Tuesday, August 14, 7:30pm
Pegasus Books Downtown
Anil Ananthaswamy discusses Through Two Doors at Once - the intellectual adventure story of the "double-slit" experiment, showing how a sunbeam split into two paths first challenged our understanding of light and then the nature of reality itself--and continues to almost 200 years later.
Many of the greatest scientific minds have grappled with this experiment. Thomas Young devised it in the early 1800s to show that light behaves like a wave, and in doing so opposed Isaac Newton's view that light is made of particles. But then Albert Einstein showed that light comes in quanta, or particles. Quantum mechanics was born. This led to a fierce debate between Einstein and Niels Bohr over the nature of reality--subatomic bits of matter and its interaction with light--again as revealed by the double-slit experiment. Richard Feynman held that it embodies the central mystery of the quantum world. Decade after decade, hypothesis after hypothesis, scientists have returned to this ingenious experiment to help them answer deeper and deeper questions about the fabric of the universe.
How can a single particle behave both like a particle and a wave? Does a particle, or indeed reality, exist before we look at it, or does looking create reality, as the textbook "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics seems to suggest? How can particles influence each other faster than the speed of light? Is there a place where the quantum world ends and the familiar classical world of our daily lives begins, and if so, can we find it? And if there's no such place, then does the universe split into two each time a particle goes through the double-slit?
Through Two Doors at Once celebrates the elegant simplicity of an iconic experiment and its profound reach. With his extraordinarily gifted eloquence, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world, through history and down to the smallest scales of physical reality we have yet fathomed. It is the most fantastic voyage you can take.
Anil Ananthaswamy is an award-winning journalist and former staff writer and deputy news editor for the London-based New Scientist magazine. He has been a guest editor for the science writing program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and organizes and teaches an annual science journalism workshop at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, India. He is a freelance feature editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science's Front Matter. He contributes regularly to the New Scientist, and has also written for Nature, National Geographic News, Discover, Nautilus, Matter, The Wall Street Journal and the UK's Literary Review. His first book, The Edge of Physics, was voted book of the year in 2010 by Physics World, and his second book, The Man Who Wasn't There, won a Nautilus Book Award in 2015 and was long-listed for the 2016 Pen/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.