Some of the brightest minds in science have passed through the halls of the California Institute of Technology. In the early 1980s, Leonard Mlodinow joined their ranks to begin a postdoctoral fellowship. Afraid he was not smart enough to be there, despite his groundbreaking Ph.D. thesis, he took his insecurities to Richard Feynman, Caltech’s intimidating resident genius and iconoclast. So began a pivotal year in a young man’s life. Though a series of fascinating exchanges, Mlodinow and Feynman delve into the nature of science, creativity, love mathematics, happiness, God, art, pleasures and ambition, producing a moving portrait of a friendship and an affecting account of Feynman’s final creative years.
Quantum mechanics (QM; also known as quantum physics, or quantum theory) is a fundamental branch of physics which deals with physical phenomena at nanoscopic scales, where the action is on the order of the Planck constant. The name derives from the observation that some physical quantities can change only in discrete amounts (Latin quanta), and not in a continuous (cf. analog) way. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the quantum realm of atomic and subatomic length scales. Quantum mechanics provides a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. Quantum mechanics provides a substantially useful framework for many features of the modern periodic table of elements, including the behavior of atoms during chemical bonding, and has played a significant role in the development of many modern technologies.