Quantum Theory For Beginners - J. P. McEvoy and Oscar Zarate

The 'for beginners' series, as well as the 'Bluffer's guide' seem to me to be the red squirrels to the transatlantic grey squirrels of the 'for dummies' and 'idiots guide to' series. The computer-free layout and bad cartoons add to their suspect charm.

I've not read any physics in ages, and when I came across this in a second-hand bookshop, I couldn't resist. It could have been very poor, especially with the magic handwaving that people associate with quantum. Instead, it's a remarkably readable and interesting introduction to the subject, which actually has some mathematical detail to it (not tonnes, but enough to keep up the interest).

The way it does this is by focusing on the historical development. This provides a narrative, and set of characters. The developing subject provides momentum, but also the fact that the subject was driven by unexplained physical phenomena keeps the exposition firmly rooted in physical reality, even if the mathematics is difficult to interpret physically.

In many ways, I think this is the perfect counterpart to Feynman's introductory QED book, coming at the subject in a completely different direction, and rounding out elementary, non-quantitative quantum very neatly.

Posted 2009-07-28.