THE QUAN­TUM AS­TROLOGER’S HAND­BOOK

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Biography -

Michael Brooks, Scribe Pub­li­ca­tions (OC­TO­BER), Hard­cover $14.99 (256pp), 978-1-911344-40-7

Jerome Car­dano may not have specif­i­cally dis­cov­ered quan­tum the­ory, but his work on prob­a­bil­ity and bi­no­mi­als helped make it pos­si­ble. In The Quan­tum As­trologer’s Hand­book, Michael Brooks ex­plores the Re­nais­sance math­e­ma­ti­cian’s life and legacy, from his early quest for fame to how his pen­chant for astrol­ogy earned the ire of the In­qui­si­tion. This is a fun read that blends biog­ra­phy and sci­ence with a bit of mag­i­cal re­al­ism, a fic­tion­al­ized book with lots of fac­tual re­search be­hind it.

Brooks de­ploys a clever fram­ing de­vice in which he, as the author, vis­its Car­dano’s prison cell while the sci­en­tist awaits a hear­ing with the In­qui­si­tion over his as­tro­log­i­cal charts, and tells him about the fu­ture. This al­lows him to imag­ine how Car­dano would re­spond to the time-and-space travel that serves as a log­i­cal ex­treme of his prob­a­bil­ity work, while us­ing di­a­logue to ex­plain these ideas in lay­man’s terms. Brooks also pep­pers the book with the par­al­lel story of how quan­tum sci­ence came to be, track­ing how later sci­en­tists, from Isaac New­ton to Al­bert Ein­stein to Niels Bohr, built upon the con­cepts that Car­dano pi­o­neered.

While the sci­ence of­ten takes cen­ter stage, Car­dano’s life is com­pelling in its own right. Pro­fes­sional ri­val­ries, his high-pro­file treat­ment of an ill monarch, a son who was ex­e­cuted for mur­der and an­other who ac­tively un­der­mined his fa­ther’s legacy—brooks’s ap­proach lets the book dis­cuss all these con­flicts in depth.

As with ev­ery­thing else in the book, the imag­ined con­ver­sa­tions be­tween author and sub­ject let Brooks both tell Car­dano’s story with the ben­e­fit of cur­rent re­search and at­tempt to view things from the per­spec­tive of a Re­nais­sance man. That in­ter­play be­tween the past and present makes The Quan­tum As­trologer’s Hand­book an un­usual biog­ra­phy, but a mem­o­rable one.

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