thinking outside the tank

Quantum Physics: A Beginner’s Guide

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I should have seen the risks when I bought a copy of Alastair I.M. Rae’s book Quantum Physics. The cover says that the book belongs to a series called Beginners Guides. That missing apostrophe says it all though, admittedly, it could have been annihilated in a collision with an anti-apostrophe.

I am only up to page 36 and I have to stop to write this. I didn’t realise I was buying a proof copy of the book. It’s been reprinted every year for the last five years and I’ve found two mistakes, one of them serious. You can’t hide behind the fact that beginners don’t understand what you’re trying to say. I’m not criticising the author – well I am because some of the sentences try to say too much – rather I’m saying the publisher should have done a better job.

Example 1.

On page 20 you will find the following sentence:

Up and down quarks carry positive charges of value -2/3 and -1/3 respectively of the total charge on a proton, which contains two up quarks and one down quark.

What? Positive charges of minus two thirds and minus one third? This is awkward and wrong. How about:

The up quark carries a charge of +2/3 and the down quark carries a charge of -1/3. The proton comprises two up quarks and one down quark giving the observed total charge of +1.

Isn’t that better? I’m not a physicist – that’s why I’m reading the book – but to me the second version makes sense. The mental arithmetic is within everyone’s grasp: 4/3 minus 1/3 equals 1.

Example 2.

On page 36, in a presentation of Young’s classic interference experiment, we are told:

It follows from the discussion in the previous paragraph that at some points on S the weaves will reinforce each other, while at others they will cancel;

This simply isn’t good enough. Are we to believe in the wave-weave-particle triple nature of light?  I have a central retinal vein occlusion in one eye and I was able to see these errors. Come on OneWorld Publications of Oxford, put down that Proof Reading for Dummies and get it fixed.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2010


Written by netkingcol

October 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

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