by Jim Baggott. This book is a philosophical enquiry about the basic assumptions and implications of quantum theory. This is not a "popular science" book as such; Baggott doesn't spare readers of jargons -- the book is populated with discussion about eigenstates and complementary observables. Yet the writing is logical and clear, and should present little difficulty for those with a high-school math background; the awkward advanced math is elegantly stowed away in the appendix.
Writing from the viewpoint of philosophy, Baggott goes into areas that most physics texts ignore. Especially illuminating are discussion about the different premises behind Schodinger's wave mechanics and Heisenberg's matrix mechanics; the realist (e.g. Einstein) versus the anti-realist (e.g. Bohr) interpretation of quantum events; and the controversy about "hidden variables". For the first time I grasp the true significance of Bell's Inequality. I'm only halfway through the book and I can only imagine the revelation it is going to offer.Kafka on the Shore
, a surrealist novel by Haruki Murakami set in modern-day Japan. Sure, the story keeps me turning the pages, but it is because of the freaky characters that Murakami keeps on recruiting into his yarn, and the freaky traits that some characters develop out of the blue. Perhaps I'm just eager to find if Murakami can achieve any kind of closure at all. Murakami is a fine tale-spinner, but as he ends almost every chapter with a cliff-hanger, I have doubts as to his confidence in his own craft.
As the book proceeds, it takes on the eye-squinting glare of a high-brow masked ball, populated by people who talk in metaphors and go out of their ways to show off their knowledge in philosophy, literature, and especially classical music. No doubt people will concoct all sorts of interpretations to this work. To paraphase one character in the book: if you put enough symbolic-sounding words together, people will mistaken your lines as a poem
. I'm sure if you make your characters freaky enough and give them enough cryptic soundbites, you'll get people thinking in archetypes.
It is easy to understand why Murakami is big in Japan, a culture brought up on animes with their fantastic bestiary. It is harder to see why people think he is on the Nobel shortlist.