• Quantum Steampunk

  • The Physics of Yesterday's Tomorrow
  • By: Nicole Yunger Halpern
  • Narrated by: Raechel Wong
  • Length: 8 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Victorian era steam engines and particle physics may seem worlds apart, yet a new branch of science, quantum thermodynamics, reenvisions the scientific underpinnings of the Industrial Revolution through the lens of today's roaring quantum information revolution. Classical thermodynamics needs reimagining to take advantage of quantum mechanics, the basic framework that explores the nature of reality by peering at minute matters, down to the momentum of a single particle.

In her exciting new book, Harvard physicist Dr. Nicole Yunger Halpern introduces these concepts with what she calls "quantum steampunk," after the fantastical genre that pairs futuristic technologies with Victorian sensibilities. While listeners follow the adventures of a rag-tag steampunk crew on trains, dirigibles, and automobiles, they explore questions such as, "Can quantum physics revolutionize engines?" and "What deeper secrets can quantum information reveal about the trajectory of time?"

Yunger Halpern also describes her own adventures in the quantum universe and provides an insider's look at the work of the scientists obsessed with its technological promise. Quantum Steampunk explores the field's aesthetic, shares its whimsy, and gazes into the potential of a quantum future. The result is a blast for fans of science, science fiction, and fantasy.

Publisher’s note: This audio contains references to figures present in the print and eBook formats of the book.

©2022 Nicole Yunger Halpern (P)2022 Tantor

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Up-to-the minute overview of quantum/thermal stats

Halpern is a young physicist at the very beginning of her career as a professor. She is the main contributing co-author on a handful of important papers on "one-shot thermodynamics" and quantum resource theories.

In this book, Halpern takes a light-hearted, soft approach to explaining her research. She starts every chapter with a "skit" of sorts in order to introduce the concepts she will explain throughout the chapter. I find that most of these sorts of attempts by scientists at being artistic don't go over well, but her skits aren't too bad -- and they don't last long, in case they start to become unbearable.

Most of the research she's engaged in isn't explained anywhere else, in this format, so I'm willing to overlook the few missed opportunities where she could've made better connections between the analogies and the actual physics.

The narrator did the best that she could, given the difficulties in understanding what connections the author had in mind between the analogies and the physics. Many times I had to rewind in order to make sense of what had just been said, because it was read out of context or with incorrect words accented in key phrases.

Overall an excellent choice for anyone interested in cutting edge quantum thermodynamics, even if it's not perfect ("perfection is the enemy of progress").

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Finally something different!

Goofy fun brain tickler. I'll need to listen to this at least two more times and I'm looking forward to it.

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Excellent summary of numerous fields and how they

>> I developed a research program by smashing together quantum physics, information theory, and thermodynamics.

This basically describes what the book is about, she describes enough of each of these fields in English so you can understand the basics of her thesis which I believe is on an offshoot of Quantum Information Theory(or maybe Quantum Thermodynamics), with examples from a Victorian society that developed everything along the lines of the steam engine instead of the internal combustion engine. I found it interesting to sample these fields and learned more about a few things like WHY Maxwell's demon was troubling to physicists at that time. The fact that the examples were limited to steam technology added a little flair and a theme.

I found it comprehensible as a guide to the basics of the fields and how they're related. I'm going to have to reread it in a year or so to see what I missed.

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Profile Image for Andreas Teschner
  • Andreas Teschner
  • 05-13-22

Why not?

Maybe I am missing something here, but why is there no PDF-file attached to this audiobook?
The author makes several references to printed figures throughout her audiobook, which in other audiobooks are attached as separate downloadable PDF files, but sadly on this one appear to be missing.
I really enjoyed this funky and unconventional approach to the subject of Quantum Steampunk and the narration by Raechel Wong is excellent.
However, many of the presented steam engine scenarios are scientific theories only and yet unproven. As enjoyable and entertaining this introduction to Information Theory, Quantum Physics, Quantum Computation, and Thermodynamics is, when a mathematical construct like the probability wave function is set congruous to a ‘real life’ physical entity, many of the described quantum effects remain for now, no more than science-fiction.
One certainly will have to come back for more, because only future research can tell us, if the authors phantastic quantum steampunk future really reflects a though magical but possible physical reality, or nothing but steam.