Six Impossible Things

Six Impossible Things

The Mystery of the Quantum World

By John Gribbin

A concise and engaging investigation of six interpretations of quantum physics.





A concise and engaging investigation of six interpretations of quantum physics.

Rules of the quantum world seem to say that a cat can be both alive and dead at the same time and a particle can be in two places at once. And that particle is also a wave; everything in the quantum world can described in terms of waves—or entirely in terms of particles. These interpretations were all established by the end of the 1920s, by Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac, and others. But no one has yet come up with a common sense explanation of what is going on. In this concise and engaging book, astrophysicist John Gribbin offers an overview of six of the leading interpretations of quantum mechanics.

Gribbin calls his account “agnostic,” explaining that none of these interpretations is any better—or any worse—than any of the others. Gribbin presents the Copenhagen Interpretation, promoted by Niels Bohr and named by Heisenberg; the Pilot-Wave Interpretation, developed by Louis de Broglie; the Many Worlds Interpretation (termed “excess baggage” by Gribbin); the Decoherence Interpretation (“incoherent”); the Ensemble “Non-Interpretation”; and the Timeless Transactional Interpretation (which theorized waves going both forward and backward in time). All of these interpretations are crazy, Gribbin warns, and some are more crazy than others—but in the quantum world, being more crazy does not necessarily mean more wrong.


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262043236 104 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 12 figures

For sale only in the US, Canada, or the Philippines.


  • [A]n accessible primer on all things quantum.... rigorous and chatty.

    Sunday Times

  • 'Quantum physics is strange.' These are the first words of John Gribbin's brilliant new book Six Impossible Things... [a] pocket-sized analysis of the six most important interpretations of quantum mechanics.

    Engineering & Technology

  • Gribbin gives us a feast of precision and clarity, with a phenomenal amount of information for such a compact space. It's a TARDIS of popular science books, and I loved it.... Gribbin manages to encapsulate what are sometimes very complex ideas in an approachable fashion. This could well be the best piece of writing this grand master of British popular science has ever produced, condensing as it does many years of pondering the nature of quantum physics into a compact form.

    Popular Science (UK)

  • This slim hardcover is an elegant and accessible attempt to explain quantum physics to the nonspecialist.... Highly recommended for students of the sciences and fans of science fiction, as well as for anyone who is curious to understand the strange world of quantum physics.



  • Gribbin has inspired generations with his popular science writing, and this, his latest offering, is a compact and delightful summary of the main contenders for a true interpretation of quantum mechanics. It seems that after thirty five years – since he first published his classic, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat – we are still looking. If you've never puzzled over what our most successful scientific theory means, or even if you have and want to know what the latest thinking is, this new book will bring you up to speed faster than a collapsing wave function.

    Professor Jim Al-Khalili

    OBE FRS, physicist, broadcaster, and author of the sci-fi thriller Sunfall


  • Shortlist, 2019 Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize (UK edition)