate amount of research finding books on quantum physics for the laymen, and after picking some up, I can only hope—yes, they will be read and reviewed on this website. (In fact, it's been noted that quantum physics seems rather difficult to simplify for the laymen, or at least some have stated. Though I do understand the difficulties of the subject, I wouldn't mind going back starting from square one. The math will come eventually so I don't mind.)

I learned the properties of an atom; I also know what a quark is! Other than that, quantum physics and its applications toward working in an environment-friendly living and quantum cryptography/computing was a huge plus. Despite being a mysterious subject, or at least I think so, it's something that deserves a lot of attention.

Being in agreement with Rae, with quantum physics being "the greatest intellectual achievement of the human race," learning about the subject from an atomic view really makes one think about the properties that surround our planet and universe, and the impacts it has in the productions of the units and devices we use everyday. Atoms are everywhere. Though philosophy has imminently stepped in to clarify the subject's quirks, such as the paradox of Schrödinger's Cat, its role with/against reality and many others, the world of quantum physics is guaranteed to shock many.





  • An okay attempt to simply a tough subject.
  • Not too much math involved.
  • Doesn't seem to be for beginners.
  • If this is a beginner's guide, is it for those who are looking to venture into the subject or for the layperson?
  • Writing seems to be all over the place.
50% (F-)
Fan Rating
Title Quantum Physics: A Beginner's Guide
Author(s) Alastair I.M. Rae
Description Mysterious talks of quarks, spin and cats in boxes has given quantum physics a reputation as the scientific theory that no-one really understands. Yet, in this fascinating introduction to the quantum world, the practical applications of quantum physics are revealed to be all around us. Were it not for quantum physics, computers would not function, kettles would not boil, and power stations would not heat our homes.

With a minimum of mathematics and an abundance of common sense, Rae explains the science, the philosophical problems and the revolutionary potential of this exciting branch of physics. Exploring the duality of waves and particles, the great minds behind the great ideas, and the astonishing possibilities of a quantum future, this accessible guide is the perfect introduction to one of the most important theories of all time.
Dedication "To Amelia and Alex"
ISBN 978-1-85168-369-7
Book Dimensions Width: 5.06″ (5 1/16″)
Height: 7.81″ (7 13/16″)
Depth: 0.75″ (¾″)
Page Count 240
Contents Illustrations, Acknowledgements, Introduction: What is aesthetics?, six (6) chapters, Further resources and reading, Index
Typeset Jayvee, Trivandrum, India
Cover Design Two Associates
Author Photograph --
Published July 7, 2005
Publisher Oneworld Publications (www.oneworld-publications.com)
Copyright © Alastair I.M. Rae 2005 (Reprinted 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
Printed in / Bound in Great Britain by CPI Cox & Wyman
Book Format Paperback, Kindle
Quoted Reviews "Rae has done an impressive job. Any reader who is prepared to put in a little effort will come away from this book with not only an understanding of the basics of some important practical applications of the theory but also some appreciation of why its conceptual foundations are still the subject of such a spirited debate." — Professor Anthony Leggett - winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Physics

"Few appreciate how deeply quantum physics affects so many aspects of our everyday 21st century world, so Rae's emphasis on the practical impact of abstract concepts is very welcome." — Professor Sir Michael Berry - Royal Society Research Fellow, Bristol University
Best Seller's List --
Other Alastair I.M. Rae is editor of The European Journal of Physics. He is author of Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality? and the best selling textbook, Quantum Mechanics, now in its fourth edition.


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