Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point

Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point : New Directions for the Physics of Time

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The arrow of time and the meaning of quantum mechanics are two of the great mysteries of modern physics. This important book - written for non-specialist readers, as well as physicists and philosophers - throws a fascinating new light on both issues, and connects them in a wholly original way. In considering attempts to understand the arrow of time in physics, Huw Price shows that for over a century physicists have fallen repeatedly for the same trap: treating the past and future in different ways. To overcome this natural tendency, we need to imagine a point outside time - an Archimedean viewpoint, as Price calls it - from which to think about the arrow of time in an unbiased way. Taking this Archimedean viewpoint, Price asks why we assume that the past affects the future but not vice versa, and argues that causation is much more symmetric in microphysics: to a limited extent, the future does affect the past. Thus he avoids the usual paradoxes of quantum mechanics, without succumbing to the rival paradoxes of causal loops and time travel.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 154.94 x 228.6 x 25.4mm | 589.67g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • line figures
  • 0195100956
  • 9780195100952

Review quote

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. His book is not an easy read, but should trigger lively debate about whether he has introduced new paradoxes as stubborn as those he claims to exorcise. * The Times * ...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 * ' ...he has taken a subject understood by a few experts and thrown open the door to the masses. Take it with a pinch of salt, perhaps; but do take it, and enjoy it as a feast for the imagination." * The Sunday Times * splendidly provocative book. * Sunday Times * `In this challenging book, Price applies critical reasoning and penetrating insight to the current theories of physics and cosmology that have a bearing on this problem.' Paul Davies, Professor of Natural Philosophy, The University of Adelaide, and author of About Time and The Physics of Time Asymmetry `... a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) analysis of the time-asymmetry problem of physics which is in many ways deeper and more illuminating than accounts to be found elsewhere.' Roger Penrose, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford, and author of Shadows of the Mind and The Emperor's New Mindshow more

Back cover copy

Why is the future so different from the past? Why does the past affect the future and not the other way around? What does quantum mechanics really tell us about the world? In this important and accessible book, Huw Price throws fascinating new light on some of the great mysteries of modern physics, and connects them in a wholly original way. Price begins with the mystery of the arrow of time. Why, for example, does disorder always increase, as required by the second law of thermodynamics? Price shows that, for over a century, most physicists have thought about these problems the wrong way. Misled by the human perspective from within time, which distorts and exaggerates the differences between past and future, they have fallen victim to what Price calls the "double standard fallacy": proposed explanations of the difference between the past and the future turn out to rely on a difference which has been slipped in at the beginning, when the physicists themselves treat the past and future in different ways. To avoid this fallacy, Price argues, we need to overcome our natural tendency to think about the past and the future differently. We need to imagine a point outside time - an Archimedean "view from nowhen" - from which to observe time in an unbiased way. Price then turns to the greatest mystery of modern physics, the meaning of quantum theory. He argues that in missing the Archimedean viewpoint, modern physics has missed a radical and attractive solution to many of the apparent paradoxes of quantum physics. Many consequences of quantum theory appear counter-intuitive, such as Schrodinger's Cat, whose condition seems undetermined until observed, and Bell's Theorem, which suggests a spooky"nonlocality", where events happening simultaneously in different places seem to affect each other directly. Price shows that these paradoxes can be avoided by allowing that at the quantum level the future does, indeed, affect the past. This demystifies nonlocality, and supports Einstein's unpopular intuition that quantum theory describes an objective world, existing independently of human observers: the Cat is alive or dead, even when nobody looks. So interpreted, Price argues, quantum mechanics is simply the kind of theory we ought to have expected in microphysics - from the symmetric standpoint.show more

About Huw Price

Huw Price is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Sydney.show more

Table of contents

Preface ; 1. The View from Nowhen ; 2. "More Apt to be Lost than Got" - the Lesson of the Second Law ; 3. New Light on the Arrow of Radiation ; 4. Arrows and Errors in Contemporary Cosmology ; 5. Innocence and Symmetry in Microphysics ; 6. In Search of the Third Arrow ; 7. Convention Objectified, and the Past Unlocked ; 8. Einstein's Issue - the Puzzle of Contemporary Quantum Theory ; 9. The Case for Advanced Action ; Overview ; Bibliography ; Notesshow more

Rating details

106 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 25% (26)
4 31% (33)
3 32% (34)
2 10% (11)
1 2% (2)
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