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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics: Locality, Fields, Energy, and Mass Paperback – July 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0631225010 ISBN-10: 0631225013 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Marc Lange uses the philosophical tools of traditional metaphysics to analyze examples drawn from electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics and in turn uses these examples to refine some of the basic concepts of traditional metaphysics. The result is an excellent introduction to the best sort of metaphysics, the sort that is informed by our best physical theories." Jeffrey Barrett, University of California, Irvine <!--end-->


"This is philosophy of physics that meets even Feynman's challenge of making a difference for physics while it attains Hempel's standards of clarity. I can hardly imagine teaching the philosophy of physics, at any level, from introductory to graduate seminar, without using this book!" Alex Rosenberg, Duke University

"Eschewing the technical jargon of philosophy of science, though he is a fluent contributor to journals and refers to current issues in appropriate notes, Lange employs a breezy, common language style, complete with discussion questions suitable for an undergraduate introductory class. [...] Highly recommended to philosphically inexperienced physicists as well as current students in philosophy of science. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty." P.D. Skiff, Bard College, Choice, January 2003

"An accomplished philosopher of science, Lange introduces the epistemological consequences of a central idea in physics - locality ... Eschewing the technical jargon of philosophy of science, though he is a fluent contributor to journals and feres to current issues in appropriate notes, Lange employs a breezy, commom language style, complete with discussion questions suitable for an undergraduate introductory class ... his introduction to the issues via concrete example is very effective and unique. Highly recommended to philosophically inexperienced physicists as well as current students in philosophy of science." Choice

From the Back Cover

This book combines physics, history, and philosophy in a radical new approach to introducing the philosophy of physics.

Accessible to readers with little background in physics or philosophy, this book allows the reader to wrestle with the metaphysical and conceptual problems that drove innovation in physics, from nineteenth-century electromagnetic field theory through relativity and quantum mechanics. Among the topics treated are locality, causality, and scientific explanation; relativity, energy, mass, and the reality of fields; and quantum metaphysics.

The book's engaging, non-technical style makes it ideal for those who want to go beyond the equations and discover what physics reveals about reality.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (July 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631225013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631225010
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This book made me hungry for more texts on the topic.
Robert S. Cruikshank Jr.
Well, these questions still remain, and this book does a fantastic job in both identifying and addressing at an introductory level how they may be ultimately resolved.
Y. Kurtz
This book is a must for all students of physics and philosophy.
Walid Mikhail

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Y. Kurtz on February 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
In college, foundational questions in physics are often swept under the rug, typically by rushed professors who neither have the time nor the inclination to answer questions like: 'What, exactly, is an electric field?' 'Is a Poynting vector a real thing or merely a mathematical construct that aids our ability to visualize or make calculations?' 'How do we make sense of quantum non-locality?' Having been shut down in class on several occasions, most students just turn in their problem sets and learn what's necessary to do well on exams. Well, these questions still remain, and this book does a fantastic job in both identifying and addressing at an introductory level how they may be ultimately resolved. The mass-energy equivalence and the specious conclusions even physicists derive from it was an eye-opener, to say the least. Physics professors should put this book on their suggested reading lists to address the questions of the more inquisitive. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for people just starting out in the philosophy of physics, and even for physics majors who, during a summer soul-searching session, desire to think about things on a deeper level.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Walid Mikhail on February 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is just an excellent book. With questions that all early physics students ask and are usually shunned for asking them. Is the electric field a real entity? What is the difference between a real quantity and a math tool that gives us the right answer. Spactiotemperal locality is covered very well, the mix of physics and philosophy is superb. The last chapter on quantum mechanics could be expanded and perhaps the author can do a seperate book on that topic. This book is a must for all students of physics and philosophy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Cruikshank Jr. on May 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book made me hungry for more texts on the topic. It examines fascinating questions and is excellent for the inquisitive physics or beginning philosophy student. As a physics major, I found parts of the chapter on dispositions heavy going, far deeper than I would prefer. The chapters on electromagnetism were pure delight, however. Towards the end of the book, the author and I parted ways over the issue of relativity; it takes rather a lot of nerve to tell the entire physics community, "you're doing it wrong," about a subject upon which they are constantly fending off attacks already.

I have read the book through twice, taken extensive notes, and will likely read much of it again. I have yet to find another text on the topic that touched so many of the interesting questions of ontology in physics, and I have been looking.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Wold on December 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am very happy that this book was written! It is full of interesting ideas and really attempts to discuss what the many "practical" devices in physics are telling us about "reality".

However, it is very obvious that this book was written by a philosopher writing about physics rather than a physicist writing about philosophy. This book desperately needs a vigorous editing. The style is ponderous, vague and repetitive. It is also written in the typical philosophical style of building an argument (almost "socratic") which deeply hurts its effectiveness.

He repeats his points constantly-- the first 100 pages could be written in 50, I suspect. For example, on page 111 he says "a charged body's arrival ...at B causes an event that moves continuously outward from B, like one of the ripples that is produced when a stone is tossed into a pond"
Then, right on the next page "The charged body's arrival at B affects the electric field at A, but this effect does not take place instantly...there is a delay: it takes some time for the ripple on the pond to cross the space"
These two passages could have been combined and the whole section written much more clearly.

Another example of the ponderous and maddening style also is evident in chapter 5. He is talking about a simple example of two bodies located at various points in space and time. Instead of calling one body "a" and the other "b", and specifying the points in a simple Cartesian grid [eg(x,y) and (x1, y1)], he continually talks about "the body at B" and "the body traveling to B" , "the other body" and even "the body not at A" (!!) and finally a repulsion "from the place at which the other body was located before it was moved from B" (p. 114)

Really, it is maddening to try to wade through this!
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A book of importance for physicists who generally do not wander into the field of philosophical thinking of the issues. This book, hopefully will provide the readers of physics the important notion that the "totality" of physics encompasses the "touchable" as well as the "untou
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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics: Locality, Fields, Energy, and Mass
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