100 books like Helgoland

By Carlo Rovelli, Erica Segre, Simon Carnell

Here are 100 books that Helgoland fans have personally recommended if you like Helgoland. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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

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

From my list on quantum physics and quantum technology for beginners.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Michael's book list on quantum physics and quantum technology for beginners

Michael G. Raymer Why did Michael love 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. 

By Richard P. Feynman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked QED as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrated for his brilliantly quirky insights into the physical world, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman also possessed an extraordinary talent for explaining difficult concepts to the general public. Here Feynman provides a classic and definitive introduction to QED (namely, quantum electrodynamics), that part of quantum field theory describing the interactions of light with charged particles. Using everyday language, spatial concepts, visualizations, and his renowned "Feynman diagrams" instead of advanced mathematics, Feynman clearly and humorously communicates both the substance and spirit of QED to the layperson. A. Zee's introduction places Feynman's book and his seminal contribution to QED in historical context and…


Book cover of The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom

David N. Schwartz Author Of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

From my list on the lives of 20th century physicists.

Why am I passionate about this?

My dad was a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist who co-discovered the muon neutrino, a particle whose existence was first explained by Fermi. I am not a physicist myself but grew up around physicists and have always been fascinated by them and was lucky to have met many of the great 20th century physicists myself – through my father. My family background enabled me to know these great scientists not only as scientists but as people.  

David's book list on the lives of 20th century physicists

David N. Schwartz Why did David love this book?

Dirac was one of the creators of modern quantum physics. His theoretical contributions are astonishing in their insights and their power. He was, as the title says, a very strange man: painfully shy, laconic in the extreme, and socially awkward. He spoke so rarely that his colleagues at Cambridge used to joke that “a dirac” was a unit of measurement equal to one word an hour. Farmelo is a fine writer and gives a lay reader a deep understanding of why Dirac is considered such a giant in the field.

By Graham Farmelo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Strangest Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paul Dirac was among the greatest scientific geniuses of the modern age. One of Einstein's most admired colleagues, he helped discover quantum mechanics, and his prediction of antimatter was one of the greatest triumphs in the history of physics. In 1933 he became the youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dirac's personality, like his achievements, is legendary. The Strangest Man uses previously undiscovered archives to reveal the many facets of Dirac's brilliantly original mind.


Book cover of The Little Book of Cosmology

Marcus Chown Author Of The Ascent of Gravity

From my list on physics and physicists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Formerly a radio astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Marcus Chown is a writer, journalist, and broadcaster. His popular books include 'The Ascent of Gravity' – The Sunday Times Science Book of the Year; Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand; Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You; and Solar System for iPad, winner of The Bookseller Digital Innovation of the Year.

Marcus' book list on physics and physicists

Marcus Chown Why did Marcus love this book?

The most striking thing about the night sky is that it is mostly black. But if your eyes, instead of seeing visible light, could see a type of invisible light known as microwaves, it would be white. The entire Universe is glowing with the “afterglow” of the big bang fireball. Greatly cooled by the expansion of the universe in the past 13.82 billion years, the “cosmic background radiation” now consists of low-energy radio waves, principally microwaves.

Imprinted on this radiation is a “baby photo” of the universe when it was a mere 400,000 years old and matter was beginning the long process of clumping under gravity that would culminate in galaxies such as our own Milky Way. From that photo can be extracted the numbers that define our Universe, from its age of 13.82 billion years to the fact that 70 percent of cosmic mass-energy is in the form of…

By Lyman Page,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Little Book of Cosmology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The cutting-edge science that is taking the measure of the universe

The Little Book of Cosmology provides a breathtaking look at our universe on the grandest scales imaginable. Written by one of the world's leading experimental cosmologists, this short but deeply insightful book describes what scientists are revealing through precise measurements of the faint thermal afterglow of the Big Bang-known as the cosmic microwave background, or CMB-and how their findings are transforming our view of the cosmos.

