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The Emergent Multiverse: Quantum Theory according to the Everett Interpretation [Paperback]

David Wallace
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

29 July 2014
The Emergent Multiverse presents a striking new account of the 'many worlds' approach to quantum theory. The point of science, it is generally accepted, is to tell us how the world works and what it is like. But quantum theory seems to fail to do this: taken literally as a theory of the world, it seems to make crazy claims: particles are in two places at once; cats are alive and dead at the same time. So physicists and philosophers have often been led either to give up on the idea that quantum theory describes reality, or to modify or augment the theory.
The Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics takes the apparent craziness seriously, and asks, 'what would it be like if particles really were in two places at once, if cats really were alive and dead at the same time'? The answer, it turns out, is that if the world were like that—if it were as quantum theory claims—it would be a world that, at the macroscopic level, was constantly branching into copies—hence the more sensationalist name for the Everett interpretation, the 'many worlds theory'. But really, the interpretation is not sensationalist at all: it simply takes quantum theory seriously, literally, as a description of the world. Once dismissed as absurd, it is now accepted by many physicists as the best way to make coherent sense of quantum theory.
David Wallace offers a clear and up-to-date survey of work on the Everett interpretation in physics and in philosophy of science, and at the same time provides a self-contained and thoroughly modern account of it—an account which is accessible to readers who have previously studied quantum theory at undergraduate level, and which will shape the future direction of research by leading experts in the field.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 548 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Reprint edition (29 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198707541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198707547
  • Product Dimensions: 25.7 x 14.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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is the most extensive, careful, and wide-ranging discussion of Hugh Everetts so-called Many Worlds interpretation of quantum theory in existence (at least on our branch of the multiverse), and is certain to become the locus classicus for all future discussions of the theory. Since the first obligation of a reviewer is to give guidance to potential readers, I will discharge that obligation first: if you have any interest in studying or trying to understand the Everett theory, you must get this book. You wont find a better discussion of both foundational issues and far-flung consequences of the theory anywhere. David Wallace has been brooding on the theory, and fielding objections to it, for over a decade. His considered views and responses are as careful and sophisticated as any on the market, and are equally attuned to physical and to philosophical issues. (Tim Maudlin, Nous)

This book is an outstanding achievement. It presents the current state of the art in the Everett interpretation to a depth and level of sophistication that will be appreciated by the leading experts in the foundations of quantum theory (of whom Wallace is one) — and will educate them, and should chasten most of them. Yet, at the same time, the presentation is so clear and down-to-earth that this could serve as an introductory textbook for (say) undergraduates who are unfamiliar with any of the issues or even with quantum theory. This combination of relentlessly watertight argument with relentless common sense, however counter-intuitive the subject matter, is something Wallace is very good at. So much so that I think that even a philosophically-minded lay person, who would have to skip most of the technical discussion and equations, might nevertheless devour this book and learn a great deal from it (David Deutsch, Centre for Quantum Computatio, The Clarendon Laboratory, University of Oxford)

Nobody has done more to defend, clarify and advance the Everett interpretation over the past dozen years than Wallace, and this book is the culmination of his work on this area. As those who have read Wallace's articles will expect, it is an excellent book, and should be required reading for anyone interested in the foundations of quantum mechanics. (Peter J. Lewis, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

About the Author

David Wallace was born in San Rafael, California, in 1976, but has been resident in the UK since 1977. He studied theoretical physics at Oxford University from 1994-2002, but upon realising his research interests lay mostly in conceptual and foundational aspects of physics, he moved across into philosophy of physics. For the last six years he has been Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy of Science at Balliol College, Oxford. He holds PhDs in physics and in philosophy, and his research interests span a wide range of issues on the boundary between philosophy and physics: symmetry and the gauge principle, the direction of time, the structure of quantum field theory, and of course the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful but not convinced 23 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is probably the first textbook account of the Many Worlds interpretation that has appeared in the literature. In that sense it performs a useful guide for those who want to know more about this particular interpretation. Wallace along with his colleague Simon Saunders have done much to develop the interpretation over the past 15 years or so. However whilst it is useful I remain totally unconvinced by the intepretation or its motivation.

The first chapter tries to motivate it by claiming that there is a problem with the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics and an outline of the measurement problem. It is curious that most physicists are not really concerned with the measurement problem and it certainly does not prevent them from using the formalism of quantum mechanics to make ever more predictions about the quantum world. This activity is relatively independent of any interpretation and one would think that is telling us something about quantum mechanics.

The so called foundational issues seems to have been left to philosophers whilst physicists get on with the job of explaining the properties of solids, cosmology, astrophysics and particle physics.

For my part I see nothing wrong with the minimalist view that the so called wave function is a complex probability state vector whos modulus squared gives rise to a probability density function via the Born Rule. Indeed it is quite instructive to recast the language of classical physics in the language of quantum physics. One can write down a wave function for a dice and by application of the Born rule one will get the correct probabilities.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some very technical parts but doesn't get in the way of the argument which is fairly easy to follow. 16 Jun 2013
By Peter D. McLoughlin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I liked this book a lot. It had parts which were very technical (it is quantum physics after all) but the main thread of the argument is easy to follow and convincing. The idea argued for is the Everettian or Many worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. To bolster his argument he applies the equations of the theory which can be quite technical but then he usually goes on to explain philosophically the justification of the interpretation. I suggest people who are not familiar with the mathematics of QM treat the equations like sentences from another language inserted into the text to make the author look smart and focus on the English translation which is the argument. The book is very comprehensible without the equations but it is a rigorous text and I think Wallace felt compelled to include them.
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