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How Is Quantum Field Theory Possible? Paperback – July 27, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0195093452 ISBN-10: 0195093453 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 27, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195093453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195093452
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #841,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The union of quantum mechanics and special relativity and its importance to the basic structure of the physical world."--Science & Spirit

About the Author

Sunny Y Auyang is at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book, very insightful into the intricacies of quantum field theory, is not based on what one might call the "standard assumption" of the philosophy of science, namely that science has an underlying foundation, that it is in a sense a derived collection of knowledge that needs "justification" philosophically. Indeed, the usual attitude in the philosophy of science is that a theory is only "possible" if its formalism is laid bare and shown to satisfy some essential philosophical assumptions. The predictions of a theory are not by themselves its justification, as this would presuppose too much of a "commonsense" attitude, and such an attitude is eschewed by philosophers of science.
But of course there is another outlook on science that is not held by any of the modern doctrines in the philosophy of science. This is one in which science is not assumed to need an underlying philosophical justification, that it is its own justification, and the goal of philosophy should be in discovering what this assumption says about philosophy. For example, what theories of mind and reality are entailed by quantum field theory? Do the invariance principles used in quantum field theory say anything about epistemology? Quantum field theory is rich in concepts and uses very sophisticated mathematical constructions, and it has, via the ingenuity of experimentalists, resulted in real predictions that are as of yet unrivaled by any other physical theory. Can one build an interesting philosophical structure, complete with a metaphysics and a nontrivial epistemology, using the assumptions and structure of quantum field theory?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter McCluskey on August 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book contains some good ideas, but large parts of it are too hard for me to get anything out of, both due to an assumption that the reader knows a good deal about quantum mechanics and due to a style which probably requires rereading most parts multiple times in order to decipher even those parts which don't require an understanding of quantum mechanics.
I was impressed by her explanation of how we should understand the uncertainty of position and momentum measurements. She says the quantum entities have genuine deterministic properties, but we shouldn't try to think of position and momentum as properties of any persistent entities. They are properties associated with specific measurements. The properties of persistent entities such as atoms are mostly stranger than what we can measure, and measurements only give us indirect evidence of those properties.
Her descriptions of coordinate systems used in quantum physics seem inconsistent with the impressions I got from Smolin's Trouble with Physics. Smolin implies (but doesn't clearly state) that quantum theory retains Newtonian background dependent coordinates. Auyang's descriptions of quantum coordinate systems seem very different. It's clear that I've only scratched the surface of what's needed to understand these issues.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is intended to people who already have some knowledge of quantum field theory (QFT), at least in a qualitative level. Someone who has never read or listened anything about the matter will have serious difficults to follow the ideas contained in the book. A previous knowledge of philosophy is not so necessary but maybe desirable because it is exhaustively discuted and, in general, the required concepts are explained inside the text. However, the text begins to become more and more complicated and, sometimes, boring as the philosophical discussions, which englobe Kant, Humes, Leibnitz and others, become deeper. The book will interest people who wants to study the philosophy of QFT, but do not expect to acquire mathematical or technical knowledge about the matter except for some good appendices that try to explain in a relatively simple way things as fiber bundles and probability measures. In summary, it is neither a technical book in QFT nor a book for the public in general, it is a primary serious attempt to fit QFT in a philosophical framework. It is worth to read, but only if you are prepared for a very difficult task..
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By michael on July 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Wow. For the sake of emphasis I will say it again, Wow!

Before getting into any meaty discussions on quantum mechanics, we all should recall Feynman's words, " no one understands quantum mechanics, and if they tell you they do, they are lying."

This is a perfect book for anyone that made it through grad school in physics, and still loves quantum mechanics. It is not one of these toned-down books that uses hand waving and poetry to bring quantum to the masses. This is a scholarly, thoughtful, thoroughly researched and referenced, nuts and bolts, exercise-left-to-the-reader book. It will leave you wishing you knew more about quantum. Sunny Auyang does not preach, she does not claim to know everything. She invites you into her thinking, welcomes you too to explore quantum. H.G. Wells invites us in to explore the full ramifications of his era's world view, for example in his Time Machine he brings us along to see what really are the logical conclusions one reaches by applying Darwinism to the future evolution of human society. Similarly, Ms Auyang has the courage to say, well, what if this part of the quantum theory really is true? Does anyone really understand the difference between eigenvalues and probability? What do stationary states tell about the nature of Time? And if QFD is self-referential, how far can we really trust the approximation solutions?

Other articles are available at [...]

Note: about no one understanding quantum mechanics - this is a very good warning to all of us. If we broaden our bounds, we can certainly say that the truths explicated in quantum have been approached and explicated by men and women who are not 20th/21st century physicists.
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