- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne; Later Printing Used edition (October 27, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060959681
- ISBN-13: 978-0060959685
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 276 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics Later Printing Used Edition
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From the Back Cover
With its unique combination of depth, clarity, and humor that has enchanted millions, this beloved classic by bestselling author Gary Zukav opens the fascinating world of quantum physics to readers with no mathematical or technical background. "Wu Li" is the Chinese phrase for physics. It means "patterns of organic energy," but it also means "nonsense," "my way," "I clutch my ideas," and "enlightenment." These captivating ideas frame Zukav's evocative exploration of quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Delightfully easy to read, The Dancing Wu Li Masters illuminates the compelling powers at the core of all we know.
About the Author
Gary Zukav is the author of four consecutive New York Times bestsellers. In 1979, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics plumbed the depths of quantum physics and relativity, winning the American Book Award for science. In 1989, The Seat of the Soul led the way to seeing the alignment of the personality and the soul as the fulfillment of life and captured the imagination of millions, becoming the number one New York Times bestseller thirty-one times and remaining on the bestseller list for three years. Zukav's gentle presence, humor, and wisdom have endeared him to millions of viewers through his many appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Six million copies of his books are in print and translations have been published in twenty-four languages. Zukav grew up in the Midwest, graduated from Harvard, and became a Special Forces (Green Beret) officer with Vietnam service before writing his first book.
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I took it up again this year after reading *Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking*, by one of my intellectual heroes, Douglas Hofstadter, and his colleague, Emmanuel Sander. They presented the compelling argument that
we can only form thoughts via analogies. From these we create the categories by which we organize our lives. The problem is that whenever we finally settle on a set of categories that we are comfortable with, it turns out that those categories don’t really explain as much as we thought they did. Our youth consists of successively having to recognize the inadequacy of the categories we have so laboriously developed--only to discover, once we've finally developed some categories that seem to work, that those categories are wrong, too!
What was profound about that book was their recognition that great scientific discoveries may be expressed in mathematical terms, but the insights came from skilled expansion of each genius' analogies/categories. Einstein's recognition that the speed of light was the only constant, when everything else is relative, and that gravity is equivalent to acceleration represented creative extension of analogies, were a total disruption of the way people had categorized things in the past.
In short, the combined conclusion that we can only make sense out of the world via analogies--and the analogies we've come up with are probably wrong--was disturbing.
After that, I read much of *The Age of Entanglement*, by Louisa Guilder. Her position is that physics is not the tidy finished product that those of us who don’t really know much about it believe it to be. Modern physics is a process that entails brilliant observations and conclusions, but very painful ones, with different physicists having very different views on what is “truth”. Basically, Einstein's tidy categories got upset when the quantum physicists claimed that in the world of sub-atomic particles there is no underlying reality that we can perceive. That is there is no underlying reality that we can perceive without changing it. The best we can do is to identify probabilities that events happen. There is no "particle" in sub-atomic particles. Einstein died being convinced that somewhere out there was a theory that could unite the perceptions of reality we have when we look at the outside world and the probabilistic understanding of sub-atomic physics. He was absolutely convinced that "God does not play dice".
The problem with that book is that in focusing on the disagreements between the physicists, it made use of extensive (and, yes, verbose) communications among them. This tended to confuse the underlying arguments.
So, I dusted off *The Dancing Wu Li Masters". (OK, I couldn't find my copy, so I bought the Kindle edition.) And yes, it is much clearer both in describing the subject matter, and in driving home the problem we have with the analogies (categories) we have for looking at the world.
The last three hundred years of (at least western) civilization have been unusual in history. Discoveries by Galileo and Newton that the physical world follows natural "laws" that can be identified and catalogued, have given us the illusion that we understand what is "reality". In the limited perspective of us walking around, this is true, and the insights have changed all of our lives. From nuclear energy to the space program, the world we understand is vastly different from what it was at the beginning of the 14th Century.
But in the Twentieth Century, the quantum physicists have returned us to the era of Eastern Mysticism. The universe is energy, that occasionally (sort of) coagulates into what we see as matter. But this is all an illusion, based on the limitations of our ability to see inside what's going on. And we are limited in our ability to see what's going on.
In Chinese, one word for physics, "wu li" means Patterns of Organic Energy. But the same syllables pronounced differently in Chinese can mean "My way", "Nonsense", or "I clutch my ideas". There is definitely something to think about, here.
At the risk of extending another analogy that occurred to me the first time I read it. We are each actually part of an incredibly realistic video game.
When I saw it in ebook format, I couldn't resist revisiting this old favorite.
Most recent customer reviews
This was my second purchase, I gave away the first purchase to a friend.