Are you curious about the spacetime continuum or the realities of time travel? Then check out the 12 best books for quantum physics for every student.
Quantum physics is the study of matter at its most basic level. It is also sometimes called particle physics. Quantum mechanics is an even more detailed branch of this scientific field. It focuses on the mathematical equations that govern the motion and interactions of particles on a subatomic level.
This branch of science can be difficult for some students because it deals with things we cannot easily see. Much of the understanding of this branch of science came from the work of scientists like Einstein in the early 1900s. They used mathematic equations and theories to create a picture of the universe. Even though this was all theoretical, it was shockingly accurate, and thus, today, we still use much of their work to study the known universe.
When telescopic technology gets good enough to see things on this molecular level, much of the work of scientists like Einstein has been proven true. You might find some similar theories referenced in our article; what is hard science fiction?
But what is the impact of quantum physics on everyday people, and is it worth reading about? Quantum science has woven its way into our modern culture and vernacular. You’d be hard-pressed to find a sci-fi movie that doesn’t talk about quantum entanglement or quantum teleportation. Even some mysticism has its roots in particle physics. Though much of this is fiction, it has its roots in the scientific world.
This cultural connection and the fascinating history of the people behind quantum physics make it a topic worth reading about. Whether you are a professor who needs to brush up on some skills or a good book is a great place to start. Here is a list of the best 12 books on quantum physics for the scientist in your life to enjoy.
Here Are The Best Books for Quantum Physics For Beginners
1. Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman
In Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum, Leonard Susskind partnered with Art Friedman to discuss the theory and mathematics in the quantum mechanics world. The two authors published this work in 2014. This book is an introduction to the world of quantum theory and fully embraces the strange nature of the topic.
It is a follow-up to Susskind’s first book, The Theoretical Minimum, and it also runs as a parallel to the continuing education course from Stanford University that Susskind teaches. This book is known as being approachable, at least for those who understand some quantum physics, which makes it popular with beginners in the field.
“The units that we use reflect our own size. The origin of the meter seems to be that it was used to measure rope or cloth: it’s about the distance from a person’s nose to his or her outstretched fingers. A second is about as long as a heartbeat. And a kilogram is a nice weight to carry around. We use these units because they are convenient, but fundamental physics doesn’t care that much about us.”Leonard Susskind, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum
2. Quantum Physics for Beginners: From Wave Theory to Quantum Computing by Carl J. Pratt
Quantum physics is a topic that doesn’t lend itself well to true beginners, but this book gets as close as possible. Quantum Physics for Beginners: From Wave Theory to Quantum Computing introduces the reader to the basic tenants of the study, but it does use quite a bit of mathematics to do so. Thus some true beginners would say it isn’t accessible.
For those with some knowledge, it appears to have just the right amount of math combined with less intense subjects, which makes it a great choice for beginners who know a little about the topic. If you have some background in physics but not quantum physics, this is one of the best books to understand this field further. This is one of the newer books on this list of best quantum physics reads, as it was published in 2021.
“The weak nuclear force is the mechanism of interaction between subatomic particles that is responsible for the radioactive decay of atoms.”Carl J. Pratt, Quantum Physics for Beginners: From Wave Theory to Quantum Computing
3. How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel
Undoubtedly, the best quantum physics books can be heavy in theorems and mathematical formulas. How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog is an interesting take on the topic. In this book, Chad uses Emmy, a talking dog he created, to explain Quantum physics’s key theories and discover its interesting history. It touches on many of the basic principles in the field, including the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the particle-wave duality theory, but in a way that beginners can understand. He published this book in 2009.
“If dog treats appeared out of empty space in the middle of a kitchen, a human would freak out, but a dog would take it in stride. Indeed, for most dogs, the spontaneous generation of treats would be vindication—they always expect treats to appear at any moment, for no obvious reason.”Chad Orzel, How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog
4. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J. Griffiths
Often used as a textbook in quantum physics classes, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics is a popular science book that is great for beginners. David J. Griffiths writes in such a way that you don’t need a knowledge of classical physics to understand his writing.
He explains the math before expecting the reader to know it. This means he shows the reader how to “do” the work, then explores what that work “means.” These explanations make understanding the principles taught in this popular textbook easier. Interestingly, it completely ignores the historical context. This book was first published in 1994. You might also enjoy our list of the best medical authors.
“But physics is like carpentry: Using the right tool makes the job easier, not more difficult, and teaching quantum mechanics without the appropriate mathematical equipment is like asking the student to dig a foundation with a screwdriver.”David J. Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
Prize-Winning Quantum Physics Authors
5. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard P. Feynman
Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman is well-known for his lectures that made the challenging subject of quantum physics more understandable for non-scientists. The Feynman lectures on physics are often compiled into books, and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter is one of these.
