The dancing wu li masters : an overview of the new physics

by Gary Zukav

Book, 1979



Call number


Call number



New York : Morrow, 1979.

Original publication date


Physical description

352 p.; 24 cm

Local notes

Gary Zukav’s timeless, humorous, New York Times bestselling masterpiece, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, is arguably the most widely acclaimed introduction to quantum physics ever written. Scientific American raves: “Zukav is such a skilled expositor, with such an amiable style, that it is hard to imagine a layman who would not find his book enjoyable and informative.” Accessible, edifying, and endlessly entertaining, The Dancing Wu Li Masters is back in a beautiful new edition—and the doors to the fascinating, dazzling, remarkable world of quantum physics are opened to all once again, no previous mathematical or technical expertise required.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bdopkins
Silly Drivel; Welcome to the world of pseudo scientists claiming that quantum physics can prove any theory. Deepak Chopra would be proud.
If this book were what it claimed to be, a sort of physics for the layperson, I could get behind that. But its not- it's more about Zukav trying to use physics to prove his favorite flavor of eastern philosophy.
Anyone who thinks by reading this book they can hold their own in an actual scientific conversation will be sorely embarrassed. You will be pegged as a new age nut job in the first 5 minutes.
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LibraryThing member ari.joki
An amazing work of misrepresentation of Oriental philosophies and misunderstandings of modern physics. Thoroughly readable for everyone and completely painful for even the slightly science-aware.
LibraryThing member MusicMom41
This book was designed to help curious people with no scientific background to understand the new discoveries in physics that were affecting how we view our universe. From the review: “The Wu Li Master does not teach; he ‘dances’ with his student as he knows the universe dances with itself.... Still more amazingly, we find that we are able to dance too—that we have always been part of the dance….” I wonder if Martha Grimes read this book before she wrote The Old Wine Shades. The debate between Jury and Harry about Schrödinger’s Cat could come from Zukav. I love Zukav’s comment “quantum physics is stranger than science fiction.” I also loved this book when I read it in the early '80s.… (more)
LibraryThing member michaeldurden
I've finally finished The Dancing Wu Li Masters after years of it sitting on my shelf and weeks of reflecting on what it is saying. It's an old book when considering present developments in the observation of quantum mechanics, but quantum theory itself is twice as old and since its inception has hardly changed. This book however is the first I've read that was capable of viscerally explaining the non-locality and non-linearity of space-time. Limited by "symbols" it acknowledges this limit and it dances with you within these confines so as to allow you, the reader, to experience the reality that the ambiguity of language prohibits. I've read books that describe the world in terms of eastern philosophy, relativity, string theory, quantum electrodynamics, probability functions, and from the historical perspective of the human perception of time itself, and yet none of them were able to convey what was on the tip of their brains, and the tip of mine as well. They all touch upon the fact that at the plank level no further observations are possible, or that energy and matter, waves and particles, are merely two different manifestations of the underlying fabric of space-time. That the linear passage of time is only a construct resulting from the methods with which the relativistic mind collects the information, while space-time itself is only motion, with no preference towards forward or backward. They all extol the words of Bohm, Bell and Schrödinger, but none of them ever try to conceptualize these precepts beyond the application of their useless symbolism, or then take so many angles in driving home the truth of the matter.

Here's a mantra saved like a jewel in one of the very last pages.

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 believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.

As far as information is concerned, this book pales in comparison to the likes of In Search of Schrödinger's Kittens or The Elegant Universe, but it's what this book leaves open to interpretation that brought me the most pleasure.
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LibraryThing member AndrewCapey
Attempts to build connections between the tricky concepts of physics, e.g. the way that some things do not 'exist' until they are observed, with mystical /religious/ metaphysical concepts. However he misses the points that : 1. the effects he discusses are at the quantum level, when matter is collected in bulk (i.e. more than a few pico grams) then bulk effects come into play which swamp quantum effects; 2. humans have evolved in the bulk universe & so are not sensitive to quantum level effects. (even when quantum effects are harnessed by modern technology they are done so in bulk)
He raises fair points about the ability of the human mind to think in different ways in order to understand the counter-intuitive parts of physics. But that does not mean we have to become bhuddist mystics.
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LibraryThing member darrow
The negative reviews of this book make me wonder if the reviewers actually read it. I read the whole book in a week and loved it! It is a first rate introduction to the "new physics". The science is accurate if a little out of date (particularly the section on the" particle zoo"). The author has an enviable grasp of the difficult concepts of quantum mechanics which is surprising for someone not trained as a physicist. I agree that the references to eastern mysticism are misrepresented but they are few in number and easily skipped over.… (more)
LibraryThing member Limelite
Gee, is it a quarter century ago when I read this? Saw it in another LTer's library and remembered that I owned a paperback edition. Since so much time has passed, it's unfair of me to write a real review of this book. However, I do remember it's aftertaste well enough to say a couple of things about it.

