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Causality and Chance in Modern Physics Paperback – 19 Apr 1984

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (19 April 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415174406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415174404
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 1.1 x 29.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,380,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

By David Bohm --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Jan 2001
Format: Paperback
In 1952 Professor Bohm proposed an approach to quantum theory that resolved many of the philosophical and interpretational difficulties, and in particular, removed the apparently fundamental randomness of quantum theory. Although this interpretation was accepted as being technically valid, it was met with considerable hostility within the physics community. In this book, published in 1957, Bohm explored and answered many of the objections and criticisms of his proposal, and went on to suggest ways in which the theory could be developed further.
Consequently, while it is excellently written, it is now somewhat dated. There are more comprehensive technical expositions of Bohm's theory (especially "The Undivided Universe" Bohm & Hiley, and "The Quantum Theory of Motion" Holland) At the same time, the philosophical debate has moved on. Nevertheless, it remains a very clear examination of the extent to which either randomness or determinism could ever be regarded as 'fundamental', or are simply artefacts of particular scientific theories. It is a very open book, the intention being more to widen the possible conceptions of what quantum theory might mean, rather than advocating a particular approach to quantum theory as being the "correct" one (it would be much to be desired if other writers on the subject would adopt such an attitude!) It also shows, in later chapters, the genesis of ideas the Bohm was later to explore in "Wholeness and the Implicate Order".
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Burnett on 30 April 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Bohm's full understanding of 'creation' has yet to be accepted but the physics community is slowly, and painfully, coming to grasp his views as an explanation for the quantum mechanical effects. This book should be read as a companion to Wholeness and the Implicate Order

John Burnett
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A good introduction to a deep thinker. 16 Jan 2002
By Frank Bierbrauer - Published on
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.
Bohm then goes on to demonstrate at least qualitatively what a different, alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics could look like, introducing his concepts of the sub-quantum level and the qualitative infinity of nature which is yet a unity. In the final chapter he looks at the way in which humans attempt to comprehend this qualitative infinity in terms of the abstraction of certain aspects from the whole and its consequences such as the multiplicity of these abstractions and their significance. He thereby avoids the seemingly obvious conclusion of Neumann regarding the non-existence of underlying laws or hidden variables. He considers question on the modes of being, becoming and how a "thing" can exist for long periods of time unchanged and yet in certain contexts always changing. He belittle's the Laplacian mechanistic "God" and what objective reality really means.
It is Bohm's first attempt at these difficult issues (1957) long before chaos theory and its ability to lead to randomness even from strictly deterministic laws and the further developments he himself underwent in talks with Krishnamurti and the consequent construction of the idea of the holomovement. This book does not go as deep or is as fascinating as his later, richer ideas. But it does give an overview of what Bohm wished to change in physics and also society through his ideas such as dialogue.
A good introduction to a deep thinker.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
David Bohm and philosophy of physics 17 Aug 2000
By A Customer - Published on
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.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Required Reading for Physics Students! 20 April 2002
By T. Gwinn - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An outline of Bohm's challenge to Bohr's Copenhagen interpreation of quantum mechanics 19 Feb 2012
By Ulfilas - Published on
Format: Paperback
Beginning with a forward penned by de Broglie himself and various touchstones in the history of science and philosophy (including Laplace's concept of a deterministic universe), Bohm lays out an outline of his view of science in general and physics in particular, culminating in his interpretation of quantum physics. I refer to this work as an outline because it does not go into the mathematical formulation of physics--neither of Maxwell's differential equations for Electro-magnetism (as an example of field equations) nor of the differential equations of Schrodinger and Dirac for quantum phenomena. Bohm chooses his words carefully, referring to the Heinsenberg "indeterminacy" rather than "uncertainty" principle, as he considers the apparent limitations imposed by Bohr's Copenhagen view of quantum mechanics to be likely provisional rather than final.

Bohm discusses the challenge to Bohr's interpretation posed by the 1935 paper of Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen (EPR), in which they demonstrate the difficulty in ascribing quantum indeterminacy to the influence of the measuring apparatus (p.88). In reply, Bohr authored a paper which countered the EPR's criticism with the claim that the quantum entity (i.e. wave function) and measuring apparatus are indivisible (i.e. entangled) and therefore immune to EPR's reductionist analysis (p.89). Bohm also gives the references to these two papers: EPR Phys. Rev. 47, 777 (1935); Bohr Phys. Rev. 48, 696 (1935). He also discusses von Neumann's criticism of the EPR formulation in terms of hidden variables and the mathematical proof that von Neumann offers against the existence of such hidden variables (p.96).

Bohm goes on to catalog other problems associated with Bohr's interpretation, including the difficulty in ascribing a path to a moving particle, as in the case of an incident electron interacting with a photographic film (p.90). Bohm also offers his own version of quantum theory, in which the quantum particle follows a somewhat erratic but nevertheless continuous path in response to quantum forces--but in such a way that the final result is in agreement with current quantum calculations derived from the Schrodinger equation (p.109-116).

Although the observations made by Bohm in this book are certainly valuable, I don't believe that the reader is able to fully appreciate his ideas without reading his more complete works that are written at a level accessible to those pursuing (or at one time having pursued) graduate level courses in quantum physics. In particular, I wish to recommend to the reader with such a background Bohm's textbook on quantum mechanics Quantum Theory (Dover Books on Physics)--while noting especially that this book put forward the modern interpretation of EPR's challenge to Bohr. For Bohm's novel personal interpretation of quantum theory--complete with quantum forces establishing the paths followed by quantum particles, the reader should read Bohm and Hiley's The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Bohm's Anti-Mechanistic Manifesto 12 Aug 2011
By Edward J. Steffes - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. This overlooks another kind of relation, the "reciprocal relationship" between an entity and the broader context that makes it what it is. The earliest forms of mechanism were deterministic, assuming that the future could be calculated from the initial positions and velocities of entities and the forces acting upon them. Bohm does not confine his critique to deterministic mechanism, but extends it to the indeterministic mechanism of quantum mechanics. The conventional interpretation of QM attributes an absolute and final validity to the indeterminacy principle, so that only a statistical description of reality is permitted and no causal interpretation of phenomena is even pursued. Bohm regards causality and chance--necessary causes and chance contingencies--as two aspects of all processes. Any theory that embraces one to the exclusion of the other is inherently incomplete. "Neither causal laws nor laws of chance can ever be perfectly correct, because each inevitably leaves out some aspect of what is happening in broader contexts." That's why Bohm has led the search for a "hidden variables" interpretation of QM. In the end, Bohm regards the mechanistic philosophy in all its forms as contrary to the spirit of scientific inquiry, since it tends to regard a limited truth as the whole truth. "The essential character of scientific research is that it moves towards the absolute by studying the relative, in its inexhaustible multiplicity and diversity."

In contrast to the mechanistic philosophy, Bohm proposes a more holistic and organic view. "The inter-relationships of the parts (or sub-wholes) within a system depend crucially on the state of the whole, in a way that is not expressible in terms of properties of the parts alone. Indeed, the parts are organized in ways that flow out of the whole. The usual mechanistic notion that the organization, and indeed, the entire behaviour, of the whole derives solely from the parts and their predetermined inter-relationships thus breaks down."

Recommended for readers interested in theoretical physics or the philosophy of science.
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