Posted by Arjendu on August 25, 2009
I don’t get to read textbooks or monographs much nowadays. To be honest, I think physicists don’t read their way through textbooks and/or monographs much, anyway, unless it’s part of a course (either one they’re teaching or one they’re taking; in the latter case, they might not read anyway). I remember wondering if my Profs in grad school had actually read all the books lining their walls and slowly realized that few had truly read most of the books. The tendency — as far as I could tell — is to skim the book, and put it away, and then, in the middle of a conversation/argument or a calculation or something, to jump up and retrieve it to look up one specific idea. And I’m no different at this stage of my life.
Summers are the only time for background work for me, however, when I can manage to focus long enough (I haven’t whined much on this blog, but I have to my IRL friends, so suffice to say that this summer I’ve come to the conclusion that I spend far too many hours in meetings — all, or most, in the service of good causes, mind you. I am looking forward to not being as involved in college-wide stuff at the end of the academic year). So I ordered a few books recently that I’ve been meaning to look into, and started working my way through them.
The find of the summer was Maximilian Schlosshauer’s “Decoherence and the quantum-to-classical transition”. I plowed my way through the bulk of the book in a long weekend, and enjoyed it tremendously. Most monographs have to walk the line between two extremes: Conveying enough of the details of all the calculations from the papers they are summarizing, and conveying the ideas verbally and/or conceptually. Typical monographs are either too verbose or too technical or sometimes both in alternation, and I usually groan to myself, start skimming, and then put it away on the shelf for later reference. Every once in a while I stumble across a truly excellent one, and in this case, I’ve talked it up to my collaborators and colleagues, and hey, might as well give it my endorsement here as well. It turns out that Anton Zeilinger had given it something of a rave (Nature 451, 18 (3 January 2008)) so I won’t bother with a more detailed review, except to say, yeah, me too.