Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

Rate this book
With its unique combination of depth, clarity, and humor that has enchanted millions, this beloved classic by bestselling author Gary Zukav opens the fascinating world of quantum physics to readers with no mathematical or technical background. "Wu Li" is the Chinese phrase for physics. It means "patterns of organic energy," but it also means "nonsense," "my way," "I clutch my ideas," and "enlightenment." These captivating ideas frame Zukav's evocative exploration of quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Delightfully easy to read, The Dancing Wu Li Masters illuminates the compelling powers at the core of all we know.

416 pages, ebook

First published March 1, 1979

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Gary Zukav

34 books722 followers
Gary Zukav is the author of The Dancing Wu Li Masters, winner of The American Book Award for Science; Soul Stories, a New York Times bestseller; and The Seat of the Soul, a New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Publishers Weekly #1 bestseller. His books have sold millions of copies and are published in sixteen languages. He is a graduate of Harvard and a former U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) officer in Vietnam.

Gary's gentle humor, sensitivity, and deep insights have endeared him to millions of readers and listeners. Through Genesis: The Foundation for the Universal Human, he participates in retreates, programs, and other events supporting the creation of authentic power and the experience of spiritual partnership.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4,060 (38%)
4 stars
3,693 (34%)
3 stars
2,093 (19%)
2 stars
530 (4%)
1 star
299 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 445 reviews
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
653 reviews6,943 followers
November 13, 2014
The happiest thought I take out of this book is the fact that science is no longer taking a direction opposite to that of religion, philosophy or spirituality - all the noblest endeavors of mankind were fundamentally tied together after all. It was just that we, with our obsessive propensity to classify and divide had made the artificial boundaries.

The only complaint about the book is the fact that it goes into needless depth about the fundamentals of classical physics and then skims over the "new physics" to an extent. Also, Zukav seems to feel that repeating an idea or concept three times is the best way to convey it to the lay person.

Except for these peeves, it was magnificent to look at Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg etc not as scientists discussing theories and experiments but as philosophers arguing over the nature of reality and mysticism.

The reader has to keep in mind that this is by no means a very up to date book and Einstein and his contemporaries star in the narrative more than CERN or Hadrons or Higgs. But this does not take away the fact that the new theories, though radically departed from what was "new physics" at the time of publishing of this book, still corroborates his base arguments. That too in even more weirder and psychedelic ways.

The more I read in the realm of new physics, the more I am convinced that all truly fundamental scientific theories tend to follow a life cycle - rejection, ridicule, incredulity, acceptance, dogmatism, degeneration, overthrowal, and finally resurrection. This is the case with all true ideas - so it might be with our vedic and oriental philosophies too. The physics classes and laboratories of this century might have meditation lessons and yogic experiments...

Science might finally grow up enough to explain to lay people what only mystics and yogis could experience - we might finally evolve the language and the concepts to explain and understand the structure of the universe without experiencing it - we might know nirvana without feeling it. Is that an uplifting or depressing thought, I am not sure.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.5k followers
June 16, 2009
Yesterday, I read some scathing comments about this book, and the closely related The Tao of Physics, in Woit's Not Even Wrong. Apparently, there used to a be an approach to quantum mechanics called S-matrix theory, which was popular among left-leaning physicists in the early 70s. Woit refers to "The People's Republic of Berkeley". It was something to do with "abolition of the aristocracy of particles", which I must say I didn't completely get, but you can see how this might appeal. As I understand it, the basic idea was not to talk about possibly intangible interactions between particles like quarks, whose existence is hard to demonstrate directly, but only about the objectively measurable scattering matrix.

Anyway, according to Woit, S-matrix theory never quite worked, and when quantum chromodynamics and the Standard Model came in, around 1974, it pretty much disappeared. But Capra, in The Tao of Physics, still clung to the S-matrix ideas, and every time the book was reprinted he would add forewords and afterwords that were more and more out of touch with reality, claiming that history had shown that the S-matrix approach was the one true way, when in fact QCD had knocked it out of the park. Then Zukav followed Capra, and wrote this book.

Woit, evidently tearing his hair out, says that both books are still selling well, and that, although S-matrix theory is now completely discredited, it embarrassingly lives on as "nutty New Age philosophy".

I read Zukav's book in the early 80s, and I wasn't that impressed, though I had no idea that it was this much at odds with mainstream physics. I thought he was just presenting mainstream ideas in a poetic way. A frightening story about how careful you need to be with popular science texts.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,205 reviews145 followers
July 31, 2022
Rats ... I should have read this 30 years ago!

