Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time New Ed Edition
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"The book is a tour de force. Price addresses some of the most difficult issues in physics and philosophy, and offers highly original solutions. Yet the book is written in a style which assumes no previous knowledge, and will be accessible to any reader who is prepared to think hard."--Times
"Time's Arrow is...a highly original and important contribution to the philosophy and physics of time. It is path-breaking in many areas, since it covers topics rarely treated by philosophers and offers novel solutions to many problems."--British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
"Price is a philosopher with a real grasp of fundamental physics. He offers an original slant on some profound issues, where our understanding has advanced little since the time of St. Augustine."--The Times
"[Huw Price] has taken a subject understood by a few experts and thrown open the door to the masses....Enjoy it as a feast for the imagination."--The Sunday Times (London)
"Price's book is a useful addition to the literature on time, particularly as it reveals the influence of modern science on the way a philosopher thinks."--New Scientist
"Succeeds with great clarity....The author has done physicists a great service in laying out so clearly and critically the nature of the various time-asymmetry problems of physics."--Nature
About the Author
Huw Price is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Facts and the Function of Truth (1988) and a wide range of articles in leading journals such as The Journal of Philosophy, Mind, and Nature.
- ASIN : 0195117980
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (December 4, 1997)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780195117981
- ISBN-13 : 978-0195117981
- Lexile measure : 1380L
- Item Weight : 1.04 pounds
- Dimensions : 9 x 0.5 x 6 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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On the other hand, it is more obscure than necessary due to the author's long-winding linguistic style interspersed with numerous analogies/metaphors, some of which more puzzling than revealing (the way I look at it, of course) and, contrary to the description in the Preface to the book, some background in physics is required so as to appreciate the author's arguments. Besides, this book does not explain well (if at all) the concept of objective (physical) time and I feel it fails to give the non-professional reader a clear idea how to view the things from an atemporal standpoint (or 'view from nowhen').
And so, my first try at this book was a total fiasco due to the lack of a clear idea of the concepts of objective (physical) time, entropy, thermodynamical processes, causal forks, a state function,... (the full list of things would be too long). All my thanks for acquiring the required knowledge for understanding this book properly during my second try go to Records of the Future - Classical Entropy, Memory, and the 'Arrow of Time' (Quantum Physics free of Folklore #1) and Galloping with Light - Einstein, Relativity, and Folklore .
The main idea of Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point is that our intuitive/subjective sense of time has a very great effect on how we think about time and the temporal aspects of reality. Namely, we should try to distinguish how the world actually is from how it seems to be from our particular standpoint. Mr. Price argues that the concept of 'time' is a secondary quality such as colour, leaving it to the reader to figure out for herself/himself what the primary quality in the case of 'time' might be. (As my inference was influenced by Records of the Future - Classical Entropy, Memory, and the 'Arrow of Time' (Quantum Physics free of Folklore #1) , I'll keep silent on this point so as not to spoil the fun of trying to find it out for yourself.)
One of the central questions of the book is how it is possible to reconcile the time-symmetric laws we find in physics with the world we find around us, which appears to have a preferred direction from past to future. In efforts to reach the answer to this question, the first half of the book deals with the categories/phenomena (the so-called 'arrows of time') on which our subjective sense of time relies: the arrow of thermodynamics, the arrow of radiation, the cosmological arrow, the arrow of causation and the arrow of counterfactual dependence. The question now is whether these 'arrows of time' reflect only our anthropocentric view or the real feature of reality. In general, the low-entropy condition of the present and past universe is puzzling and Mr. Price argues that a purely statistical reasoning is unreliable and unsatisfactory because it is in conflict with the prevailing time-symmetric physics and involves unjustified temporal double standards.
In this context, Mr. Price expounds his reflections on the basic dilemma of cosmology, which I found interesting. It seems that we have to accept either Gold's hypothesis that entropy must decrease toward both ends of the Universe, or Penrose's that the low-entropy big bang is simply not explicable by time-symmetric physics unless we were prepared to allow it is just a statistical 'fluke'. The author argues in favor of Thomas Gold's time-symmetric Universe (recollapsing/low entropy at both ends).
