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Paperbacks: Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, by Marcus Chown

Christopher Hirst
Friday 19 September 2008 00:00 BST

Anyone bemused by the CERN collider should lay their hands on this charming and revelatory guide to the innards of atoms.

Chown gently coaxes the reader from the fairly straightforward – the first evidence of atoms was an observation in 1800 of pollen grains zigzagging in water "like drunkards returning from the pub" – to the mind-boggling. Quantum computers (already in prototype) can "represent a zero and a one simultaneously", a phenomenon best explained by the existence of "multiple universes". Time travel is also possible in theory, but Stephen Hawking has doubts: "Where are the tourists from the future?"

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