Blending the latest findings in cosmology with essential concepts from physics, Lyman Page first helps readers to grasp the sheer enormity of the…


Book cover of Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality

Art Hobson Author Of Tales of the Quantum: Understanding Physics' Most Fundamental Theory

From my list on quantum physics and how the universe works.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since my first college course in quantum physics, I have been fascinated with this enigmatic, infinitely interesting theory. It's our most fundamental description of the universe, it's been found to be unerringly accurate, yet it's quite subtle to interpret. Even more intriguingly, "nobody really understands quantum physics" (as Richard Feynman put it). For example, the theory's central concept, the wave function, is interpreted radically differently by different physicists. I have always yearned to grasp, at least to my own satisfaction, a comprehensive understanding of this theory. Since retirement 23 years ago, I have pursued this passion nearly full-time and found some answers, leading to several technical papers and a popular book.

Art's book list on quantum physics and how the universe works

Art Hobson Why did Art love this book?

Given the radically distinct and often incongruent views of what quantum physics means, it is wise to glean a balanced sense of many views by studying the topic's history. Kumar's telling of the great, decades-long debate between two of the field's leading practitioners is authoritative and excitingly told. The book centers on the founding of quantum physics during the 1920s, the famous 1927 Solvay Conference on photons and electrons, and the thoughtful debate between Bohr and Einstein concerning the nature of reality. The author is a physicist, philosopher, and science writer.

By Manjit Kumar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Quantum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This is about gob-smacking science at the far end of reason ... Take it nice and easy and savour the experience of your mind being blown without recourse to hallucinogens' Nicholas Lezard, Guardian
For most people, quantum theory is a byword for mysterious, impenetrable science. And yet for many years it was equally baffling for scientists themselves.

In this magisterial book, Manjit Kumar gives a dramatic and superbly-written history of this fundamental scientific revolution, and the divisive debate at its core. Quantum theory looks at the very building blocks of our world, the particles and processes without which it could…


Book cover of Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different

Chris Ferrie Author Of Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

From my list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!

Chris' book list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible

Chris Ferrie Why did Chris love this book?

Quantum physics is supposed to be weird and mysterious, right? You might then get the impression that Beyond Weird will explain how quantum physics is weirder than weird. But, no! Beyond Weird is about how we can beyond the concept that quantum physics is weird. Philip Ball does an amazing job telling the story of how physicists have tried to make sense of quantum theory.

By Philip Ball,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beyond Weird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."

Since Niels Bohr said this many years ago, quantum mechanics has only been getting more shocking. We now realize that it's not really telling us that "weird" things happen out of sight, on the tiniest level, in the atomic world: rather, everything is quantum. But if quantum mechanics is correct, what seems obvious and right in our everyday world is built on foundations that don't seem obvious or right at all-or even possible.

An exhilarating tour of the contemporary quantum landscape, Beyond Weird is a book about what…


Book cover of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog

Chris Ferrie Author Of Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

From my list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!

Chris' book list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible

Chris Ferrie Why did Chris love this book?

In How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog Chad Orzel has an imaginary conversation about quantum physics with his dog, Emmy. Orzel explains each of the features of quantum physics, like superposition and entanglement, by starting first with an analogy in Emmy’s understandably dog-like behavior.

By Chad Orzel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Quantum physics has never been more popular. Once thought of as an obscure science, it reached the masses via the notion of teleportation in Star Trek and, more recently, as an integral part of the popular TV series Lost and Fringe. Now, inspired by his hugely popular website and science blog, Chad Orzel uses his cherished mutt Emmy to explain the basic principles of quantum physics. And who better to explain the magical universe of quantum physics than a talking dog?


Book cover of Through Two Doors at Once: The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality

Chris Ferrie Author Of Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

From my list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!

Chris' book list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible

Chris Ferrie Why did Chris love this book?

Through Two Doors at Once is the most complete and lucid description of the archetypal quantum experiment, the so-called “double-slit experiment.” Anil Ananthaswamy interviews quantum scientists and weaves modern understanding into the history of one of the most famous science experiments ever.

By Anil Ananthaswamy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Through Two Doors at Once as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can matter behave both like a particle and a wave? Does a particle exist before we look at it or does the very act of looking bring it into reality? Is there a place where the quantum world ends and our perceivable world begins?

Many of science's greatest minds including Thomas Young, Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman have grappled with the questions embodied in the simple yet elusive 'double-slit' experiment in order to understand the fabric of our universe. With his extraordinary gift for making the complicated comprehensible, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world and through history, down to…


Book cover of Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum

Chris Ferrie Author Of Where Did the Universe Come From? and Other Cosmic Questions: Our Universe, from the Quantum to the Cosmos

From my list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!

