When physics professor Chad Orzel went to the pound to adopt a dog, he never imagined Emmy. She wasn’t just a friendly mutt who needed a home. Soon she was trying to use the strange ideas of quantum mechanics for the really important things in her life: chasing critters, getting treats, and going for walks. She peppered Chad with questions: Could she use quantum tunneling to get through the neighbor’s fence and chase bunnies? What about quantum teleportation to catch squirrels before they climb out of reach? Where are all the universes in which Chad drops steak on the floor?
With great humor and clarity, Chad Orzel explains to Emmy, and to human readers, just what quantum mechanics is and how it works—and why, although you can’t use it to catch squirrels or eat steak, it’s still bizarre, amazing, and important to every dog and human.
What do dog treats and chasing squirrels have to do with quantum mechanics? Much more than you might imagine, as Orzel explains in this fun introduction to modern physics based on a series of conversations with his dog Emmy. Dogs make the perfect sounding board for physics talk, because they approach the world with fewer preconceptions than humans, and always expect the unexpected. Physicist Orzel begins with the basics, explaining how light can be both particle and wave simultaneously—a bit like a dog that can split itself into two to chase a rabbit no matter which direction it runs. A look at Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle begins with a hunt for a hypothetical bone. Schrödinger’s cat becomes, of course, Schrödinger’s dog. Quantum entanglement, quantum teleportation and virtual particles (composed, for example, of bunny-antibunny pairs) are all explained with the author’s characteristic lighthearted touch. While Orzel’s presentation may be a bit too precious for some, readers who’ve shied away from popular treatments of physics in the past may find his cheerful discussion a real treat. ~ PW