The best books for beginners to learn about quantum physics and quantum technology

Michael G. Raymer Author Of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know
By Michael G. Raymer

Who am I?

I am a professor of physics, passionate about researching physics and inspiring non-scientists to enjoy learning about physics. My research addresses how to use quantum physics to accelerate the development of quantum information science including quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum measurement. My current projects are in developing quantum satellite communications, increasing the precision of telescopes, and constructing a quantum version of the Internet—the Quantum Internet. These topics revolve around quantum optics—the study of how light interacts with matter. I originated the idea of a National Quantum Initiative and lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass it into law, resulting in large investments in the new, exciting field of quantum technology.

I wrote...

Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know

By Michael G. Raymer,

Book cover of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know

What is my book about?

Until recently, quantum physics was seen as an esoteric topic that had little direct impact on ordinary people. That view is rapidly changing as scientists come to grips with the real-world ramifications of quantum physics as it applies to new kinds of technologies. The possibilities of quantum computers and a quantum Internet are raising our expectations for the next revolution, which will likely be as world-changing as the semiconductor revolution has been over the past 50 years. I wrote this book after years of developing creative ways to explain the inner workings of quantum physics in a way that requires little if any mathematics. Many non-scientist readers have said they appreciate the manner the subject is presented in, with just the right level of gentle challenge to help them think and learn.

The books I picked & why

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The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments

By Jim Baggott,

Book cover of The Quantum Story: A History in 40 Moments

Why this book?

My first book pick tells the story (and quite a story it is) of how quantum theory came to be and why it is essential for understanding the physical world at its deepest level. Written by a master of popular exposition, this book covers everything from the discovery of the quantum in 1900 to recent discoveries in quantum optics. Baggott is an accomplished scientist as well as award-winning author, enabling him to write what I think of as the best update in the style of a cherished book I was first inspired by in the 1980s: In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat by John Gribbin. 

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

By Richard P. Feynman,

Book cover of QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

Why this book?

My second pick is by the master himself. Richard Feynman’s little book explains quantum electrodynamics or QED to a lay audience. Not only did he receive a Nobel Prize for his discoveries in this area, but Feynman was at the pinnacle of using deep understanding of physics to give the simplest possible yet accurate description of the world as seen through physics. He steps the reader slowly and carefully through some incredible journeys of logic (without equations) to explain how light travels from one place to another and how light interacts with matter such as electrons. It’s basic stuff, but deep and a fun ride. 

Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos

By Seth Lloyd,

Book cover of Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos

Why this book?

Now we are getting to the modern era, where physics meets computing in ways never dreamed of by the founders of quantum physics. Seth Lloyd is a professor at MIT and one of the first to prove that quantum theory admits the possibility of building computers on wholly quantum foundations. He is also one of the most creative and engaging writers on the subject. His main message is that information is the basis of all things physical. From quantum bits or qubits to cosmology, this book has it all, and is written in a highly accessible way. Not a single equation can be found. 

Q is for Quantum

By Terry Rudolph,

Book cover of Q is for Quantum

Why this book?

This masterful book goes one step further and presents a game-based analogy that goes a long way toward explaining how a quantum computer actually works. Working through the book, one gains an understanding of how qubits can be quantum entangled and how entanglement leads to computing tasks that could not be performed on an ordinary computer. Deceptively simple in appearance, the method leads you deep into the inner workings of quantum logic operations without realizing you are digesting some pretty advanced concepts. The author knows of what he writes, as his theoretical discoveries led to one of the world’s most ambitious quantum computing efforts.  

Totally Random: Why Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics (A Serious Comic on Entanglement)

By Tanya Bub, Jeffrey Bub,

Book cover of Totally Random: Why Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics (A Serious Comic on Entanglement)

Why this book?

The subtitle of this book is A Serious Comic on Entanglement. Normally I am not fond of comic-style presentations of physics (although I do love comics, as my Conan the Barbarian collection can attest). But I am happy to make an exception for this excellent book, written by a daughter-father team, the father being one of the leading philosophers of physics and the daughter being an artist and web designer. All the deep physics is there, presented in a fun, reader-friendly style. The acknowledgments section credits six ‘reviewers,’ ages 12 to 15, for reviewing and helping edit the book – now that’s inter-generational! 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in quantum mechanics, quantum computing, and physics?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like My First Book of Quantum Physics, Quantum Physics for Smart Kids, Volume 4: A Little Scientist's Guide to Atoms, Molecules, Matter, and More, and Baby Loves Quantum Physics! if you like this list.