The question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?', has a strong claim to be philosophy's central, and most perplexing, question; it has a capacity to set the head spinning which few other philosophical problems can rival. Bede Rundle challenges the stalemate between theistic and naturalistic explanations with a rigorous, properly philosophical approach, and presents some startlingly novel conclusions.
The twilight of certainty -- Einstein and light -- The Bohr atom and old quantum theory -- Uncertain synthesis -- Dualities -- Elements of physical reality -- Creation and annihilation -- Quantum mechanics goes to work -- Symmetries and resonances -- "The most profound discovery of science" -- Bits, qubits, and the ultimate computer -- Unfinished. business.
That space and time should be integrated into a single entity, spacetime, is the great insight of Einstein's special theory of relativity, and leads us to regard spacetime as a fundamental context in which to make sense of the world around us. But it is not the only one. Causality is equally important and at least as far as the special theory goes, it cannot be subsumed under a fundamentally geometrical form of explanation. In fact, the agent of propagation of (...) causal influence is electromagnetic radiation. In this examination, the authors find support for a rationalist approach to physics, never neglecting experimentation, but rejecting a simple empiricist or positivist view of science. (shrink)
Abraham Pais's Subtle Is the Lord was a publishing phenomenon: a mathematically sophisticated exposition of the science and the life of Albert Einstein that reached a huge audience and won an American Book Award. Reviewers hailed the book as "a monument to sound scholarship and graceful style" (The New York Times Book Review), "an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man" (Christian Science Monitor), and "a fine book" (Scientific American). In this groundbreaking new volume, Pais undertakes a history of the physics (...) of matter and of physical forces since the discovery of x-rays. The book attempts to relate not only what has happened over the last hundred years but why it happened the way it did, what it was like for those scientists involved, and how what at the time may have seemed a series of bizarre or unrelated events, now with hindsight emerges as a logical sequence of events. Pais, a noted physicist, was personally involved in many of the developments he describes, and thus Inward Bound , like his earlier book, is filled with unique insights into the world of big and small physics. Between 1895 and 1983, the period he covers, the smallest distances explored have shrunk a hundred millionfold, Pais notes. Along this incompletely traveled "road inward," scientists have established markers that later generations will rank among the principal monuments of the twentieth century. In alternating technical and nontechnical sections, this magisterial survey richly conveys what has been discovered about the constituents of matter, the laws to which they are subject, and the forces that act on them. But the advances have certainly not come smoothly. The book shows that these have been times of progress and stagnation, of order and chaos, of clarity and confusion, of belief and incredulity, of the conventional and the bizarre; also of revolutionaries and conservatives, of science by individuals and by consortia, of little gadgets and big machines, and of modest funds and big money. About the Author: Abraham Pais is Detlev W. Bronk Professor of Physics at the Rockefeller University. The author of the prizewinning biography of Einstein now undertakes a history of modern physics. (shrink)
Carl G. Hempel exerted greater influence upon philosophers of science than any other figure during the 20th century. In this far-reaching collection, distinguished philosophers contribute valuable studies that illuminate and clarify the central problems to which Hempel was devoted. The essays enhance our understanding of the development of logical empiricism as the major intellectual influence for scientifically-oriented philosophers and philosophically-minded scientists of the 20th century.
This volume introduces some of the basic philosophical and conceptual questions underlying the formulation of quantum mechanics, one of the most baffling and far-reaching aspects of modern physics. The book consists of articles by leading thinkers in this field, who have been inspired by the profound work of the late John Bell. Some of the deepest issues concerning the nature of physical reality are debated, including the theory of physical measurements, how to test quantum mechanics, and how classical and quantum (...) physics are related. This book will be of interest to students with a background in quantum physics, who wish to explore in more detail its philosophical aspects, practising scientists who are not content with blindly applying the rules of quantum mechanics, and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the philosophy of physics. (shrink)
This collection of essays explores different perceptions of space, taking the reader on a journey from the inner space of the mind to the vacuum beyond Earth. Eight leading researchers span a broad range of fields, from the arts and humanities to the natural sciences. They consider topics ranging from human consciousness to virtual reality, architecture and politics. The essays are written in an accessible style for a general audience.
