Adam Becker


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Adam Michael Becker (born 1984) is an American astrophysicist, author, and scientific philosopher. His works include the book What Is Real?, published by Basic Books, which explores the history and personalities surrounding the development and evolution of quantum physics and includes a modern assessment of the Copenhagen Interpretation. In 2006, Becker received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Philosophy and Physics from Cornell University, only to earn a Master of Science in Physics from the University of Michigan a year later. 

In 2012, Becker received a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Computational Cosmology from the University of Michigan with the physicist Dragan Huterer as his doctoral advisor. His doctoral thesis concerned primordial non-Gaussianity, which he would later summarize in lay terms for his readers, declaring, "I was trying to find out how much we can learn about the way stuff was arranged in the early universe by looking at the way stuff is arranged in the universe right now."

After completing his doctoral program, Becker wrote and lectured on scientific concepts, providing lay-friendly professional commentary on science. Becker has written for several news and periodicals concerning science for the interested layperson, including the BBC (which culminated in a video series), NPR, New Scientist Magazine, Scientific American, the New York Times, Aeon, and the global educational program NOVA on the American PBS.

In 2014, while employed at the Public Library of Science, Becker was a lead developer in a project that produced Rich Citations, which was an extensive expansion of the capabilities of digital cross-referencing across the PLOS platform. Later, after publishing his first book, "What is Real?" Becker was appointed as a visiting scholar at the Office for History of Science and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2020 he accepted a position as a visiting researcher in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California, Irvine.

Becker has also been a California Quantum Interpretation Network member, "a research collaboration among faculty and staff at multiple UC campuses and other universities across California, focusing on the interpretation of quantum physics." Becker has announced ongoing work on a new publication that takes a step away from the controversy of his first book and instead explores the relationship between science and the Consumer Tech Industry that has evolved and been promulgated across the world from the Silicon Valley of California. 

This new project has an estimated publication date of "late 2023". In 2016, Becker received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to research and published a written work concerning the history, development, and controversy surrounding the study and development of the mysticized field of Quantum Foundations. The resulting work, What is Real? (2018) focused on the question of what exactly quantum physics says about the nature of reality.

Even though every physicist agrees that quantum physics works, a bitter debate has raged over its meaning for the past ninety years since the theory was first developed. The book deals with the personalities behind the competing interpretations of quantum physics as well as the historical factors that influenced the debate—factors such as military spending on physics research due to World War II, the Cold War ethos that caused the eschewing of physicists thought to be Marxist, the assumed infallibility of John von Neumann, the sexism that quashed the work of Grete Hermann (the female mathematician who first spotted von Neumann's error), and the sway of prominent philosophical schools of the period, like the logical positivists of the Vienna Circle. 

Niels Bohr appears in the book as the charismatic figure whose stature and obtuse writing style made it hard for alternate interpretations to be voiced. The book also challenges the popular portrayal of Albert Einstein as a behind-the-times thinker who couldn't accept the new paradigm. 

Becker argues that Einstein's thought experiments aimed at quantum dynamics are not stodgy quibbles with the seeming randomness of quantum physics, as characterized by the popularity of the quote, "God does not play dice." Rather, Einstein's thought experiments are apt critiques of violations of the principle of locality.

Best author’s book


What is Real

Brian Cox