‘How To Teach Quantum Physics To Your Dog’, by Chad Orzel

I picked up this book at the W H Smith shop on Reading Railway Station about 3 weeks ago. At the time I was thinking about my upcoming Quantum Chemistry lectures, and as usual, looking for some inspiration to add some new material or find a different approach some aspects of the subject. This book has certainly helped me on both counts.

First, some basics. You can read about the book here, and the author has a blog, which is worth following. He is also on Twitter, as @orzelc. If you’re reading this in the UK, you can order the book from Amazon for £5.11 (at the time of writing).

The book starts with a discussion of why you would want to discuss quantum physics with your dog, and makes the interesting point that one of the reasons why we as humans sometimes find the results of quantum theory confusing is that we are conditioned by ‘classical’ results. Dogs, however, do not have any pre-conceptions, so they will not have this problem. An introduction to quantum physics then follows.

The book has 10 chapters, each dealing with a specific topic, such as wave-particle duality and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and each chapter is a combination of an explanation of the subject and a conversation between the author and his dog, Emmy. It has to be said that Emmy is no ordinary dog, and she learns quickly, as well as reading the author’s books when she is alone in the house! Each topic is explained very clearly and without too much jargon or unnecessary teachnical terms.

The book is a refreshing take on quantum physics, and I found that it gave me some new ideas for my teaching, as well as teaching me some new things which I hadn’t encountered before. These included the extension of electron diffraction to the diffraction of molecules, including ones as heavy as C60. This has now got into my lectures, duly acknowledged, of course!

I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in quantum physics/quantum mechanics, whether it’s a general interest or a professional one. And if you are interested in Relativity, Chad’s new book, How To Teach Relativity To Your Dog, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.


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