"Prove that a uniform body with three mutually perpendicular axes of symmetry cannot rotate stably about the axis of intermediate length"

I remember it like it was yesterday. This was a question I faced on a second year classical mechanics exam. I got the question right, by the way. As a matter of fact, I scored a perfect 100% on the entire exam but it bothered me immensely that I should be able to prove something mathematically without having the foggiest inkling as to "why" it should be so at a much more fundamental level.

In fact, it troubled me so deeply that after I received my undergraduate degree in Physics, I declined to pursue any further education in the field and went on to a career in business and finance.

In The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav has written a superb explanation as to why my lack of understanding was so normal and why I should have embraced that lack of understanding as opposed to running away from it. In very clear prose, completely devoid of the baffling language of mathematical equations, he has written a story for those of us interested in exploring the mind-expanding (nay, mind-blowing) discoveries of modern advanced physics and cosmology -quantum mechanics; black holes; time travel; entanglement; action at a distance; special and general relativity; the nuclear particle zoo; and much, much more.

I reveled in the discovery that even Einstein struggled with the notion that he would never be able to compare his mathematical models with the "real" mechanism. Indeed, he couldn't even imagine the meaning of such a comparison.

A magnificent blend of philosophy, eastern mysticism and modern physics, Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters is perhaps best summarized by a single sentence from a New York Times Book Review:

"Stripped of mathematics, physics becomes pure enchantment ... "

While this isn't a book that would likely be accessible to someone without a foot already inside physics' door, it is a breathtaking, joyous revelation to people like myself who have that basic grounding and are looking to increase their knowledge.

What the heck, if I had read this in the 1970s instead of waiting until now ... who knows, my entire life and career path might have been changed.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Cherisa B.
476 reviews36 followers
January 7, 2023
Thrilling. Mind bending. We are so much more than our eyes see and brains think. The world is such a mystery with so much to share. I’m stupefied. Zukav has given us a book about the world without the math that lets the scientists do their research and analysis. As he says, Mathematics is the tool of physics. Stripped of mathematics, physics becomes pure enchantment. Though physics without math might not be physics, I deeply appreciate that he has given me the ability to consider what physics can tell me about the world without the math that is just way over my intellectual abilities. The blend of Hindu and Eastern thinking is interesting and added a nice touch but was less central for me. That said, he shows there is an intersection of religious and scientific thinking that is quite compelling, especially since Western culture has forced such binary stand-offs between the two for centuries.

My review is going to riff on a series of quotes. Out of context, the quotes might seem a little woo-woo, but I promise they follow logically from the preceding scientific discussions. At any rate, they are insights that have significant meaning for me from the text.

...an elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach out to other things…. Photons do not exist by themselves. All that exists by itself is an unbroken wholeness that presents itself to us as webs (more patterns) of relations. Individual entities are idealizations which are correlations made by us.... the physical world, according to quantum mechanics, is not a structure built out of independently existing unanalyzable entities, but rather a web of relationships between elements whose meanings arise wholly from their relationships to the whole.
Compare that to Donne's no man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." Western poetry, Eastern mysticism, quantum mechanics - they appear to be in harmony singing the same chorus.

We are accustomed to believing that something is there or it is not there. Whether we look at it or not, it is either there or it is not there. Our experience tells us that the physical world is solid, real, and independent of us. Quantum mechanics says, simply, that this is not so.... Without perception, the universe continues, via the Schrodinger equation, to generate an endless profusion of possibilities. The effect of perception, however, is immediate and dramatic. All of the wave function representing the observed system collapses, except one part, which actualizes into reality. Who is looking at the universe? Put another way, How is the universe being actualized? We are actualizing the universe. Since we are part of the universe, that makes the universe (and us) self-actualizing.
In this view, we are not insignificant, nothing “mere” about sidelined observers – we matter to the events as we watch because our observation helps create it. This is a fantastic notion.

The new physics tells us that an observer cannot observe without altering what he sees. Observer and observed are interrelated in a real and fundamental sense. ...complementarity leads to the conclusion that the world consists not of things, but of interactions. Properties belong to interactions, not to independently existing things, like "light."
Nothing belongs only to itself, but its relationships and interactions with other “things,” but keep grappling with the idea that things are not “here” or “there” but connected.

