Lawrence Sklar

Physics and chance

People don't tend to think of thermodynamics as a subject for philosophising - at least not compared to quantum theory. In Physics and chance : philosophical issues in the foundations of statistical mechanics Lawrence Sklar tries to redress the balance. The book starts with a look at early ideas on the nature of thermodynamics, such as those of Boltzmann, together with criticisms of them. There is then a chapter on the nature of probability. Sklar then moves on to equilibrium thermodynamics, showing that it has quite a few foundational problems - but that those of non-equilibrium thermodynamics are quite a bit worse.

The book concludes with a look at the links between thermodynamics and cosmology, and with considerations of the direction of time.

This book is written without going into the technical details of thermodynamics, but I wouldn't classify it as light reading. It is naturally somewhat philosophical, and the discussions are generally a bit negative. It also covers a fair amount of material. I would say that it is best thought of as an introduction to some of the difficult areas for those who want to look deeper into the foundations of thermodynamics - it has plenty of recommendations for further reading.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 456 pages  
ISBN: 0521558816
Salesrank: 1514190
Weight:1.59 lbs
Published: 1995 Cambridge University Press
Amazon price $29.99
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 456 pages  
ISBN: 0521558816
Salesrank: 1457937
Weight:1.59 lbs
Published: 1995 Cambridge University Press
Amazon price £35.99
Marketplace:New from £28.58:Used from £19.95
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Paperback 456 pages  
ISBN: 0521558816
Salesrank: 1238631
Weight:1.59 lbs
Published: 1995 Cambridge University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 69.88
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 55.23:Used from CDN$ 35.81
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Product Description
Statistical mechanics is one of the crucial fundamental theories of physics, and in his new book Lawrence Sklar, one of the pre-eminent philosophers of physics, offers a comprehensive, non-technical introduction to that theory and to attempts to understand its foundational elements. Among the topics treated in detail are: probability and statistical explanation, the basic issues in both equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, the role of cosmology, the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, and the alleged foundation of the very notion of time asymmetry in the entropic asymmetry of systems in time. The book emphasises the interaction of scientific and philosophical modes of reasoning, and in this way will interest all philosophers of science as well as those in physics and chemistry concerned with philosophical questions. The book could also be read by an informed general reader interested in the foundations of modern science.