What I also found very interesting are Mr. Price's reflections on Wheeler-Feynmann Absorber Theory (according to the author, it involves a misleading concept of temporal asymmetry of radiation) and objections to Hawking's assumption that the Universe has an objective start, failing to apply the statistical arguments and the 'no-boundary' (low-entropy) condition equally both to what we call the big-bang and the supposed big-crunch, putting thus asymmetry in his theory 'by hand'.
The second half of the book deals with the asymmetry of the principle of μInnocence (common past hypothesis at the microscopic level) and our intuitive view of cause-effect relation. Mr. Price proposes that causal asymmetry might be perspective dependent. What gives us the `causal temporal arrow' is the fact that it is impossible for us, as agents in the world, to reverse the order of things, i.e., to achieve an earlier end(effect) by a later means (cause). We take it for granted that events in the world are independent unless they share some common causal history. In Mr. Price's opinion, QM seems to provide a confirmation against the asymmetry of the principle of μInnocence because it is actually not observable but only reflects our macroscopic view of cause-effect relation.
However, a consequence of abandoning μInnocence is surprising. Mr. Price favors Einstein's view of QM, arguing that the asymmetry of the state function is unproblematic if it is simply an incomplete description of QM. He suspects that Bell thought both the common past hypothesis and the common future hypothesis conflict with our intuitive assumption that experimenters are free to choose measurement settings and that these settings are free variables. Mr. Price thinks "it is fair to say that Bell saw how Einstein could be right about QM, but didn't understand what he saw".
Mr. Price further proposes we might give up Bell's independence assumption and save Einsteinian realism and locality as well as free will. The secret lies in advanced action/backward causation. While the mathematics remains the same, the benefits of the advanced action approach to explain reality at microscopic level are: it avoids nonlocality (faster than light influence can be considered as a backward influence from some inertial frame of reference), denies that a collapse of a wave function corresponds to a real change in the physical system and it does not encounter the measurement problem.
Overall, this book is worth your while if you are intrigued with the subject and prepared to do some hard work.
Imagine if someone in 1820 had written the definitive book about electricity and magnetism: It would have contained all kinds of information about Leyden jars, dynamos, induced current, electro-magnets, compasses, etc. It would not mention the electro-magnetic field, nor would it mention electro-magnetic radiation.
This is not a criticism of the author: No one today could write a complete book on the subject of time, because we still do not really understand it
The author does a good job of covering entropy, causality, and quantum time asymmetry, but I believe that these phenomena are all aspects of the same thing. The scientific and philosophical study of time is still in the stage where we are "collecting stamps", rather like biology was in the period before Darwin.
We are still waiting for an integrated theory of time, which can explain the direction of causality, the non-reversibility of radiation, and all of the other time-asymmetries in one package.
The ultimate purpose of the book is to make the case for a "Block Universe", one in which time does not flow, but rather whose entire existence already resides as a fourth dimension. "Archimedes' Point" in the title refers to the need for us to step out of our shells as agents in time, and view nature "from nowhen" if we are to truly understand the concept. Mr. Price begins by analyzing what appears to be the natural symmetry of time as outlined by the mathematical description of physics. He then presents common time-asymmetric arguments, one after another, and shows them to be ultimately fallacious, contradictory, or suffering from anthropocentric double standards. Near the end of the book Mr. Price incorporates the strange behavior of quantum mechanics, which can plausibly be explained by advanced action (aka causes coming from the future), to bolster his "Block Universe" claims. In the end I almost take the Block Universe for granted, and from this perspective the book is a resounding success.
Making it through the book was ultimately satisfying. The author's arguments, once fully appreciated, are sound and persuasive. The end of each chapter contains a summary of its contents which was fantastic. The final chapter again contains a summary of the major logical points made throughout the book which really helps to bring everything together. If you are a casual reader looking to be entertained then this book is probably not for you. If you are willing to do some work in the quest to expand your knowledge then I would recommend it...
Top reviews from other countries
I hope that does not put anybody off, because this is a great book, which, despite what other reviewers have written, uses no mathematics, and very little knowledge of Quantum Mechanics, but asks you to bend your mind around very basic philosophical concepts. What is testing, and so exciting, is the invitation to recognise, and to try to suspend, those pre-conceptions we have not realised we had with regard to 'time'. The result is to open up a completely different set of possibilities for explaining some of the most intractable and puzzling aspects of Quantum and Relativity theory, from the 'double slit' experiment, and 'spooky action' onwards.