This book covers electrodynamics, or the study of light, x-rays, and gamma rays. He takes the formulas of Dirac and expands them, changing the understanding of the nature of particles and how waves work. This book was first published in 1985 and remained an important work in the modern understanding light and the electromagnetic spectrum. He also weaves some humor into his work, which is part of what makes it a popular physics book.
“What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school… It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don’t understand it. You see my physics students don’t understand it… That is because I don’t understand it. Nobody does.”Richard P. Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
6. Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
You can’t think of physics without thinking of Einstein, whose famous theories revolutionized the world of science in his day. He was one of the most famous scientists of classical physics, and his theory of relativity is one of his most famous scientific contributions.
He published Relativity in 1916, and the book attempted to break down the General Theory of Relativity into something the average reader could understand without truly understanding the mathematical principles of the quantum world. It was this book’s basic premise that made Einstein a household name in the science world, but it was the book’s accessibility that made him well-known to the general public.
“If you’ve never done anything wrong it’s probably because you have never tried anything new.”Albert Einstein, Relativity
7. Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime by Sean Carroll
Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll is renowned for his scientific writing, and Something Deely Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime is one of his best works. He uses the book to reconcile Einstein’s theory of relativity with modern quantum mechanics.
Reading this book gives one a new understanding of the universe and the human’s place in it. Carroll theorizes that every second, a copy of each person is made on different paths along the spacetime continuum. When this book was published in 2019, it became an instant New York Times bestseller and was the favorite science book of 2019 based on data from Science News.
“The enigma at the heart of quantum reality can be summed up in a single motto: what we see when we look at the world seems to be fundamentally different from what is.”Sean Carroll, Something Deely Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime
8. The Principles of Quantum Mechanics by Paul A.M. Dirac
Considered the standard work in the field, The Principles of Quantum Mechanics was published first in 1958. In the book, Dirac outlines some of his speculative theories about the quantum realm, including his theory that positrons existed, which would be proven by observation a few years after he published the book. Dirac’s work was so foundational to this branch of science that it earned him the Nobel Prize at the young age of 31. This book remains vital to understanding the field, even decades after its publication.
“Classical mechanics has been developed continuously from the time of Newton and applied to an ever-widening range of dynamical systems, including the electromagnetic field in interaction with matter.”Paul A.M. Dirac, The Principles of Quantum Mechanics
9. What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker
In What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics, Adam Becker argues that the interpretation of quantum mechanics based on Niels Bohr’s Copenhagen Interpretation may be incorrect. He follows the history of the great thinkers who also questioned Bohr and theorizes that we may not actually have the right answer to the age-old question of “what is real?” This is a great book to take a deeper look at quantum physics and potential additional interpretations of modern science. Becker published this in 2018.
“Science, done right, works hard to respect absolutely no authority at all other than experience and empirical data. It never succeeds entirely, but it comes closer and has a better track record than any other method we apes have found for learning about the world around us.”Adam Becker, What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
10. The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber
Quantum physics seems modern, but it originated in the early 1900s. In The Quantum Moment, Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scarff Goldhaber bring the experiences of a physicist and a philosopher to their discussion of quantum physics topics. They look at Schrodinger’s cat, the idea of multiverses and quantum entanglement, the theory of quantum leaps, and how those scientific theories impact modern society using science and logic.
The book masterfully merges classical mechanics and physics with modern cultural ideas tied to these scientific theories. This book was published in 2014. If you liked this post, check out our round-up of the best scientific authors!
“Initially, we assumed the cultural impact of the quantum was largely inconsequential, and that we would mostly find terms and images used by charlatans to impress the gullible, and artists with a dash of scientific literacy who appropriated the cultural authority of science.”Robert P. Crease, The Quantum Moment
11. The Particle at the End of The Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of the Universe by Sean Carroll
The Particle at the End of the Universe explores CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and how it lead to the discovery of the Higgs Boson, also known as “The God Particle. This discovery in 2012 was one of the best in history. This book tells the story of the discovery with less high-tech quantum information and more clear information about what the people were doing as they made this discovery. This book was published in 2012, not long after the landmark discovery.
“We are part of the universe that has developed a remarkable ability: We can hold an image of the world in our minds. We are matter contemplating itself.”Sean Carroll, The Particle at the End of the Universe
12. Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation by Anton Zeilinger
Einstein was a brilliant scientist, but he held firmly to the idea that physics had to be connected to reality. Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation is the work of Anton Zeilinger, who found for himself that quantum entanglement does occur. Through these lessons, the quantum computer eventually came to be.
The book builds on the work of scientists like Einstein and Schrodinger but shows an unreal side to the world of physics. This book came to market in 2010. Looking for more on this topic? Check out our essays about science!
“We have tried for centuries to look deeper and deeper into finding causes and explanations, and suddenly, when we go to the very depths, to the behavior of individual particles of individual quanta, we find that this search for a cause comes to an end. There is no cause. In my eyes, this fundamental indeterminateness of the universe has not really been integrated into our worldview yet.”Anton Zeilinger, Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation
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