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Paperbacks: Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, by Marcus Chown

Christopher Hirst
Friday 19 September 2008 00:00 BST
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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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