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Copyright

Title: Entanglement
Author: Amir D. Aczel
Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows
Copyright: 2001
ISBN: 1568582323
Pages: 284
Price: $25.00
Rating: 87%

Forgive the imprecise language, but I think quantum physics is just cool. There's just something about the fun implications of not being able to know everything about a particle (and therefore the universe) that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Sure, the discovery that you can't observe something without affecting it has fueled thousands of doctoral dissertations that rehash the position that there are no independent observers and, therefore, your reality and mine may be different, but I'm willing to forgive science that little trespass.

For years I'd longed for someone to write a decent quantum physics text for the popular science reader. I may have missed one along the way, but it wasn't until I read Entanglement that I had found a book that was both interesting to read and didn't jump right into the nitty-gritty of the experiments used to demonstrate quantum behavior. I can handle the experiments and their implications perfectly well, just not on page 10.

In Entanglement, author Amir Aczel takes the time to introduce the personalities behind the emerging science that is quantum physics. He starts all the way back at the beginning of the 19th century with Thomas Young's experiments with light, which argued in favor of light being a wave, as opposed to Newton's (and, later, Einstein's) argument that light was composed of particles. Experiments in the early 20th century demonstrated that all particles display some wave-like characteristics, so it's a case of the positions not being mutually exclusive. Sometimes light behaves like a particle, and other times it behaves like a wave. Also cool. High school physics now, but still cool.

The first person to propose the possibility of entanglement, where two or more photons change state if any of their entangled partners change state, started out as a thought experiment Einstein created in an attempt to undermine quantum physics. For quantum physics to be true, he argued, there had to be this "spooky action at a distance" everyone deemed impossible.

Lo and behold, though, experiments later in the 20th century proved that photons could indeed be entangled, exchanging information instantaneously over distances that could not be traveled in a reasonable time, even if the information were traveling at the speed of light. Aczel takes plenty of time to review the scientists and their experiments, so you can drink it all in and appreciate how this "spooky action at a distance" seems to work.

Curtis D. Frye (cfrye@teleport.com) is the editor and chief reviewer of Technology and Society Book Reviews.  He is also the author of three online courses and thirteen books, including Microsoft Office Excel 2003 Step By Step and Privacy-Enhanced Business. He was formerly an analyst for The MITRE Corporation in McLean, Virginia.