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.
From the author of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and the host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a memoir about growing up and a young man's budding scientific curiosity. This is the absorbing story of Neil deGrasse Tyson's lifelong fascination with the night sky, a restless wonder that began some thirty years ago on the roof of his Bronx apartment building and eventually led him to become the director of the Hayden Planetarium. A unique chronicle of a young man who at one time was both nerd and jock, Tyson's memoir could well inspire other similarly curious youngsters to pursue their dreams. Like many athletic kids he played baseball, won medals in track and swimming, and was captain of his high school wrestling team. But at the same time he was setting up a telescope on winter nights, taking an advanced astronomy course at the Hayden Planetarium, and spending a summer vacation at an astronomy camp in the Mojave Desert. Eventually, his scientific curiosity prevailed, and he went on to graduate in physics from Harvard and to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia. There followed postdoctoral research at Princeton. In 1996, he became the director of the Hayden Planetarium, where some twenty-five years earlier he had been awed by the spectacular vista in the sky theater. Tyson pays tribute to the key teachers and mentors who recognized his precocious interests and abilities, and helped him succeed. He intersperses personal reminiscences with thoughts on scientific literacy, careful science vs. media hype, the possibility that a meteor could someday hit the Earth, dealing with society's racial stereotypes, what science can and cannot say about the existence of God, and many other interesting insights about science, society, and the nature of the universe. Now available in paperback with a new preface and other additions, this engaging memoir will enlighten and inspire an appreciation of astronomy and the wonders of our universe.
This book presents the physics of incompressible flow for the benefit of students and others who need to understand fluid motion. In this new edition, much of the material is new or rewritten, but the purpose and style of the first edition are retained. Particular emphasis is given to information obtained by experiment and observation in addition to analysis of the equations of motion. The book's primary concern is to convey a fundamental understanding of the behavior of fluids in motion. Special features include an introductory non-mathematical treatment of three particular flow configurations; extensive consideration of geophysical topics; and detailed coverage of topics that are known primarily through experimental data. Numerous photographs illustrate the phenomena discussed, and a concluding chapter demonstrates the wide applicability of fluid mechanics. New topics in the second edition include double diffusive convection and modern ideas about dynamical chaos. The discussion of instabilities has been restructured and the treatments of separation and of convection in horizontal layers considerably expanded.
Isaac Newton was born in a stone farmhouse in 1642, fatherless and unwanted by his mother. When he died in London in 1727 he was so renowned he was given a state funeral--an unheard-of honor for a subject whose achievements were in the realm of the intellect. During the years he was an irascible presence at Trinity College, Cambridge, Newton imagined properties of nature and gave them names--mass, gravity, velocity--things our science now takes for granted. Inspired by Aristotle, spurred on by Galileo's discoveries and the philosophy of Descartes, Newton grasped the intangible and dared to take its measure, a leap of the mind unparalleled in his generation.James Gleick, the author of Chaos and Genius, and one of the most acclaimed science writers of his generation, brings the reader into Newton's reclusive life and provides startlingly clear explanations of the concepts that changed forever our perception of bodies, rest, and motion--ideas so basic to the twenty-first century, it can truly be said: We are all Newtonians.
Abraham Pais's life of Albert Einstein was one of the finest scientific biographies ever written. When it first appeared in 1982, Christian Science Monitor called it "an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man," and Timothy Ferris, in The New York Times Book Review, said it was "the biography of Einstein he himself would have liked best," adding that "it is a work against which future scientific biographies will be measured." As a respected physicist himself, Pais was the first biographer to give Einstein's thinking its full due, yet despite the occasional high level of science needed to discuss Einstein's ideas, the book was a national bestseller. Indeed, it was one of The New York Times's Best Books of the Year, and the winner of the 1983 American Book Award for Science.
Now Pais turns to Niels Bohr, to illuminate the life and thought of another giant of 20th-century physics. Bohr was the first to understand how atoms were put together, he played a major role in shaping the theory of the atomic nucleus, he decoded the atomic spectrum of hydrogen, an achievement which marks him as the founder of the quantum dynamics of atoms, and his concept of complementarity (which provides the philosophical underpinning for quantum theory) qualifies him as one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers. Pais covers all of these achievements with sophistication and clarity, but he also reveals the many other facets of the man. Perhaps most important, he shows that Bohr was not only a great scientist, but also a great nurturer of young scientific talent, acting as father figure extraordinaire for several generations of physicists. Bohr's Institute of Theoretical Physics, which he founded in Copenhagen and for which he tirelessly raised funds, was the world's leading center for physics all through the 1920s and 1930s, the birthplace of Heisenberg's papers on the uncertainty relations, Dirac's first paper on quantum electrodynamics, and other pivotal works. And Pais reveals as well the personal side of Bohr, the avid reader and crossword puzzle solver (Bohr loved Icelandic sagas, Goethe and Schiller, Dickens and Mark Twain--while studying in England early in his career, he improved his English by reading The Pickwick Papers with a dictionary to one side); his aid to Jews and other refugees in the 1930s and during the war; the tragic loss of his son Christian (who died in a sailing accident right before Bohr's eyes); and his attempts during and after the war to promote openness between East and West, meeting with both Roosevelt and Churchill (the former was quite courteous, the latter lectured Bohr like a schoolboy).
Bohr's research, his teaching, his friendships with the major scientists of our time, his aid to refugees, his role as philosopher, administrator, and fund raiser, his devotion to science and to his family--all these qualities are illuminated by Pais in a marvelous biography that captures the essence of one of the best-loved figures of this century.
To his colleagues, Richard Feynman was not so much a genius as he was a full-blown magician: someone who "does things that nobody else could do and that seem completely unexpected." The path he cleared for twentieth-century physics led from the making of the atomic bomb to a Nobel Prize-winning theory of quantam electrodynamics to his devastating expos of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. At the same time, the ebullient Feynman established a reputation as an eccentric showman, a master safe cracker and bongo player, and a wizard of seduction.Now James Gleick, author of the bestselling Chaos, unravels teh dense skein of Feynman's thought as well as the paradoxes of his character in a biography--which was nominated for a National Book Award--of outstanding lucidity and compassion.
Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988) was widely recognized as the most creative physicist of the post-World War II period. His career was extraordinarily expansive. From his contributions to the development of the atomic bomb a Los Alamos during World War II to his work in quantum electrodynamics, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965, Feynman was celebrated for his brilliant and irreverent approach to physics.It was Feynman's outrageous and scintillating method of teaching that earned him legendary status among students and professors of physics. From 1961-1963, Feynman, at the California Institute of Technology, delivered a series of lectures that revolutionized the teaching of physics around the world. Six Easy Pieces, taken from the famous Lectures on Physics, represents the most accessible material from this series. In these six chapters, Feynman introduces the general reader to the following topics: atoms, basic physics, the relationship of physics to other topics, energy, gravitation, and quantum force. With his dazzling and inimitable wit, Feynman presents each discussion without equations or technical jargon.Readers will remember how--using ice water and rubber--Feynman demonstrated with stunning simplicity to a nationally televised audience the physics of the 1986 Challenger disaster. It is precisely this ability--the clear and direct illustration of complex theories--that made Richard Feynman one of the most distinguished educators in the world. Filled with wonderful examples and clever illustrations, Six Easy Pieces is the ideal introduction to the fundamentals of physics by one of the most admired and accessible scientists of our time.