The author informs us that he would have preferred to title his book Time, the Forgotten Dimension. It is not, he cautions, that scientists fail to consider time or forget to include the term "t" in their equations. But, he insists, from Thales to Einstein and even to Planck and Schroedinger, Western thought has been dominated by the tendency to treat time as a kind of illusion or appearance cloaking a timeless reality. This tendency, taken at the extreme, would treat (...) past, present, and future as if they coexisted and deny to irreversibility, indeterminacy, and creativity the slightest shred of reality. The author, an important contributor to recent "nonequilibrium" thermodynamics, believes that this age-old tendency has finally run its course and needs to be supplemented by a newer and potentially more fruitful tendency to "take time seriously": that is, to study irreversibility and indeterminacy on their own terms, as fundamental features of the real world. The result, he argues, may be the resolution of many heretofore unresolvable problems. (shrink)
The following introduction offers a broad survey of the history of quantum physics. It then outlines the position of each contributor in this Special Focus Section concerning the collapse of the quantum wave function and defines three important terms used in discussing this topic.