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Reexamining the Quantum-Classical Relation: Beyond Reductionism and Pluralism 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521857208
ISBN-10: 0521857201
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Editorial Reviews


"Bokulich fully appreciates many subtleties that practising physicists occasionally understand intuitively, but are rarely explicit about. Her ideas are refreshing and original and presented with clarity and erudition. I unreservedly recommend her book to anyone wanting to understand the intricate connections between the classical and quantum worlds."
Sir Michael Berry

"... this is a courageous book. More importantly, it is also a very interesting one, and my personal opinion is that Bokulich is typically right whenever she is controversial. This opinion is fed not only by the frequent strength of her arguments, but also by my impression that, as far as 20th century philosophers - as opposed to scientists like Einstein and Bohr - have set its agenda, the philosophy of science has become separated from the actual science it is supposed to describe by a wide gap. Consequently, scientists rarely take notice of its introverted debates ... Bokulich's book obviously attempts to bridge this gap. And successfully so, I would say."
N. P. Landsman

"Alisa Bokulich dwells extensively on the history of quantum mechanics and the philosophical ideas of its founding fathers and also on recent developments in physics. The book has thus become a goldmine of information and original ideas about quantum mechanics and its philosophy."
Dennis Dieks

"The case study is a novel one and the arguments are strong and tight."
Dean Rickles, Mathematical Reviews

Book Description

Overturning traditional arguments, this book explores the relation between quantum mechanics and classical mechanics from historical, philosophical, and scientific perspectives. Its clear pedagogical presentation includes definition of all technical scientific, historical, and philosophical terms and an extensive bibliography. Suitable for historians and philosophers of science and philosophically-inclined physicists.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521857201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521857208
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.2 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,257,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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At the start of this important book, Alisa Bokulich (a professor in the history of physics) makes some very interesting points about how some of the 'quantum giants' viewed the ongoing debate in atomic physics between realism and instrumentalism (or phenomenology: the modern orthodoxy in physics where mathematics is viewed as a sufficient explanation of physical reality). After challenging the widespread assumption that Heisenberg was a naive positivist or instrumentalist, Heisenberg's own philosophy of physics is critically reviewed, as his position is often also misunderstood. Bokulich makes the case that Heisenberg explicitly rejected positivism and endorsed a version of scientific realism. She documents how Heisenberg believed that both classical mechanics (CM) and quantum mechanics (QM) were BOTH realistic descriptions of nature "in their own domains" based on his metaphysical view that "nature itself is divided into various regions of reality". She claims that throughout his writings, Heisenberg was quite critical of phenomenological theories since "... they do not give any real information about the physical content of the phenomenon, about those things that really happen." "Phenomenological theories are understood as just calculating tools, theories that 'save the phenomena' while failing to give us any true insight into nature." This ties back to the original programme of Natural Philosophy that was begun by Newton (acknowledged by Heisenberg). This was also strongly adhered to by most other earlier famous 'scientists' such as Clerk-Maxwell and gradually lost through the 20th Century as American 'pragmatism' took over physics.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book describes the different points of view concerning the relationship of QM and classical physics held by Heisenberg, Bohr and Dirac. There are many philosophical points on which they profoundly disagreed, related to how one should interpret classical physics in a world they all agreed is quantum. Extended quotations support her interpretation of their perspectives.

She provides a much more detailed and technical explanation of what Bohr meant by the the correspondence principle than I've seen elsewhere.

Another interesting point: Dirac's attitude toward physical theory seems much more light-hearted than I had thought: He doesn't seem to expect that much of any one theory. Possibly this attitude granted him the freedom to play with the possibilities in bizarre ways, leading to his unbelievable advances in theoretical physics, some of which are hard to imagine anyone else creating.

This book also discusses recent advances in semi-classical physics. Despite her attempt to claim that this changes the philosophical relationship between quantum and classical physics, it still seems to me that it's just mathematics applied to QM, without really implying any really significant change to the CM-QM relationship.

I think the book will be of most interest to those interested in how the leading proponents thought about QM. It doesn't cover Einstein or Schroedinger.
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