This is one of the most important books on quantum mechanics to have appeared in recent years. It offers a dramatically new interpretation that resolves puzzles and paradoxes associated with the measurement problem and the behavior of coupled systems. A crucial feature of this interpretation is that a quantum mechanical measurement can be certain to have a particular outcome even when the observed system fails to have the property corresponding to that outcome just prior to the measurement interaction.
In this book, Hodgson presents a clear and compelling case against today's orthodox mechanistic view of the brain-mind, and in favor of the view that "the mind matters." In the course of the argument he ranges over such topics as consciousness, informal reasoning, computers, evolution, and quantum indeterminancy and non-locality. Although written from a philosophical viewpoint, the book has important implications for the sciences concerned with the brain-mind problem. At the same time, it is largely non-technical, and thus accessible to (...) the non-specialist reader. (shrink)
Welcome to the world of cutting-edge math, physics, and neuroscience, where the search for the ultimate vacuum, the point of nothingness, ground zero of theory, has rendered the universe deep, rich, and juicy. "Modern physics has animated the void," says K. C. Cole in her entrancing journey into the heart of Nothing. Every time scientists and mathematicians think they have reached the ultimate void, new stuff appears: a black hole, an undulating string, an additional dimension of space or time, repulsive (...) anti-gravity, universes that breed like bunnies. Cole's exploration at the edge of everything is as animated and exciting as the void itself. Take Cole's hand on this adventure into the unknown, and you'll come back informed, amused, and excited. (shrink)
The strangeness of modern physics has sparked several popular books--such as The Tao of Physics--that explore its affinity with Eastern mysticism. But the founders of quantum mechanics were educated in the classical traditions of Western civilization and Western philosophy. In Nature Loves to Hide, physicist Shimon Malin takes readers on a fascinating tour of quantum theory--one that turns to Western philosophical thought to clarify this strange yet inescapable explanation of reality. Malin translates quantum mechanics into plain English, explaining its origins (...) and workings against the backdrop of the famous debate between Niels Bohr and the skeptical Albert Einstein. Then he moves on to build a philosophical framework that can account for the quantum nature of reality. He shows, for instance, how Platonic and Neoplatonic thought resonates with quantum theory. He draws out the linkage between the concepts of Neoplatonism and the more recent process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. The universe, Whitehead wrote, is an organic whole, composed not of lifeless objects, but "elementary experiences." Beginning with Whitehead's insight, Malin shows how this concept of "throbs of experience" expresses quantum reality, with its subatomic uncertainties, its constituents that are waves and also particles, its emphasis on acts of measurement. Once any educated person could explain the universe as a vast Newtonian web of cause and effect, but since quantum theory, reality again appears to be richer and more mysterious than we had thought. Writing with broad humanistic insight and deep knowledge of science, and using delightful conversations with fictional astronauts Peter and Julie to explain more difficult concepts, Shimon Malin offers a profound new understanding of the nature of reality--one that shows a deep continuity with aspects of our Western philosophical tradition going back 2500 years, and that feels more deeply satisfying, and truer, than the clockwork universe of Newton. (shrink)
This book is about how to understand quantum mechanics by means of a modal interpretation. Modal interpretations provide a general framework within which quantum mechanics can be considered as a theory that describes reality in terms of physical systems possessing definite properties. Quantum mechanics is standardly understood to be a theory about probabilities with which measurements have outcomes. Modal interpretations are relatively new attempts to present quantum mechanics as a theory which, like other physical theories, describes an observer-independent reality. In (...) this book, Pieter Vermaas summarises the results of this work. The book will be of great value to undergraduates, graduate students and researchers in philosophy of science, and physics departments with an interest in learning about modal interpretations of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The book is drawn from the Tarner lectures, delivered in Cambridge in 1993. It is concerned with the ultimate nature of reality, and how this is revealed by modern physical theories such as relativity and quantum theory. The objectivity and rationality of science are defended against the views of relativists and social constructionists. It is claimed that modern physics gives us a tentative and fallible, but nevertheless rational, approach to the nature of physical reality. The role of subjectivity in science (...) is examined in the fields of relativity theory, statistical mechanics and quantum theory, and recent claims of an essential role for human consciousness in physics is rejected. Prospects for a 'Theory of Everything' are considered, and the related question of how to assess scientific progress is carefully examined. (shrink)
One of the first books to address what has come to be known as the philosophy of cosmology, Universes asks, "Why does the universe exist?", arguing that the universe is "fine tuned for producing life." For example, if the universe's early expansion speed had been smaller by one part in a million, then it would have recollapsed rapidly; with an equivalently tiny speed increase, no galaxies would have formed. Either way, this universe would have been lifeless.
