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Causality and Chance in Modern Physics Reissue Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812210026
ISBN-10: 0812210026
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Of exceptional importance. A genuine philosophy of nature, written by a physicist."—Hibbert Journal



"Bohm's challenging book perhaps marks the beginning of a retreat from high-flown obscurantism and a return to common sense in science."—Scientific American



"Bohm's ideas deserve careful study. . . . Through the stimulus it will provide for the thoughtful investigation of some of the most searching questions of modern physical science, this book serves a very useful purpose."—Physics Today

About the Author

By David Bohm
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press; Reissue edition (January 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812210026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812210026
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Frank Bierbrauer on January 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
In this, David Bohm's first book looking at the conceptual foundations of modern physics he writes in a fast paced energetic way which, although quite analytical and interesting, lacks the warmth to be found in his later books.
His aim is to investigate the concepts of cause and chance and their applicability in physics. Bohm considers the ideas of causality in terms of relationshipos between "things" both as one-to-many and many-to-one types, then considers how contingency, chance and probablity are present in natural law.
Then, starting from the ideas of classical mechanistic physics and the changes which occurred over several hundred years in the way that the philosophy of mechanism both, took hold, 17th and 18th centuries, and significantly changed, 19th century he considers the longevity of this philosophy even after changes in it which would normally entertain a new outlook: classical particle mechanics->wave theory->fields. All of these new developments altered how the philosophy of mechanism was thought of but still maintained fundamental aspects such as: a quantitative law which could explain all natural phenomena. he goes on to explain the links between macroscopic and microscopic levels of law and how in each level a relatively independent state of affairs exists which regard to the laws, valid in each case.
Further, with the development of quantum theory at the start of the 20th century, ideas of probablity, indeterminacy and discreteness became the new concepts in physics, once again significantly changing the outlook yet still maintaining the most important tenet of mechanism: a be all and end all explanation of reality ie a final explanation which knows no alteration.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a bold and original investigation of the philosophical foundations of physical science. David Bohm, as a superb physicist with a major textbook on quantum mechanics, is qualified for what he undertakes to do in this book. The book is devoted partly to a detailed exposition of "mechanical philosophy". Bohm describes in detail the sources and implications of this philosophy as it appears in classical mechanics, statistical physics, and quantum mechanics. Bohm argues that mechanical philosophy is not a necessary consequence of the formalism or of the well-known success of these theories. It is one possible, albeit widespread, interpretation. According to Bohm, the mechanical philosophy is a result of assuming the validity of a scientific theory in all possible situations and contexts. Bohm shows how other more reasonable interpretations of specific theories can be developed. Bohm's own interpretation involves various levels, described by qualitatively distinct theories. These may be related but are not necessarily reducable to a basic level. In particular, Bohm discusses quantum mechanics from this point of view. This serves as an introduction to what Bohm elsewhere turned into a technical research programme. The book is pervaded by a sense of Bohm's deep and unified vision of the physical world.
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I think this is the best book about the fundamental assumptions of science I have ever read. David Bohm is one of the wisest and open-minded thinkers I've ever encountered. He believes that science should be based on the assumption of the "qualitative infinity of nature." We shouldn't assume that anything is what it is absolutely. "Any given set of qualities and properties of matter and categories of laws expressed in terms of these qualities and properties is applicable only within limited contexts, over limited ranges of conditions and to limited degrees of approximation...." The continued existence of any entity or property depends on a balance of the processes tending to change it in different directions. "The broader the context or longer period of time, the more opportunity for that balance to be fundamentally altered." This is consistent with what the process philosophers have told us: Being is just an abstraction from becoming.

Scientific laws can apply only conditionally, not absolutely; they are always subject to revision. We should doubt that any description of "elementary particles" or statement of laws governing them could constitute a full and final description of reality. We should also doubt that we can know the universe's future: "the prediction of the 'heat death' of the universe will probably be invalidated by qualitatively new developments reflecting the inexhaustible and infinite character of the universal process of becoming."

Much of Bohm's book is a critique of the philosophy of mechanism, which he regards as an unjustified extrapolation from science's success in discovering certain conditional mechanistic relationships. Mechanism aims to reduce everything to interactions between basic entities with fixed qualities, like the parts of a machine.
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I consider this book a gem.
The forthright explanations of mechanistic systems, both deterministic and indeterministic, will help to awaken any student of physics as to the degree to which their world-view may not be as broad as they had imagined.
The concerns raised about quantum mechanics are not trivial or extreme. And they are raised with deliberation and humility. Likewise, so are Bohm's suggested solutions.
Finally, and most importantly I think, the argument for a world-view of physics that presumes - as the most scientifically (investigationally speaking) useful view to take - that the universe is comprised of an infinite number of levels of depth and complexity. Perhaps there are not an infinite number of levels of reality, but to presuppose there is opens the mind to want to investigate what they might be. Thus, supposing that QM defines and "explains" the 'bottom' of reality is first, not a logically strong position (just as Brownian motion formulas do not "explain" such motion as a fundamental aspect of nature) and secondly, such a view is scientifically inhibiting: supposing that QM *is* the bottom level of reality is rather silly in light of our historical knowledge of how humans have consistently misjudged the 'fundamental' aspects of nature in the past, and supposing we have reached it now via QM is a dubious claim. Further, even the issue of determinism vs. indeterminism may be a moot point: it may be at a lower level of reality, there is no such distinction - we may be seeing those two 'macroscopic' aspects of a more basic or inclusive feature of reality.
If you want to be an original thinker in physics (or perhaps any science or philosophy), this book is a good starting point to help you realize how easily assumptions of the nature of reality slip past our awareness.
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