It was partially responsible for me avidly reading actual science books about actual modern physics, including quantum physics. It is totally responsible for me making no attempt to read anything on Eastern mysticism with the ambition of connecting it to quantum physics. Instead, I set out to read and meet physicists who wrote about "their" science.

As a result, I attended two lectures by Murray Gell-Man, met him, and bought his pop sci book the Quark and the Jaguar, a much better volume for the layman to come to an unmuddied understanding of quantum physics (Chromodynamics), at least as best an understanding possible considering the subject and that the reader probably isn't a physicist of the cut of Gell-Man. The closest he has come to Eastern mysticism is describing the "eightfold way," a scheme for bringing order out of the chaos of nuclear collisions.

I also attended lectures by other, less prominent physicists, with the exception of one by Edward Teller a few years before he died. I can tell you, after meeting him, that he would never have brooked Wu Li anything. "Utter nonsense!" is what he would have said, waving a dismissive hand in the air and wearing a look of disgust on his face. Just the kind of reaction you would expect from the "Father of the hydrogen bomb." (All puns fully intended.)

So, it's fair to conclude by my reading pattern and tastes as touched on above, I'm more of a mind with Gell-Man and even Teller than I am with Mr. Z. and that I prefer my physics to be "meat" rather than "meta."
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LibraryThing member AlCracka
VX says it's a great intro to quantum physics.
LibraryThing member Pattern-chaser
Physics and philosophy; cultural crossover. Well worth reading.
LibraryThing member RobertDay
There is a joke exam question: "Do you understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity? Yes/No". After reading this book, I could answer "Yes". At least, temporarily. If I needed to, I would be confident that if I went back to this book, I could understand it again.
LibraryThing member JeaniaK
My favorite quote from the novel:

Ûω۪Reality 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 believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.‰Û

Touted as an easy layman‰Ûªs introduction to the history of Quantum Physics, I took a while not because the experiments of Planck, Einstein, Finkelstein and Bohm the author breaks down for his reader so well are hard to conceptualize. It is the meaning of the ideas behind these experiments that are heavy to digest.

A central idea is that there is energy in everything and what happens to B will always affect A in some way. Although you can‰Ûªt predict specific events, you can predict probabilities. And, ‰ÛÏNot only do we influence our reality ‰Û_ we actually create it.‰Û

Another idea is the fundamental belief that we don‰Ûªt know what we don‰Ûªt know and that the new physics might actually be the study of consciousness.

There are also intriguing comparisons made in this book between some of the tenants of new physics and eastern religion and mysticism.

Some argue that Quantum Mechanics is the only science that allows for the concept of God. Newtonian physics doesn‰Ûªt apply to the subatomic world although the subatomic world includes Newtonian physics. Quantum Physics goes beyond the machinery of things and explains matter in terms of energy and organics. It describes an openness to experience, rather than sole reliance on scientific description that physicists have learned to place value on.

In this book Zukav captures a moment for scientists when they realized they didn‰Ûªt know what they thought they knew. It wasn‰Ûªt the first time the scientific community and the world had come to such realization, of course. For hundreds of years we thought the world was flat only to find out it was round. But I was fascinated by the idea in a more recent day and age of how such enlightenment and monumental shift in thinking might feel.
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LibraryThing member talltrickster
A classic that helped me understand some basic principles of quantum mechanics.
LibraryThing member Bruce_Deming
Eh well i didn't really hate this. Seems like author is making some unknown manifestations into something special. Particles, waves, quantum leaps.

Science means to know. This seems more unknown or mystical an area.

The gaps are not filled.

LibraryThing member johnthefireman
One of the earlier attempts to make modern physics comprehensible to the lay person. A very good read.
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