Using an original approach, Mauro Dardo recounts the major achievements of twentieth-century physics--including relativity, quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, the invention of the transistor and the laser, superconductivity, binary pulsars, and the Bose-Einstein condensate--as each emerged. His year-by-year chronicle, biographies and revealing personal anecdotes help bring to life the main events since the first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. The work of the most famous physicists of the twentieth century--including the Curies, Bohr, Heisenberg, Einstein, Fermi, Feynman, Gell-Mann, Rutherford, (...) and Schrödinger--is presented, often in the words and imagery of the prize-winners themselves. Mauro Dardo is Professor of Experimental Physics at Amedeo Avogadro University. He has served as Dean of the new Faculty of Sciences at the University of Turin in Alessandria, Piedmont, and has also served as Director of the university's new department of Sciences and Advanced Technologies. (shrink)
With over 150 alphabetically arranged entries about key scientists, concepts, discoveries, technological innovations, and learned institutions, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy traces the history of physics and astronomy from the Renaissance to the present. For students, teachers, historians, scientists, and readers of popular science books such as Galileo's Daughter, this guide deciphers the methods and philosophies of physics and astronomy as well as the historical periods from which they emerged. Meant to serve the lay reader and the professional (...) alike, this book can be turned to for the answer to how scientists learned to measure the speed of light, or consulted for neat, careful summaries of topics as complicated as quantum field theory and as vast as the universe. The entries, each written by a noted scholar and edited by J. L. Heilbron, Professor of History and Vice Chancellor, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, reflect the most up-to-date research and discuss the applications of the scientific disciplines to the wider world of religion, law, war, art and literature. No other source on these two branches of science is as informative or as inviting. Thoroughly cross-referenced and accented by dozens of black and white illustrations, the Oxford Guide to Physics and Astronomy is the source to turn to for anyone looking for a quick explanation of alchemy, x-rays and any type of matter or energy in between. (shrink)
Recent developments in quantum theory have focused attention on fundamental questions, in particular on whether it might be necessary to modify quantum mechanics to reconcile quantum gravity and general relativity. This book is based on a conference held in Oxford in the spring of 1984 to discuss quantum gravity. It brings together contributors who examine different aspects of the problem, including the experimental support for quantum mechanics, its strange and apparently paradoxical features, its underlying philosophy, and possible modifications to the (...) theory. (shrink)
The basic theme of Popper's philosophy--that something can come from nothing--is related to the present situation in physical theory. Popper carries his investigation right to the center of current debate in quantum physics. He proposes an interpretation of physics--and indeed an entire cosmology--which is realist, conjectural, deductivist and objectivist, anti-positivist, and anti-instrumentalist. He stresses understanding, reminding us that our ignorance grows faster than our conjectural knowledge.