...if we use light with a wavelength short enough to locate the electron, we cause an undeterminable change in the electron's momentum. The only alternative is to use a less energetic light. Less energetic light, however, causes our original problem: Light with an energy low enough not to disturb the momentum of the electron will have a wavelength so long it will not be able to show us where the electron is!
I always wondered why multiple observations couldn’t be set to do away with the uncertainty of velocity and position, and this explains it. But even more, the intent of the scientist or technician running the experiment appears to make a real difference, there are pages and pages and multiple experiments explained that show this over and over.

Science, at the level of subatomic events, is no longer "exact," the distinction between objective and subjective has vanished, and the portals through which the universe manifests itself are, as we once knew a long time ago, those impotent, passive witnesses to its unfolding, the "I"s, of which, we, insignificant we, are examples. The Cogs in the Machine have become the Creators of the Universe.
Here Zukav shows how we have wended our way or shifted our viewpoint from man being at the center, to Copernican cosmology Newtonian/classical physics having man be a mere bystander unimportant to the running of the universe, to quantum mechanics putting our beingness as an important part of the whole mélange. Our observation not only changes the probability of what might happen, but creates it. But also, saying that “exact sciences” is somehow more respectable or rational doesn’t hold up in the quantum realm.

According to Einstein, time and space are not separate. Something cannot exist at some place without existing at some time, and neither can it exist at some time without existing at some place.... William Blake's famous poem reaches out toward these intangible qualities:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

How our brains work, how our language works, frequently leads us to want binary clarity, but experience shows again and again there are many more permutations. There is no single time which flows equally for all observers. Even something as simple as “now” is not absolute. And then, there is always an alternative between every “this” and every “that.” The recognition of this quality of experience is an integral part of quantum logic.

The world view of particle physics is a picture of chaos beneath order. At the fundamental level is a confusion of continual creation, annihilation, and transformation. Above this confusion, limiting the forms that it can take, are a set of conservation laws. They do not specify what must happen, as ordinary laws of physics do, rather they specify what cannot happen. They are permissive laws. At the subatomic level, absolutely everything that is not forbidden by the conservation laws actually happens.
That “continual creation, annihilation, and transformation” thing is happening at the subatomic level where we think there are particles, the static, basic ‘stuff’ of the universe, but they are energy, dancing in endless patterns. Hindu mythology is virtually a large-scale projection into the psychological realm of microscopic scientific discoveries. Hindu deities such as Shiva and Vishnu continually dance the creation and destruction of universes..."

"Quantum field theory" is of course a contradiction in terms. A quantum is an indivisible whole. It is a small piece of something, while a field is a whole area of something. A "quantum field" is the juxtaposition of two irreconcilable concepts. In other words, it is a paradox. It defies our categorical imperative that something be either this or that, but not both.... Paradoxes are the places where our rational mind bumps into its own limitations…. There is speculation, and some evidence, that consciousness, at the most fundamental levels, is a quantum process.
This might be why time sometimes seems endless and other times instant, meaningless to “reality” because we impose a flow to appearances and events. Underneath those appearances is a different reality we catch glimpses of, those times when timelessness, or time and space, don’t exist. Afterall, Enlightenment is the experience that “things,” including “I,” are transient, virtual states devoid of separate existences, momentary links between illusions of the past and illusions of the future unfolding in the illusion of time.

…it might not be possible to construct a model of reality. This acknowledgement is more than a recognition of this theory or that theory. It is a recognition emerging throughout the West that knowledge itself is limited. Said another way, it is a recognition of the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Beautiful. 4 1/2 stars.
Profile Image for Lane Wilkinson.
153 reviews106 followers
February 4, 2008
I can't even dignify this book with an inclusion on my 'science' bookshelf. Surely, the most dangerous rhetoric is that which sounds plausible. 'Dancing Wu Li Masters' does the whole "Ancient Chinese Secret" treatment of particle physics that was so popular during the 1970s. Unfortunately, I worry that too many who read this bestseller were irrevocably taken with an esoteric, transcendental, and ultimately fallacious interpretation of contemporary science.
Profile Image for Diane in Australia.
668 reviews788 followers
November 22, 2018
This book was first published in 1979, much has transpired since then, so it is dated. In layman's terms, the author compares Eastern beliefs, psychology, and quantums physics. Interesting book, but I wasn't as 'wowed' by it as some were.

