Alice in Quantumland
ISBN: 0-387-91495-1
U.S. $20.00, Paperback
179 pages
Written by Robert Gilmore

This is an amazing book by Robert Gilmore. It is a laymen's work on quantum mechanics, using an allegory of Alice in Wonderland. This means that while the story is an original work of science fact, Alice's journey in Quantumland is patterned after the journey of the original Alice (in Wonderland). For example, instead of the Cheshire Cat, we have Schrödinger's cat. The book that Alice is reading at the beginning of the story is, in fact, Alice in Wonderland.

When we meet our intrepid and oft-confused heroine, she has abandoned her copy of Alice In Wonderland for the television set. Alice can find nothing good to watch on TV, and wishes she could have some adventures, "like the Alice in the book." While she is attempting to find a halfway decent program on television, the screen begins to dissolve into myriads of colored dots. Alice is drawn to the screen and is pulled in. And so she goes down into Quantumland.

The first person that Alice meets is a spin-up electron. While he does his best to explain some of the attributes of Quantumland, such as the fact that no two electrons that are exactly alike can share a compartment in a photon wave train, all that happens is that Alice becomes more confused. As she progresses, she will meet many interesting characters, and learn a lot about the world around her. These characters include: The Emperor (with and without his clothes), The Quantum and Classical Mechanics, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling.

Her adventures take her, not down the rabbit hole, but to the heart of the atom. She goes to the Heisenberg Bank to learn about how energy is transferred between particles, and to a room where thought experiments come to life. Alice is sent on a merry chase, but in the end, returns home safe, sound, and slightly more knowledgeable.

Meanwhile, the I learned a complex science, in simple terms. But even though it is simplified, I did not feel as though I was being talked down to. That being said, this is an amazing little book. It is informing and entertaining. It also contains allusions to the real Alice in Wonderland, as well as other fantasy books, including The Wizard of Oz. I chewed through it in a few days, and I am not that fast of a reader. It is a short book, with explanatory notes at the end of each chapter. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand this book, but you don't feel stupid either. I recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in physics, or comical literature.

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