Excellent Exposition of Modern Physics


Reviewer: Herbert Gintis from Northampton, MA USA

 Stenger is a physicist completely at home in contemporary mathematical physics, yet incurably curious about the deeper philosophical issues brought up by quantum mechanics. I have read many books attempting to explain quantum mechanics to the layman and I consider this the most careful and enlightening--also quite up to date (even in the year 2000).

 The problems arising around quantum mechanics can be analyzed using the famous Bell equation, which Stenger develops extremely nicely (although it helps to be able to read the simple algebra in the optional 'boxes'). The violation of Bell's inequality, he argues (drawing on many technical papers and books) violates either Determinism + Locality or Separability + Locality, or Completeness + Locality (all terms well defined in the book). He argues strongly that quantum mechanics does not violate Locality itself,which Stenger takes as very important to maintain. Stenger presents the classical Copenhagen interpretation of the collapse of the wave function, as well as Bohm's hidden variable interpretation, the many-worlds interpretation, and the most recent (and to my mind satisfying) decoherence approach.

 The Unconscious Quantum's main message is that modern physics provides absolutely no support for New Age and more traditionally religious notions of supernaturalism. Stenger is refreshing in not denying the existence of spirituality, but holding that the world of spirituality does not, as far as we know, intersect the natural world described in the natural sciences. "While I cannot bring myself to worship a hypothesis," he notes, "I have no wish to disparage those who do. I simply ask that they not assume that science, in its current state, provides any buttress for their belief..."

 This does not mean Stenger supports New Age guruism. In a truly beautiful passage he says, "Anyone listening to New Age gurus and modern Christian preachers cannot miss the emphasis on the individual finding easy gratification, rather than sacrificing and selflessly laboring for a better world. Holisitic philosophy is the perfect self-delusion for the spointed brat of any age, all decked out in the latest fashion, who loves to talk about solving the problems of the world but has no intention of sweating a drop in acheiving this noble goal."