This is a very interesting and atypical book in which the biography of the Italian Renaissance polymath Jerome Cardano (1501–1576) is mixed with discussions about quantum mechanics. Michael Brooks, the author of the book, is calling his approach "magical realist non-fiction". I really liked the magic realism aspect of the book, but I am not going give any details because I do not want to spoil the book. As for the non-fiction aspect, there are two main threads. The first one (and the main reason for which I decided to read this book) is about the life and works of Jerome Cardano. Cardano had an extraordinary life, he was a mathematician, physician, astronomer, inventor, writer, and philosopher, but also an astrologer, and gambler.  I remember learning at school about Cardano's contributions to mathematics, in particular to algebra, and I knew about the Cardan shaft (a mechanical component for transmitting torque and rotation), but I had no idea about his contributions to the probability theory (see Liber de Ludo Aleae/Book on Games of Chance, written around 1564 and published 1663) and imaginary numbers. Probability theory and the imaginary numbers are the connexions to the second thread of the book as they are the "twin pillars of quantum theory". The second thread of the book not only contains a description of the foundations of quantum mechanics but also descriptions of some of the main interpretation of quantum mechanics (e.g., the Copenhagen interpretation, the many worlds interpretation).

Decision: recommended.

[follow Jerome Cardon on Twitter at @JeromeCardano and Michael Brooks at @DrMichaelBrooks]


The Quantum Astrologer's Handbook: a history of the Renaissance mathematics that birthed imaginary numbers, probability, and the new physics of the universe Hardcover by Michael Brooks [Amazon, and Audible].

AuthorBogdan Antonescu
CategoriesBook Review