THE QUANTUM ASTROLOGER’S HANDBOOK by Michael Brooks, Book Review
A history of the Renaissance mathematics that birthed imaginary numbers, probability, and the new physics of the universe.
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The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook Synopsis
A book of science like no other, about a scientist like no other.
This is a landmark in science writing. It resurrects from the vaults of neglect the polymath Jerome Cardano, a Milanese of the sixteenth century. Who is he? A gambler and blasphemer, inventor and chancer, plagued by demons and anxieties, astrologer to kings, emperors and popes. This stubborn and unworldly man was the son of a lawyer and a brothel keeper, but also a gifted physician and the unacknowledged discoverer of the mathematical foundations of quantum physics. That is the argument of this charming and intoxicatingly clever book, which is truly original in its style, and in the manner of the modernists embodies in its very form its theories about the world.
The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook is a science book with the panache of a novel, for readers of Carlo Rovelli or Umberto Eco. It is a work of and about genius.
(Scribe Publications, October 2017)
Genre: Non-fiction, Historical, Drama, Mystery, SciFi-Fantasy
It’s not often that non-fiction gains a spot on my leisure reading pile. But the moment I read the synopsis for science writer Michael Brook’s new release, I knew it was something I’d enjoy. The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook is narrative non-fiction, with a very interesting twist involving the debate surrounding time as the fourth dimension.
Author Michael Brooks’ passion for his subject matter shines from these pages. An engaging storyteller, he personalises science.
He brings to life for readers not just the individuals behind scientific innovation, but also the time, places and events which influenced their careers. He takes these well known names off historical pedestals, delving into their passions, weaknesses and often less than altruistic motivations. The resounding message being that Science and History are inextricably linked – we cannot truly understand one without the other.
I was actually surprised how far into the quantum physics journey Brooks takes his audience, and how he manages to do this by building upon what are initially disarmingly simple scenarios. The only downside of this is some repetition in explanations, but most would agree that’s a necessary trade-off for accessibility. The degree of concentration required of readers will largely depend on their previous exposure to the mathematical sciences. While accessible to anyone having completed senior high school mathematics, I think that in this titles latter chapters one does benefit from some exposure at a tertiary level.
I particularly enjoyed how candidly Brooks discusses his own scientific opinions, whether in contrast or agreement with others currently working in the field – his interest in the science as well as the personalities. This is notable because such overt authorial presence in narrative non-fiction can often detract from the reading experience. I think it worked really well in this context though because it demystifies the study of quantum theory, highlighting its many competing theories and unverifiable solutions. Even today’s luminaries do not have all the answers, and the journey continues…
Michael Brooks’ The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook is a fascinating read and beautifully packaged title that would make a lovely gift.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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About the Author, Michael Brooks
Michael Brooks, who holds a PhD in quantum physics, is an author, journalist and broadcaster. A consultant at New Scientist, he also writes regularly for New Statesman. Brooks is the author of At The Edge of Uncertainty, Can We Travel Through Time, The Secret Anarchy of Science, Science(ish) and the bestselling non-fiction title 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.
His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer, THE, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and many magazines. He has lectured at, amongst others, NYU, the American Museum of Natural History, and the University of Cambridge.
Check out Michael Brooks’ website or connect with him on Twitter.
* My receiving a copy of The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.