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Escape From Shadow Physics

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399609586

Price: £25

ON SALE: 20th June 2024

Genre: Mathematics & Science

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The received wisdom in quantum physics is that, at the deepest levels of reality, there are no actual causes for atomic events. This idea led to the outlandish belief that quantum objects – indeed, reality itself – aren’t real unless shaped by human measurement. Einstein mocked this idea, asking whether his bed spread out across his room unless he looked at it. And yet it remains one of the most influential ideas in science and our culture.

In Escape from Shadow Physics, Adam Forrest Kay takes up Einstein’s torch: reality isn’t mysterious or dependent on human measurement, but predictable and independent of us. At the heart of his argument is groundbreaking research with little drops of oil. These droplets behave as particles do in the long-overlooked quantum theory of pilot waves; crucially, they display quantum behaviour while being described by classical physics.

What if the original doubters of our quantum orthodoxy (not least Einstein himself) were onto something? What if pilot wave theory was right all along? In that case, our whole story of twentieth-century physics is topsy-turvy and we must give up the idea that reality is simply too weird to grasp. Weird it may still be, but a true understanding of nature now seems within our reach.


Whatever you think of Kay's efforts to overturn the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics and to justify Einstein by re-establishing classical norms of causality and determinism, his history of the whole wave/particle debate from ancient Greece onwards is authoritative and encyclopaedic - and intriguingly suggests that the purely scientific arguments were in part outweighed by an element of the straightforwardly human
Michael Frayn, author, Copenhagen
Adam Kay has written a rollicking account of the history of science - and human intellectual folly. Rare in its irreverence towards the hallowed ground of quantum foundations, Escape from Shadow Physics is a must read for quantum dissidents
John Bush, Professor of Applied Mathematics, MIT
Artfully written . . . Kay's knowledge of physics history is exquisite . . . ESCAPE FROM SHADOW PHYSICS offers a splendid history of classical and quantum physics as well as a convincing exposition of hydrodynamic quantum analogues
Paul Halpern, Science
Reads like a novel, in which the biographies of major physical concepts are intertwined with the biographies of the great minds that shaped them. The reader will be surprised by the clarity of Kay's arguments
Ana Maria Cetto, author of The Emerging Quantum and winner of the 2023 UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularisation of Science
Adam Forrest Kay has accomplished a real tour de force: he has covered almost the entire history of science to illustrate the failure of instrumentalist or positivist approaches. This leads him to a radical critique of the current dominant view of quantum physics, known as the Copenhagen interpretation. Kay's critique is based in part on the pilot-wave theory and the hydrodynamic quantum analogues. This book will be a landmark in the history and philosophy of physics
Jean Bricmont, theoretical physicist and author, with Alan Sokal, of Intellectual Impostures
A vigorous defence of 'local realism', the idea that the universe at its smallest level ought to work in much the same way we're used to seeing it work in ordinary life . . . Energetically written in short chapters interspersed with digressions into other episodes of scientific wrong turnings, ESCAPE FROM SHADOW PHYSICS is consistently interesting
Andrew Crumey, Wall Street Journal
In the bouncing groove of an oil droplet, Adam Forrest Kay finds a new way to look at quantum mechanics - one that replaces randomness and mystery with new knowledge. Supported by a brilliantly told history and philosophy of physics, this book will change how you think about the field's past. And it may just set a new path for its future
Stephon Alexander, author of Fear of a Black Universe
Adam Kay has written a book that lays out with great clarity the central issue in modern physics: are quantum-mechanical probabilities quite different in nature from all the others in physics and life? The reader will enjoy fascinating details from a great sweep of history and Kay's skill in explaining key technical facts with enviable simplicity
Julian Barbour, author of The Janus Point