"If this is so, then the distinction between scientists, poets, painters, and writers is not clear. In fact, it is possible that scientists, poets, painters, and writers are all members of the same family of people whose gift it is by nature to take those things which we call commonplace and to re-present them to us in such ways that our self-imposed limitations are expanded. Those people in whom this gift is especially pronounced, we call geniuses."

3 Stars = I'm glad I read it.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 14 books94 followers
March 20, 2012
This is a book that lightly, and perhaps appropriately, suggests a connection between eastern religions and the developments in 20th century physics, notably Einstein's theories of relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and the collective effort, from Max Planck through Einstein to Nils Bohr and many others, to develop quantum theory, quantum mechanics and other dimensions of "quantum" reality.

The fundamental issue is that logic breaks down in the quantum world. This is explained well. Quantum reality deals in probabilities, not certainties, and phenomena that could be waves or could be quanta or particles, depending on when they are measured.

There is a huge quotient of the subjective in quantum thinking, which is to say that the observer alters that which is observed, and that which is observed has a somewhat uncanny similarity to the lightning fast disjunctures that characterize the human mind. We think about one thing, then another. We flash from mood to mood. We imagine impossible things. We dream in gravity-defying dimensions that also take us back in time.

The eastern religions enter the picture describing everything that we take note of as illusion...or a veil...or the Tao...the path...all in motion...all self-transforming...all becoming as opposed to all permanent and present.

Sometimes books like this one capture us because we think they will be fairly easy primers, sexed up with lots of provocative speculation. This isn't that kind of book. Its dry and demanding in places, necessarily so.

When it was written, string theory wasn't around. A lot of other things weren't around either. But it's still a good book if approached with a certain diligence. There's little doubt that we do live in a quantum world, but we are insufficiently educated to understand that. Breaking the news to the great uneducated public is something Zukav does well.
Profile Image for P.
132 reviews23 followers
July 8, 2017
Made an otherwise complicated subject readily readable for me, even eager for more. The simple analogies and examples created that feeling of an epiphany, as in: "OK, I get it now!" Beautiful.

Since it's been over 30 years since I read this, it's time to re-new. Can never know too much about quantum physics. Or its relationship to philosophy.
Profile Image for Donald.
31 reviews1 follower
August 21, 2009
Well, I read this book at the advice of Jeff Sneider who recommended it highly. I agree. This book, while difficult in places, does lead me to question my view of reality, which has been purely Newtonian (read the book to understand). I'd rate this book right up with Godel, Escher, and Bach. I will think often about it.

It may be very well be true, that everyone lives in Aristotle's metaphorical cave, seeing shadows of the essence of reality. Actually, quantum mechanics pretty much says it IS true. Zukav argues that experiencing reality through, perhaps, meditation and eastern religious metaphors, may lead to a greater degree of "knowing" or enlightenment, as the case may be. He argues that contradictions are inherent in intellect. I can be a scientist using Newtonian physics to make a career, judge student performance and the like, and also believe in God, angels, fairies and so on. Basically, quantum mechanics argues we know really nothing about the essence of reality, so anything could be and maybe anything in actually is real. There's a quote in the book that I will post in my office and spread around my scientific camp, and it's worth thinking and mulling over.

"Reality" is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.

Profile Image for Jen.
Author 4 books4 followers
January 13, 2010
This is the worst book ever written. From his completely nonsensical leaps from point to point, to his annoying tendency to follow each mention of "matter" with "(pun?)" to his pseudo-knowledge of quantum mechanics and belief that randomness = free will to his decision not to explain the uncertainty principle in any way that might make sense and make it seem less mystical to his just plain terrible writing and awful, irrelevant quotations I can safely say that this is the worst piece of snake oil I've ever read (granted, I didn't finish it so maybe the last 100 pages were all about how the first half was a complex joke). It also brought back horrific, repressed memories of reading The Holographic Universe (a book in which the author had absolutely no knowledge of how either holographs or the universe might possibly work).
If you want quantum mechanics, read QED by Feynman. If you want to believe that electrons are spiritual entities, just go ahead and believe it. But don't rewrite the history of physics to back up your case, it doesn't work. You silly, silly, New Age people, just stop. It's embarrassing.

[...although Ben and I did have fun reading parts of it out loud to each other and laughing hysterically:]

Profile Image for Keith Mukai.
Author 0 books16 followers
June 28, 2009
This is probably as good as a physics-for-the-layman book can get. But that doesn't mean it's perfect. Far from it, in fact.