In this new edition, Arthur Fine looks at Einstein's philosophy of science and develops his own views on realism. A new Afterword discusses the reaction to Fine's own theory. "What really led Einstein . . . to renounce the new quantum order? For those interested in this question, this book is compulsory reading."--Harvey R. Brown, American Journal of Physics "Fine has successfully combined a historical account of Einstein's philosophical views on quantum mechanics and a discussion of some of the philosophical (...) problems associated with the interpretation of quantum theory with a discussion of some of the contemporary questions concerning realism and antirealism. . . . Clear, thoughtful, [and] well-written."--Allan Franklin, Annals of Science "Attempts, from Einstein's published works and unpublished correspondence, to piece together a coherent picture of 'Einstein realism.' Especially illuminating are the letters between Einstein and fellow realist Schrodinger, as the latter was composing his famous 'Schrodinger-Cat' paper."--Nick Herbert, New Scientist "Beautifully clear. . . . Fine's analysis is penetrating, his own results original and important. . . . The book is a splendid combination of new ways to think about quantum mechanics, about realism, and about Einstein's views of both."--Nancy Cartwright, Isis. (shrink)
In a tour de force of scholarship and vision, Ken Wilber traces the course of evolution from matter to life to mind. In each case evolution has a "direction," a tendency to produce more highly organized patterns. The "spirit of evolution" lies in its directionality: order out of chaos. After arriving at the emergence of mind, Wilber traces the evolution of human consciousness through its major stages of development, pointing out that at each stage there is the "dialectic of progress"--every (...) increase in consciousness is bought at a price: new freedom also means new license to choose destruction. He particularly focuses on the rise of modernity and post-modernity--what they mean, how they relate to gender issues, to psychotherapy, to ecological concerns, and to various liberation movements. Most important, he asks: Can spiritual concerns be integrated with massive developments of the modern world? This edition is updated and includes a new introduction placing it in the context of the Collected Works. (shrink)
Underpinning all the other branches of science, physics affects the way we live our lives, and ultimately how life itself functions. Recent scientific advances have led to dramatic reassessment of our understanding of the world around us, and made a significant impact on our lifestyle. In this book, leading international experts, including Nobel prize winners, explore the frontiers of modern physics, from the particles inside an atom to the stars that make up a galaxy, from nano-engineering and brain research to (...) high-speed data networks. Revealing how physics plays a vital role in what we see around us, this book will fascinate scientists of all disciplines, and anyone wanting to know more about the world of physics today. (shrink)
Why is the future so different from the past? Why does the past affect the future and not the other way around? What does quantum mechanics really tell us about the world? In this important and accessible book, Huw Price throws fascinating new light on some of the great mysteries of modern physics, and connects them in a wholly original way. Price begins with the mystery of the arrow of time. Why, for example, does disorder always increase, as required by (...) the second law of thermodynamics? Price shows that, for over a century, most physicists have thought about these problems the wrong way. Misled by the human perspective from within time, which distorts and exaggerates the differences between past and future, they have fallen victim to what Price calls the "double standard fallacy": proposed explanations of the difference between the past and the future turn out to rely on a difference which has been slipped in at the beginning, when the physicists themselves treat the past and future in different ways. To avoid this fallacy, Price argues, we need to overcome our natural tendency to think about the past and the future differently. We need to imagine a point outside time -- an Archimedean "view from nowhen" -- from which to observe time in an unbiased way. Offering a lively criticism of many major modern physicists, including Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking, Price shows that this fallacy remains common in physics today -- for example, when contemporary cosmologists theorize about the eventual fate of the universe. The "big bang" theory normally assumes that the beginning and end of the universe will be very different. But if we are to avoid the double standard fallacy, we need to consider time symmetrically, and take seriously the possibility that the arrow of time may reverse when the universe recollapses into a "big crunch." Price then turns to the greatest mystery of modern physics, the meaning of quantum theory. He argues that in missing the Archimedean viewpoint, modern physics has missed a radical and attractive solution to many of the apparent paradoxes of quantum physics. Many consequences of quantum theory appear counterintuitive, such as Schrodinger's Cat, whose condition seems undetermined until observed, and Bell's Theorem, which suggests a spooky "nonlocality," where events happening simultaneously in different places seem to affect each other directly. Price shows that these paradoxes can be avoided by allowing that at the quantum level the future does, indeed, affect the past. This demystifies nonlocality, and supports Einstein's unpopular intuition that quantum theory describes an objective world, existing independently of human observers: the Cat is alive or dead, even when nobody looks. So interpreted, Price argues, quantum mechanics is simply the kind of theory we ought to have expected in microphysics -- from the symmetric standpoint. Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point presents an innovative and controversial view of time and contemporary physics. In this exciting book, Price urges physicists, philosophers, and anyone who has ever pondered the mysteries of time to look at the world from the fresh perspective of Archimedes' Point and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, the universe around us, and our own place in time. (shrink)
The final work of a distinguished physicist, this remarkable volume examines the emotive significance of time, the time order of mechanics, the time direction of thermodynamics and microstatistics, the time direction of macrostatistics, and the time of quantum physics. Coherent discussions include accounts of analytic methods of scientific philosophy in the investigation of probability, quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, and causality. "[Reichenbach’s] best by a good deal."—Physics Today. 1971 ed.
