Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

“How to Teach Physics to Your Dog”

Posted on: February 15, 2010

My college buddy Andy sent me this.  From the title alone, you know you are in for something a little different.

The book itself is written as a conversation with the author and his dog.  The author’s dog, Emmy, plays a very important role, offering great questions and commentary and constantly bringing us back to the practicality of the science.

Chad Orzel’s relaxed writing style brings the book down to a more common level, but is quantum physics for everyone?  I haven’t studied quantum mechanics since my junior year of college, so I am more than a bit rusty.  I picked up the book and got through thirty pages in no time.  Then there were times when it made my head hurt and I could only get through a page at a time.  Quantum physics is strange and challenging material.  Chad does a great job making it interesting and readable.

I often pick up books and don’t bother finishing them.  This book kept pulling me back to discover what oddity was next.  I knew about the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and I’ve never felt like it made sense.  In the book I learned about the “many worlds” interpretation.  While they have the same outcomes, they take different paths at understanding superposition.  I’m not sure any of it really makes sense, but the book does a real nice job bringing quantum mechanics down to the science minded lay person.

I love that Chad ends the book with an straight forward scientific discussion of all the crap out there claiming quantum healing and magic.  As a high school physics teacher, if I get any questions on quantum mechanics, it’s usually about the cures and “free energy” and not about Feynman drawings (which are touched on) and quantum teleportation.

This is not a simple read, but worthy of your time.  I expect I will pick this book up again in about six months to see if a second read improves my understanding.  Again, not something I would usually do, but I can see jumping back in for another taste.  Thanks Andy.

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2 Responses to "“How to Teach Physics to Your Dog”"

Cool! I’ve always wanted to be able to talk about quantum mechanics with some of my (even more) physics-inclined friends. I’ll keep an eye out for this one, thanks for posting it.

As yes, MWI! Indeed, Indeed, “I’ve never felt like it made sense” either. Should we just have to accept that it doesn’t, despite pragmatic applications based on the pretense we do?

Here’s a Socratic question to mull over about consistency problems in MWI. To understand the point, you’d need to skim over interferometry but that isn’t hard with Google. How come the splitting of a photon in e.g. the first beamsplitter of an Mach-Zehnder interferometer doesn’t right away create separate worlds, but the action of a second BS does multiply “worlds?” Consider that simpler case where we intercept the beams right out of BS1 instead of recombining them. Interference or not, that world multiplication (however imagined) should – by consistency with handling measurement selection issues – still happen per why we find a detection in one detector and not superposed in both (the Schroedinger Cat problem.) But if the first BS “split worlds”, then we wouldn’t find interference later, no matter how many worlds there are (;-0) I know, David Deutsch talks of interference between worlds, but to me that just confuses the issue even more beyond the original isolationist perspective.

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