The strength of the book is Zukav's review of the history of physics. He does a good job setting up and explaining the major breakthroughs so that you, the reader, can appreciate their significance in pretty substantial ways. That's quite a feat. His clarity gets weaker as he starts to go into the weirder aspects of quantum mechanics though. At times he's so eager to jump to the scientific and philosophical ramifications of quantum mechanics that he sprints past the reader's understanding. I re-read and re-read and re-read passages until I finally saw that he had left out certain points that would have made things much more comprehensible, had he been more careful.

The biggest flaw in the book is his hippie obsession with his Wu-Li metaphor. At times it's elegant and beautiful, but more often than not it's annoying and overblown. He's too eager to yammer on about particles acting as if they were conscious, ties between quantum mechanics and telepathy, and on and on. He's not a scientist so he's free to make these leaps of imaginative fancy, but I was constantly rolling my eyes whenever he started to wax philosophic about some new wrinkle in quantum mechanics.

The other thing that grates is that he thinks the book is very funny. He even writes in the introduction that he's amazed and so pleased with how funny the book is, that it is, in fact, funnier than he is in real life. Mr. Zukav? It's not funny. His humor is cloying and totally unnecessary.

Still, if you're interested in the history of physics--from Newton to Einstein to the birth of quantum mechanics--this is the book to read. But oddly enough, I'd recommend that you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a primer to this book. Zen covers a lot of the difficult philosophical underpinnings that Zukav has integrated into his book. And Zen is a better introduction to those ideas.

This summer, apparently, will be the summer of physics. I've figured out a logical progression:

0. (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
1. The Dancing Wu Li Masters (history of physics + good discussion of Einstein + good intro to quantum mechanics)
2. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking (deeper discussion of Einstein's space-time + intro to quantum gravitation)
3. The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene (superstring theory of quantum gravity)

To some degree each of the three physics books cover the same ground, but Zukav excels at surveying the history of physics and at describing Einstein's three important contributions. His intro to quantum mechanics is good enough, but that will be covered in more detail later.

Hawking rushes through the history of physics so you really need Zukav as a primer. But Hawking then goes much deeper into the implications of general relativity's space-time. I'm halfway through it now and it's pointing towards a unification of general relativity with quantum mechanics (aka quantum gravitation).

I began reading Brian Greene's book but realized that Zukav and Hawking really must come first. Greene also surveys the history of physics but does so briefly. His discussions of general relativity also aren't as robust as Zukav or Hawking's. And since string theory is the "final" theory, it really should come last anyway.
Profile Image for Eric Witchey.
Author 22 books46 followers
October 27, 2008
When a writer can make something I believed inaccessible to me seem like dinner conversation in which I can participate, I'm thrilled to the core. Thanks to Gary Zukav. Without him, many other books I've read would never have made sense at all. How could I have approached The Elegant Universe without having read this first? How could I sit down at Thanksgiving with my high-energy physicist brother without having read this book?
Profile Image for James Swenson.
477 reviews31 followers
August 1, 2013
According to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it is impossible to know both the exact position and momentum of a particle: in fact, perfect knowledge of one makes it impossible to know anything about the other. The Dancing Wu Li Masters is a book about quantum physics and metaphysics, in which, as far as I can tell, all of the physics is correct, and, ironically, everything else is uniformly wrong.

Gary Zukav, if he had written the previous sentence, would have replaced the word "ironically" with "therefore." His characteristic error is to invent an analogy to describe a quantum concept, then claim that the analogy is literally true. Thus, for example, photons "act as if they know" how an experiment is designed, so photons are conscious.

xkcd.com comic on popular misuse of quantum mechanics; see http://xkcd.com/1240/
Image: http://xkcd.com/1240/

My remark that all the physics in The Dancing Wu Li Masters is correct should be taken with a grain of salt, because I quit reading on page 117. At this point, Zukav wrote a sentence that should cause any author to question the value of his occupation: "Nonsense is nonsense only when we have not yet found that point of view from which it makes sense." Allow me to retort: A token of gratitude would kindly inquire something about you.
Profile Image for Chrissy.
422 reviews94 followers
August 5, 2010
As an engaging introduction to an enthralling science, for people who've never studied physics, this book is fantastic. I appreciated the historical approach to the topic, learning one piece of the puzzle at a time in the order of those who made the discoveries; I feel like this really helped my understanding. I'm someone who has held a fear of math and physics for years, but Zukav writes in a clear and thorough fashion, stopping himself every once a while to ensure that the reader is with him. The average layperson could learn the basics of complicated physics from this book, easily.

