Your alarm goes off, and you head to the kitchen to make yourself some toast and a cup of coffee. Little do you know, as you savor the aroma of the steam rising from your cup, that your ordinary morning routine depends on some of the weirdest phenomena ever discovered.
The world of quantum physics is generally thought of as hopelessly esoteric. While classical physics gives us the laws governing why a ball rolls downhill, how a plane is able to fly, and so on, its quantum cousin gives us particles that are actually waves, “spooky” action at a distance, and Schrodinger’s unlucky cat. But, believe it or not, even the most mundane of everyday activities is profoundly influenced by the abstract and exotic world of the quantum.
In Breakfast with Einstein, Chad Orzel illuminates the strange phenomena lurking just beneath the surface of our ordinary lives by digging into the surprisingly complicated physics involved in his (and anyone’s) morning routine. Orzel, author of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, explores how quantum connects with everyday reality, and offers engaging, layperson-level explanations of the mind-bending ideas central to modern physics.
From the sun, alarm clocks, and the red glow of a toaster’s hot filaments (the glow that launched quantum mechanics) to the chemistry of food aroma, a typical day is rich with examples of quantum weirdness. Breakfast with Einstein reveals the hidden physics all around us, and after reading this book, your ordinary mornings will never seem quite as ordinary again.
Orzel (How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog) offers another helpful guide to modern physics, using an especially creative hook. After describing in the introduction a typical morning routine waking up, making breakfast, checking his computer Orzel breaks those actions down in order to "show how an ordinary weekday routine depends on some of the weirdest phenomena ever discovered." For example, his alarm clock allows him to discuss, cogently, how the "modern accounting of time" that the device embodies is "deeply rooted in the quantum physics of atoms." He concisely summarizes the history of timekeeping, which evolved beyond reliance on physical objects, such as pendulums, susceptible to even small variations, to measuring time by counting light wave oscillations caused by moving electrons. Orzel provides similar explanation for such phenomena as the different colors of light emitted by objects heated to different temperatures, using as an entry point the glowing coils of the burner on his stove top. The science is not intuitive, and readers will need to pay close attention to follow Orzel's points, but that required effort is unavoidable with such a complex subject. This erudite book will be best read in multiple sittings by curious readers keen on absorbing all the weird science on display all around them.