I AM frequently perplexed.  All  sorts of things perplex me –  from the workings of the  cooker timer and DVD remote  control to the forms sent out  by the Student Loans  Company.

On an almost daily  basis I am perplexed by my PC  at work, which seems to sense  that my computing powers are  weak and acts up accordingly.
So perhaps the person who  left a copy of the book  Quantum: A  Guide for the  Perplexed on my desk thought  they were doing me a favour.
Of course, it seems unlikely  that someone who struggles to  re-set a digital alarm clock  and only scraped an O level  in physics will be able to  grasp the finer points of  quantum mechanics but,  having recovered from my  initial surprise to receive  such a book, I decided to give  it a go.
Chapter one saw me settled  down on the sofa with my  resident physicist (Firstborn)  close at hand to explain  anything I didn’t understand,  which turned out to be quite a  lot.
“So,” I said, after reading and  re-reading the unlikely tale of  how atoms behave differently  depending on whether they  are being observed or not,  “why do they change their  behaviour?”
“Because they’re being  observed,” said M Phys, as if  that made it completely  clear. “Observation changes  the outcome.”
I had visions of  little atoms  shyly peeking out from  behind the laboratory  apparatus to see if anyone is  looking before making a  dash for it.  Of course I  couldn’t admit this.
By Chapter Four I was lost in  Heisenberg’s uncertainty  principle and probability  clouds.  The probability of me  finishing the book was rapidly  nose-diving.
According to the author of  Quantum, Jim Al-Khalili, it is  said that if you are not  shocked by quantum  mechanics then you clearly  don’t understand it.
After clawing my way through  the first third of the book I  can safely say that I am more  perplexed than ever and more  shocked by my stupidity than  anything else.
At work this week I discovered  who left the book on my desk.   It was, it turned out, a gift for  Firstborn, who, as it happens,  is the least perplexed person I  know.