Only when Zukav makes large leaps into philosophy, full of holes and assumptions and "logical" ruling-out of other possible explanations (despite a whole chapter praising Einstein for approaching physics with a beginner's mind not bothered with traditional conclusions of what is and is not possible), does he stumble. I knew going into it that he wrote this book with a particular readership in mind but to my surprise, I felt like I actually could have used MORE math, MORE in-depth explanation, and less sweeping extrapolation; this is no fault of the author's though, and I will have to credit him with encouraging me to study physics in greater depth.

In summary: a superb, well-written introduction to new physics, whose only flaw (to my tastes at least) is a penchant for applying the knowledge to big-picture philosophical levels-- which isn't really something that anyone as clearly fascinated by the discovery of these new physics as Zukav is can be faulted for :)
Profile Image for Max Ostrovsky.
547 reviews55 followers
November 19, 2011
It was tough reading a book concerning "new" physics written over 30 years ago. I couldn't stop thinking about updates and what recent theories have added to the discussion. That said, the book wasn't what I was expecting. Sure, I was expecting a discussion of physics and its tie into the everything-ness philosophies of the world. The explanations were thorough and clear. But I wanted some sort of connection. What was the point of the book?
And maybe this is just too much of me getting in the way - after all, part of the title does say it's just an overview. But still, I wanted to know the why? What was the unifying theory behind the whole book? And that very well may be the exact point of the book, I'm aware. After all, it did flat out equal aspects to Zen koans. Maybe I'm supposed to put the book down and meditate on it.
I'm not a math person, well, at least I haven't been in almost two decades. I understood the concepts and the theories explained. But I just wasn't interested.
I did, however, love the different explanation/definitions for Wu Li. That was perfect and I wanted the entire book to reflect that - and I believe that there was an attempt made to do that, but it fell flat for me. I also loved the fact that every chapter was Chapter One.
But the book is definitely dated. It's late 70's LSD references were more of a distraction than helpful, relevant, or even funny.
Profile Image for Ethan.
99 reviews21 followers
September 14, 2007
The annoying this about this book is that mostly it's wonderful. Gary Z has a clear, lucid prose style, and his explanation of wave-particle duality etc is as good as any I've come across. So when he says that subatomic particles are "conscious" or that he believes in telepathy, it's that much more frustrating. I have a number of very bright friends who get taken in by New Age snake oil because of careless use of language in a book like this.
Profile Image for S.Ach.
493 reviews160 followers
September 30, 2015
Physics used to be my favourite subject in my pre-engineering career ( sadly, Engineering did kill that part in me which thought academic study can be someone's career). Not the whole of it ( Thermodynamics and Electromagnetism never interested me), but especially loved Mechanics. Never knew then what I was reading were completely outdated, if not wrong. The part with Modern Physics were just cursorily touched and most part were encouraged to mug without questioning much. Well, probably saved for later, which never came in my life. And I had never imagined that I will get back to it again.

Now, in the quest to find the answer to the ultimate question, "Is there God?" I needed to get a perspective of the creation of the universe and purpose of life. Shuttling from religion and philosophy I arrived at the door steps of Physics. First there was Big Bang, (by Simon Singh) which told me if I comprehend one small part of physics called 'Relativity' by some guy called 'Einstein' it would come in handy understanding the creation of our world. I struggled through a brief history of time to understand the theory of everything. But I was more confused than before till I realized that there is a way around to understand God through New Physics. So I pulled from the bottom of my rack a book that I had bought almost 8 years ago, but never dared to read. The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav. ( How I wish I had done that 8 years before!)

In one sentence, this book had similar effect on me as far science is concerned, as Sophie's World had on me for Philosophy.

Gary Zukav not only introduces the difficult concepts of Quantum Mechanics and the theory of Relativity in a simplistic layman-language, but also presents the new concepts of modern physics with lucid and vivid illustrations that Physics becomes a pleasant reading. As some reviewer rightly said, 'Stripped of Mathematics, Physics becomes pure enchantment.' Its a must must must read for anyone who wants to understand how science explains why the universe is how it is (even if it is little outdated and I'm sure many mind boggling theories would have been discovered thereafter).

