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La Educación
Número: (116) III
Año: 1993

6. M. Y. HAN. The Probable Universe. An Owner’s Guide to Quantum Physics. Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: McGraw Hill, 1993. 146 p., illustrations, notes, tables, bibliography, index. Paper: $12.95.

Beyond the microscopic world of bacteria and cells exists the molecular and atomic world. In this world lies the final explanation of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. This world, small beyond imagination, obeys laws that are radically different from our everyday world. In this world it is possible for two entities to occupy the same space. It is also possible for a given entity to be in different places at the same time. How is it possible that these contradictory situations arise? They arise because this is the world of quanta, those strange entities that have a dualistic nature: particles and waves, at the same time. Entities ruled not by deterministic laws, but by probabilities. Entities not subjected to a precise observation, but to an uncertain way of determining its own existence. This is a completely strange world. A world that opens the door to a universe that is not necessarily derived as a consequence of clear-cut propositions, but is only a probable one. That is the world that is shown in a most interesting way by Dr. Han. He is one of the leading physicists in the field of quantum mechanics, the arcane discipline that has always been considered one of the most esoteric areas of human knowledge. Because of the mathematical difficulties inherent to its main propositions, it is extremely difficult to grasp its main implications. Anyone that has studied even an introductory course in modern physics has confronted almost unsurmountable difficulties in trying to understand the equations generated by Bohr and Einstein for explaining the photoelectric effect, or those proposed by Schrodinger to assess the probalistic nature of the observation of atomic particles depending upon the wave propagation at the quantum level.

Any physics student or teacher would have an opportunity to answer a very difficult question with the help of this book: what does the atomic universe really mean and why is this universe so strange to our daily life experiences? Stressing the concepts and providing different suggestive analogies, Dr. Han provides invaluable help to understanding the fundamental concepts of quantic physics without the use of mathematical expressions. This does not imply a loss of rigor. On the contrary, the ideas of Dr. Han are very precise and also stress the application of quantic phenomena to some of the most promising areas of technological development. In particular, Dr. Han analyzes the implication of quantum behavior of atomic particles in superconductivity and quantum tunneling. Without a doubt, these two effects will cause dramatic changes in the technology of the future. They are the window for such technologies as the scanning-tunneling microscope and the tunneling transistor. This is a recommended reading for anyone who is interested in studying modern physics.

Leonel Zúñiga M.