Murdoch describes the historical background of the physics from which Bohr's ideas grew; he traces the origins of his idea of complementarity and discusses its meaning and significance. Special emphasis is placed on the contrasting views of Einstein, and the great debate between Bohr and Einstein is thoroughly examined. Bohr's philosophy is revealed as being much more subtle, and more interesting than is generally acknowledged.
Contemporary science presents us with the remarkable theory that the universe began to exist about fifteen billion years ago with a cataclysmic explosion called "the Big Bang." The question of whether Big Bang cosmology supports theism or atheism has long been a matter of discussion among the general public and in popular science books, but has received scant attention from philosophers. This book sets out to fill this gap by means of a sustained debate between two philosophers, William Lane Craig (...) and Quentin Smith, who defend opposing positions. Craig argues that the Big Bang that began the universe was created by God, while Smith argues that the Big Bang has no cause. Alternating chapters by the two philosophers criticize and attempt to refute preceding arguments. Their arguments are based on Einstein's theory of relativity and include a discussion of the new quantum cosmology recently developed by Stephen Hawking and popularized in A Brief History of Time. (shrink)
The study of the physical world had its origins in philosophy, and, two-and-one-half millennia later, the scientific advances of the twentieth century are bringing the two fields closer together again. So argues Lawrence Sklar in this brilliant new text on the philosophy of physics.Aimed at students of both disciplines, Philosophy of Physics is a broad overview of the problems of contemporary philosophy of physics that readers of all levels of sophistication should find accessible and engaging. Professor Sklar’s talent for clarity (...) and accuracy is on display throughout as he guides students through the key problems: the nature of space and time, the problems of probability and irreversibility in statistical mechanics, and, of course, the many notorious problems raised by quantum mechanics.Integrated by the theme of the interconnectedness of philosophy and science, and linked by many references to the history of both disciplines, Philosophy of Physics is always clear, while remaining faithful to the complexity and integrity of the issues. It will take its place as a classic text in a field of fundamental intellectual importance. (shrink)
This book examines in detail two of the fundamental questions raised by quantum mechanics. First, is the world indeterministic? Second, are there connections between spatially separated objects? In the first part, the author examines several interpretations, focusing on how each proposes to solve the measurement problem and on how each treats probability. In the second part, the relationship between probability (specifically determinism and indeterminism) and non-locality is examined, and it is argued that there is a non-trivial relationship between probability and (...) non-locality. The author then re-examines some of the interpretations of part one of the book in the light of this argument, and considers how they fare with regard to locality and Lorentz invariance. The book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the interpretation of quantum mechanics, including researchers in the philosophy of physics and theoretical physics, as well as graduate students in those fields. (shrink)
The content of this book is essentially one argument. The aim of this book is to consider the breakdown of a certain world view during the twentieth century. This is mirrored in the treatment of both science and philosophy. As these form the foundation for the human position in the world, a major reorganization of the body of knowledge had to take place. Bohr and Wittgenstein have been chosen as the main actors to represent this revision. Each one had to (...) replace apparent order and certainty by an understanding based on limited concepts in constant flux. The conclusion is that the modern synthesis is far from satisfactory. By leaving the story unfinished in its present state, the book hopes to provoke a renewal of the discussion and the eventual emergence of a reformed clarity and understanding. Reality is to be left as it is, but the human mind is also to be left as it is. The problem is to find a way to effect a harmonious combination of these. (shrink)
When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Remi Brague in this wide-ranging (...) cultural history. Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality. Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own. (shrink)
Quantum physics is believed to be the fundamental theory underlying our understanding of the physical universe. However, it is based on concepts and principles that have always been difficult to understand and controversial in their interpretation. This book aims to explain these issues using a minimum of technical language and mathematics. After a brief introduction to the ideas of quantum physics, the problems of interpretation are identified and explained. The rest of the book surveys, describes and criticises a range of (...) suggestions that have been made with the aim of resolving these problems; these include the traditional, or 'Copenhagen' interpretation, the possible role of the conscious mind in measurement, and the postulate of parallel universes. This new edition has been revised throughout to take into account developments in this field over the past fifteen years, including the idea of 'consistent histories' to which a completely new chapter is devoted. (shrink)