If we were forced to describe the genre of this book we would probably mumble something like, “hmm, an educational popular science philosophy thriller with unexpected side effects.” Those side effects include a deep understanding of the workings of the universe, uncontrolled laughter, world peace, and some times even enlightenment.

It all starts when Bob, a hippie obsessed with spirituality, meets the witty nerd Alice. The resulting interaction is fun to read, entertaining and thought provoking. The first part of this book focuses on the map of reality of the physical world. We cover the dance of possibilities, Schrödinger’s cat, quantum entanglement, the Schrödinger equation and the influence of gossip. Then we transition to the map of reality about ourselves. We talk about the possibility wave of the universe, parallel universes, consciousness, the feeling of identity and the question of who or what we really are. This leads to a surprise that will shake your sense of reality completely.

Don’t worry, instead of dry textbook explanations, we provide insightful metaphors and beautiful illustrations to help you understand the crucial and important concepts without effort. For anyone who is only slightly interested in questions like “what is reality?”, “who am I?” and “what happens when we die?”, this is a must-read.

Maps of Reality

Reading Sample

Alice: “Look at this glass of wine. What do you perceive?”

Me: “A glass of wine.”

Alice: “Yes. But is there really a glass of wine? Is it objective? For example, would an elephant see a glass of wine as well? Fundamentally, a glass of wine is just a bunch of atoms. Light bounces off those atoms and enters the small hole in the center of your eye. Inside, light is converted into electricity from which your brain generates an image of a glass of wine. Only a tiny fraction of the information available about the glass of wine makes its way to your consciousness. Your brain is creating a simplified map of reality by which you can live and make decisions. And this map is driven by millions of years of evolution, so as well as simplifying, it may also distort reality to help you survive life. This is not just about glasses of wine either, but any beliefs we have about the world, about other people and ourselves. They are all just maps of reality. And quantum physics shows us that some very fundamental beliefs we have about the world must, in the end, be wrong.”

Me: “Interesting.”

I catch Alice gnawing on the frame of her glasses while talking. I guess her map of reality of how things taste must also be quite distorted.

Atoms and light talk to our senses. Our senses convert the information into electricity. That pattern of electricity triggers the map of reality stored in our brain which then projects our experience on the screen of consciousness.

Why this book?

Nerds are obsessed with making a map of reality of the physical world. Hippies, on the other hand, are more interested in improving the maps of reality they have about themselves. While nerds read books about physics, cosmology and computer science, hippies attend meditation retreats and emotional healing workshops. Even though these things happen in different realms, in the end, each hippie and each nerd is simply looking for truth. This search unites us all. We all want to improve our maps of reality, regardless of social conventions.

How can quantum physics, a strange theory that describes the behavior of atoms and light, help us in this search? It helps exactly by telling us that the rules underpinning every aspect of reality are not those we expect. Remarkably, it not only reveals severe mistakes in the way we perceive the physical world but it also questions fundamental beliefs we have about ourselves. How can that be? Well, in the end, humans consist of atoms as well. In this way, quantum physics is as interesting for hippies as it is for nerds.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about what quantum physics is, and what it means for us. The wonderful world of quantum vibrations and entanglement are often misused to justify the impossible, obscuring rather than revealing the truth. This is normally simply due to misunderstandings of what is a very difficult subject. In this book, we give a taste of what we think the magic of quantum physics is really all about, and show that in the end, reality is far more mind-bending than any fantasy.

Depending on perspective a beer can’s shadow can be rectangular and circular at the same time.

Waves and Particles

Reading Sample

Me: “Okay, so light is a wave. What’s strange about that?”

Alice: “It’s strange because light is not a wave. Light comes in little energy packets, which behave like tiny tennis balls. Those energy packets are called photons. You can count them, and you can shoot them at things one by one. We now even have cameras sensitive enough to detect a single photon, and if we use one to see where a photon is, it always looks like they are in just one place, not spread out like waves.”

Me: “Okay, that is strange. But are you nuts? Do you always carry a laser and cardboard around in case some random hippie pretends to be interested in quantum physics?”

Alice: “You have no idea, Bob. You are the fifteenth hippie today.”

Me: “Not bad. You must be obsessed with this stuff. So you’re saying that light acts like a wave and also as a particle. But surely it can’t be a wave and a particle at the same time?”

Alice: “I’ll give you a metaphor. Look at this unfortunately empty beer can. This is a three-dimensional object. Now imagine you can only perceive its shadow. If I hold the can vertically in the light, its shadow looks like a circle, right? But if I turn the can horizontally, its shadow looks like a rectangle. Now, what is the can? Is it a circle or a rectangle?”

Sounds like an extended version of Plato’s cave.

Me:  “Dude, it’s neither. It’s a can of beer.”

Alice: “Yeah, exactly. A can of beer is three dimensional. The confusion only comes up when we try to work out what it is from its two-dimensional shadows. And the same thing happens when we try to make sense of atoms and light. Even our best measurement instruments can only perceive reality’s lower dimensional shadows. Sometimes its shadow looks like a wave and sometimes like a tennis ball. From our limited perspective that seems like a contradiction, but this wave-particle duality is just revealing the limits of our imagination. It confuses a lot of people because we like to believe that we see things as they really are. But something being two exclusive things at once contradicts that belief, and we have to admit that we don’t see things as they are. Wave-particle duality shows us that reality is much richer than our everyday life intuition can imagine.”

I am impressed by her clearness of thought. I think I’m beginning to understand what she is trying to tell me. While Alice talks I watch her closely. She seems to enjoy our conversation, but there is something odd about her. I can’t pinpoint it, yet.