Now coming to the very essence of both the theories - Quantum and Relativity, and their proponents, and their agreements ant their discords - everything is more fantastic than fiction. These theories takes you to the limits of human intellect - be it warping space-time or now-here-now-there electrons or mattet that is wave or wave that is matter - and gives you an intellectual gratification when you even grasp of iota of it.
The thin line between Science and Philosophy blurs when science talks in the terms of consciousness and philosophy discusses paradox and evidences. And the beauty of these theories that most of the stuff can be cultivated in your mind indulging in thought experiments, not in a laboratory (if you do not intend to be an experimenting physicist).
Profile Image for Mike.
23 reviews
October 3, 2010
Mind-blowing. In the interest of the required hyperbole book review demands: frustratingly fascinating. Frustrating because the mind grasps quicker what can be conveyed through language. Frustrating because, when read, you can't help but get the endorphine, intellectual rush that demands you share the knowledge with all. Frustrating because, something clicks, your mind abstractly grasps the idea, but when trying to convey these exciting new concepts to friends and loved ones, you feel grossly inadequate. All the while, you understand it. Why can't you teach it? Redemptive, in the end, because after explaining it a few times to different people, you end up solidifying the concepts even more. Seriously mind-blowing, in our scientific quest to find out the fundamental building block of all matter we reach the startling conclusion (though not so startling if familiar with the Upanishads): spirit--non physical realm of pure-potentiality--wave lengths stretching through different dimensions. Written for those unaccustomed to physics and mathematical language, the book stays in the realm of science while inferring possibilities that are nothing less than life-transformative.

Profile Image for Sharayu Gangurde.
157 reviews41 followers
April 28, 2017
This is an amazing book and amazing so, because it revitalized the science training within me! As a teenager, I was so absorbed and completely fascinated by Neils Bohr's postulates, Max Planck's Theory that Physics was the air i breathed! And, after that phase I realized I was so out of touch of this very nature- atoms/protons/ quasi-protons/ quarks! Wow! This book truly is meant for the ordinary layman who is or was never a science student! I can even think of a few friends I can gift this book to! What science really means in the life of a student and a researcher versus in the ordinary life of a layman, this book completely closes gaps on it!

What a wonderful lucid style of explaining modern physics! I kept reading hungrily, savouring every single word, if there were equations, my joy would have have known no bounds! Clearly, one of the best resource books for everyone! The Wu Li masters philosophy is interesting too! This book is highly recommended and if i were on the education board, this would just be THE book to study!
Profile Image for Michael Huang.
818 reviews35 followers
March 6, 2018
Zukav did a surprisingly competent job describing physics in laymen terms that it is hard to believe he is not in the STEM field at all. Even though the book is published almost 40 years ago, some of the discussions have not changed much. For example, the first major-loophole-free experiment about non-locality was performed in 2016. A recent poll of physicists on the interpretation of quantum mechanics still checks all the boxes on page 335 — the possible implications of Bell’s Theorem. That said, the book has many things to nitpick. The distorted notion of many interpretations of the word “Wu Li” (Chinese for physics) is utterly wrong, annoying, and frankly stupid. Calling every part “Part I” and every chapter inside the parts “Chapter 1” is another one of those unnecessarily weird attempts to be cute.
Profile Image for Danelley.
201 reviews10 followers
October 25, 2012
Not an easy read but sooo full of awesome new physics explanations. Also hard to get into with a needy two-year-old, but I know life will only get increasingly busy day by day. If you want clear explanations of quantum mechanics, relativity, and particle physics and Feynman diagrams (with a dose of Eastern philosophy and some Buddhism) look no further than this excellent book. A lot of the foot-notes were contributed by big physicist names and I really enjoyed them, having a physics background. Most of this book is review of stuff I learned in my undergrad and a year into my grad, but it was a refreshing reminder of all these amazing discoveries that have just happened in about the last hundred years.
Profile Image for Ankush Agarwal.
Author 1 book2 followers
January 6, 2021
I have re-read this book, as I needed to refresh some of the concepts. However, I still enjoyed reading the lucid explanations of such complex concepts. The author has beautifully integrated the quantum physics with the mysticism of Eastern Hindu and Buddhist cultures and still managed to balance on the fine thread of keeping the prose simple, scientific and truthful.
Profile Image for A.P. Sweet.
Author 4 books32 followers
January 11, 2015
Nice read. Great introduction to physics for someone who has no idea how it applies to everyday life.
323 reviews11 followers
May 31, 2017
It took me a year or more to get through this!! And I'm so happy I got to the end - because this book is brilliant.
After going through a few books on physics/ bios I believe this merging of eastern philosophies and the western scientific world is the best way to explain whats quantum physics all about.

