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Kindly sent by [personal profile] kate_nepveu, who is married to the author. This does not affect the content of the review.

I found this both helpful and entertaining; it goes through quantum physics in a comprehensible and interesting manner, beginning with the initial and vital question of why you should teach physics to your dog in the first place. (On the macro-level, dogs are innately curious and inclined to see the same things in many different ways, which makes them apt for the kind of out-of-the-box thinking quantum theory sometimes requires; on the micro-level, she asked.) I am not entirely certain that the author's pedagogical techniques would be useful on dogs with a very different temperament from his Emmy, who is an outgoing sort-- when I owned a Great Pyrenees, his principal question in life was why was I waking him up, but it's nice to have a better handle on the concept of zero-point energy, so that now I might be able to explain to him that it is physically impossible for something ever to be perfectly at rest.*

The really nice thing about this book is that it covers things that happened after I took my high school physics courses, which were the last physics courses I took that attempted to keep up with the state of the field (in college I took Physics for Poets and it was terrible). Consequently I had not previously seen an explanation or even a description of quantum teleportation that was both a) comprehensible and b) not so obviously dumbed down for the newspaper version as to bear little relation to actuality. Now I have. I really appreciate that. In general I enjoyed this book's balance between technicality and comprehensibility; the dog asks intelligent questions and provides amusing little interludes, and, and this is important to the way I personally like to think about this sort of science, is continuously asking about the practical applications, which means that the book explains much more about the scale at which things like uncertainty actually work than I am used to hearing about, and also explains the practical applications, which may literally have been against my previous physics professors' religions as far as I can tell. (I am really still very bitter about Physics for Poets. It was pretty much the worst course I took in the entirety of college.)

The book is also not completely chronological, but nearly so, so that it serves as a useful reminder of which scientist came up with what when and that everything having to do with quantum physics was invented at least twenty years earlier than I ever remember. Also, there's a very nice chapter on recent scams about 'quantum healing' and people who claim that action at a distance makes homeopathy work and all that sort of thing. I have met several people in my life who, shall we say, have some need of that chapter, so if I have to deal with them again, there it is.

For a reader like myself, who has some vague background and a willingness to pay attention but not any real aptitude or experience, this is a good sourcebook and I expect to keep it and use it as a reference. I don't know how it would be for people who are math/science types already or involved with the field, but I expect that Emmy would be sufficiently amusing to make it worth a look. I pretty much guarantee that your last physics textbook did not have evil squirrels. If it did, please tell me what it was.

* This connects interestingly to a theory currently subscribed to in our house, B.'s General Theory of Cats.** B. holds that all cats are engaged in a continuous quest for the perfectly comfortable position, which is why they sleep so much of the time. Something always happens to jar them out of it, or it isn't quite right for other reasons. When they achieve the perfectly comfortable position, they reach a state of rest so profound that it denies even the existence of their zero-point energy, and never move again; the results of this are so theologically and metaphysically complex that they appear to us non-cats to be death. It is therefore important to bother your cat on a semi-regular basis so it does not get too comfortable. The stability of the fabric of reality may depend on it.

** B.'s Special Theory of Cats holds that his cat can, using action at a distance, cure illness, depression, and the King's Evil. It has not yet been adequately tested, though he did send me a picture of her during my recent illness. I felt moderately better upon seeing it, but there may have been other causes.


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March 2017

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