Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics (Collected papers on quantum philosophy)

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521368698
ISBN-10: 0521368693
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Editorial Reviews


"This book is lovely and thoughtful, and it should be read by everyone interested in fundamental questions of nature." American Journal of Physics

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Product Details

  • Series: Collected papers on quantum philosophy
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 29, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521368693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521368698
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
Many people tend to treat the quantum formalism as sacred or untouchable. Not too many seem to question the relevancy of the undefined concepts of 'measurement', 'observer' and 'system' on which which QM stands. Can we really call a theory 'fundamental' when it rests upon undefined concepts? Reading this book is a pure pleasure mostly because it treats QM in a very simple and uncomplicated way. Some lines written in this book are almost poetic. This is a book for people really interested in foundations of QM and for those prepared to let go of quantum doctrines.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Bravo VINE VOICE on November 21, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a travesty that this book is out of print. Almost unbelievable, in fact. What is Cambridge University Press thinking?
This book is not destined to become a classic-- because It IS a classic ALREADY!! It is just one that hasn't been widely recognized yet.
That's only a matter of time.
Nowadays everyone and their uncle seems to be talking about Quantum Communication this and Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen that-- and I guess with good reason, for we are now starting to see practical applications of this most esoteric of physics subfields.
However, it seems that the more non-intuitve and interesting a topic is, the more obfuscation (both intended and accidental) is written about it. (I'm not just talking about laymen and mystics, but physicists too!) Or, said another way, the more people talk, the less they really understand.
Forget all the rest of the [stuff] out there. Cut to chase. Read about the ESSENTIALS of what QUANTUM MECAHNICS really MEANS from one of the Masters of the field in about 15 short, lucid, crystal-clear essays.
There is some math here, but not much. That is the beauty and the danger of Quantum Mechanics-- because calculations are not that difficult in this field, people are lulled into thinking they really understand what it is they are calculating.
Well, most don't.
If you really want to get a grasp as to what it all MEANS-- forgetting the calculations for a moment--- you must read this book.
Feynman said that nobody really understood Quantum Mechanics. That may be so...
But John Stuart Bell came the closest.
You can't meet him at a conference anymore (he died in 1990,) but you CAN have him tutor you personally in this short, brilliant masterpiece.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
It would be difficult to find a more controversial topic in the philosophy of physics than what is discussed in this book. But its implications go beyond philosophy, in that some of the ideas in the book have been used in the attempts to build a quantum computer. Since it was written at a time when quantum computation was not taken as seriously as it is now, if at all, it is not surprising that experimental backing for the content is not included in the book. That such experimental evidence is lacking in the book is also a sign that such experiments are not conclusive in the verification of what the author expounds in the book. I can only speak for myself here, but having undertaken a painstaking look at the literature on the experiments purporting to verify entanglement and the "Bell inequalities", I have yet to find one that does so in a convincing way. The mathematical formalism employed by the author in the book allows him to prove some interesting theoretical conclusions, and those who work in the field of quantum computation even more so, but real-world experiments are lagging considerably behind these purely theoretical constructions.
The reader will find good discussions of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen and the de Broglie-Bohm delayed-choice "thought experiments" in the book, as well as a few other interesting discussions, such as the problem of hidden variables all from a pretty much philosophical viewpoint. The author however does not hesitate to use mathematical formalism where appropriate. Some of his conclusions will depend on what philosophical "school of thought" the reader is in. For example, in his discussion on hidden variables, he refers to the work of the mathematician Andrew Gleason on the impossibility of hidden variables.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Van Esch on August 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
In the early days of quantum mechanics, Einstein (who was
actually at the origin of the basic ideas of the theory)
and Bohr (one of the founders of the formalism of quantum
mechanics) had a lot of discussions: Einstein just couldn't
accept the (to "common sense") weird predictions of
quantum theory. Einstein's criticism on quantum theory
reached a top in a few papers that describe what is called
"the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen paradox". It describes long
distance correlations between measurements that seem to depend
on arbitrary decisions made by the two distant observers and
that can have no causal relationship.
Einstein's favorite view of the statistical nature of quantum
mechanical predictions was some hidden "gears and wheels"
that wasn't found out yet.
John Bell examined the question in detail and wrote a few
historical papers in which he showed that it is mathematically
impossible that the predictions of quantum mechanics follow
from hidden local "gears and wheels" in the situation
described by the EPR paradox; as such the strangeness
of the EPR paradox is underlined and can be settled by
experiment: if the "gears and wheels" exist, then the
predictions of quantum mechanics cannot be right (that is the
content of the Bell papers). Today, very sophisticated experiments indicate
that quantum mechanics is right and that the weirdness is
with us for good.
In this volume, those historical papers by Bell are reprinted
with added comments by the author. The merit is that they
have raised the issue from a conceptual debate to a scientific
question, amenable to experimental inquiery.
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