And the author has done a brilliant job - - still so relevant even though the book is 30-40 years old now!

Key notes: Einstein doesnt like it.
Schrodinger's revelation
Are there particles
Is there a difference between the dancer and the dance?
Quantum logic above mathematics and language

The book is full of these difficult bits - and it helped that I took lots of notes all along the book.
304 reviews6 followers
December 1, 2022
I thought the book would be a bit too woo woo, but it is in fact 90% just a clear and thorough book about the discoveries in modern physics, experiment by experiment. It’s actually one of the most clearly written book for non experts, explained in a way that’s much easier to understand.

The other 10% of the book makes comparisons between quantum mechanics and Hinduism and Buddhism, and some of it stretches the analogy a bit too far, but I appreciated the commentary, and there is a sense of inspiration regardless of the tenuousness.

Profile Image for Tepintzin.
291 reviews8 followers
February 27, 2018
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it was a readable introduction to quantum physics. On the other, it was really snooty about "those close-minded scientists" in a way that really made me angry. It saves itself from a three star rating because I am now more curious about quantum physics and want to read more.
Profile Image for Dwale Dwale.
Author 18 books23 followers
February 23, 2021
My aunt gave me a copy of this book when I was young and it changed the way I saw the world. That was a long time ago and I'm sure some of the science has moved on since then, but this should still be an accessible text for beginners. Not perfect by any means, but it breaks down complicated ideas into simple language. For someone like me who is (probably) afflicted with dyscalculia, this was a valuable resource for my young mind.
32 reviews
May 9, 2020
The best book I have read about modern physics!

Einstein said that if you can’t explain something in simple words, you haven’t really understood it! Gary sure understands Quantum physics by that argument.

A big thanks to Bill Gates for his review of this book which is what motivated me to try it.
Profile Image for Shea Layton.
17 reviews9 followers
December 6, 2021
I said this to a friend:

"It's a really ironic book to me. I was basically a very linear rationalist. I thought everything fit in boxes. That book is what completely broke my rationalism and made me realize the world was more complicated than could possibly be grasped or mapped out by the human mind.

I'd tried three times to read books on Quantum Mechanics, and every time I'd barely make it a few pages. And I skipped several grades in math. This was the first book where I actually grasped some of the basic physics problems QM was revealing in the scientific world, but the metaphors of Hinduism and Buddhism are what made me realize the immense philosophical implications that QM had, especially how it showed how much more limited the human mind is than modernism and the West like to pretend.

I read more books on both Buddhism and Hinduism and other religions. But what's most ironic to me is that this book was what turned me towards Eastern Orthodox Christianity 🤣 The Orthodox were the ones most like the first thousand years of Christianity, and both the Church Fathers (the first thousand years of traditions before the Great Schism, when Catholicism parted ways with the Eastern Orthodox Churches) and today's Eastern Orthodox were teaching the same understandings of human fallibility as Buddhism, Hinduism, and the implications of Quantum Mechanics. Since then I've studied bias, belief, conversion experiences, political psychology, cults, and more because of this subject. The science says the same things, that the human mind is incredibly fallible. But in the West, we are some of the most self confident people in most of history. Rationalism, the Enlightenment, the Romance era... This was all mostly downhill in my opinion.

The New Age dude I think is not too bad, but what he brings is that he's good at explaining things. He's not a physicist, but he's learning from a bunch of physicists and, basically, using Hinduism and Buddhism to as a language to translate what they teach him about QM. The equations and such are included but about 2/3 of that went over my head 😅

Anyways, thank you for reading my book report 🤣 This book is one I always want other perspectives on, as it's just such a strange title. It's the only non-Eastern Orthodox book I often recommend for people learning about Eastern Orthodoxy 🤣 My hope is one day to create a video or book or podcast that translates the problems with rationalism to people who are naturally linear like me. Logic is awesome but it's as limited as we are, and subject to immense bias and self blindness. And then there's malicious outside influences on the mind 😅"
14 reviews
January 15, 2021
A transformative read. Widened my thought horizons. Shattered my limited points of view. This book continues to be a re-read for me since mid 90's . Every-time it expands my points of view & broadens my take on everything ! A true classic !
Displaying 1 - 30 of 445 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.