Chris' book list on quantum physics that are also the most accessible

Chris Ferrie Why did Chris love this book?

Are you still here? Good. Because by now you are probably reading to tackle some university-level courses in quantum physics, right? Well, with your background in pop quantum physics all you need to get there is a little more abstraction. So, if you have the stomach for a bit of mathematics, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind is your ticket to the big show! (Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the math, though.)

By Leonard Susskind, Art Friedman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Quantum Mechanics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First he taught you classical mechanics. Now, physicist Leonard Susskind has teamed up with data engineer Art Friedman to present the theory and associated mathematics of the strange world of quantum mechanics.In this follow-up to the New York Times best-selling The Theoretical Minimum , Susskind and Friedman provide a lively introduction to this famously difficult field, which attempts to understand the behaviour of sub-atomic objects through mathematical abstractions. Unlike other popularizations that shy away from quantum mechanics' weirdness, Quantum Mechanics embraces the utter strangeness of quantum logic. The authors offer crystal-clear explanations of the principles of quantum states, uncertainty and…


Book cover of When We Cease to Understand the World

William Egginton Author Of The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality

From my list on the ultimate nature of reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins and have spent my career thinking, teaching, and writing about the relations between literature, philosophy, and science. Many years ago I started out thinking I would be a scientist, but then got pulled into literature and philosophy. Still, that original passion never left me. As I studied and read the great authors and thinkers from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages to the modern era, the big, fundamental questions of our place in the universe and the ultimate nature of reality seemed as pertinent to poets and philosophers as it is to physicists and cosmologists. 

William's book list on the ultimate nature of reality

William Egginton Why did William love this book?

Labatut’s book defies categorization. Is it a novel? Is it philosophy? Is it narrative non-fiction? It’s somehow all the above.

Delving into the mysteries of humanity’s drive to understand nature, Labatut explores a handful of real personalities from the twentieth century as they struggled against the abyss toward which their very capacity to reason pushed them.

Profound, funny, absurd, and gorgeously written, When We Cease to Understand the World awakens a sense of wonder at the complexity of the universe, and the power of the human intellects that grapple with it.

By Benjamin Labatut, Adrian Nathan West (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked When We Cease to Understand the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When We Cease to Understand the World shows us great minds striking out into dangerous, uncharted terrain.

Fritz Haber, Alexander Grothendieck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schroedinger: these are among the luminaries into whose troubled minds we are thrust as they grapple with the most profound questions of existence. They have strokes of unparalleled genius, they alienate friends and lovers, they descend into isolated states of madness. Some of their discoveries revolutionise our world for the better; others pave the way to chaos and unimaginable suffering. The lines are never clear.

At breakneck pace and with wondrous detail, Benjamin Labatut uses the…


Book cover of Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story

William Egginton Author Of The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality

From my list on the ultimate nature of reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins and have spent my career thinking, teaching, and writing about the relations between literature, philosophy, and science. Many years ago I started out thinking I would be a scientist, but then got pulled into literature and philosophy. Still, that original passion never left me. As I studied and read the great authors and thinkers from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages to the modern era, the big, fundamental questions of our place in the universe and the ultimate nature of reality seemed as pertinent to poets and philosophers as it is to physicists and cosmologists. 

William's book list on the ultimate nature of reality

William Egginton Why did William love this book?

In this philosophical page-turner, Jim Holt seems to grab every major scientist and thinker he can find by the collar to make them face down arguably the most fundamental question of all: why there is something instead of nothing.

Whether talking to string theorists or experts on German existentialism, Holt keeps the tone as light as the questions are profound. In an added treat, the reader gets a real sense of the people behind some of the most creative minds on the planet. 

By Jim Holt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Does the World Exist? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tackling the "darkest question in all of philosophy" with "raffish erudition" (Dwight Garner, New York Times), author Jim Holt explores the greatest metaphysical mystery of all: why is there something rather than nothing? This runaway bestseller, which has captured the imagination of critics and the public alike, traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. Holt adopts the role of cosmological detective, traveling the globe to interview a host of celebrated scientists, philosophers, and writers, "testing the contentions of one against the theories of the other" (Jeremy Bernstein, Wall Street Journal). As he interrogates his list of…


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