Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Nick Huggett
Huw Price
American Scientist online

David Z Albert

Time and Chance

Why time goes in one direction only is a question which has puzzled many people, but especially philosophers of science. In 'Time and Chance', David Z Albert examines how thermodynamics fits in with the direction of time, and shows the fallacies in arguments which have tried to deduce the arrow of time from thermodynamic behaviour. He writes with a conversational, and sometimes confrontational style, which makes a refreshing change from some works in the philosophy of science. The book does not require a great deal of prior knowledge, since the necessary thermodynamics and statistical mechanics are introduced in the first few chapters, with plenty of helpful diagrams. Thus Albert explains the problems with the idea that the universe began as a chance event - if you think it did then you are led to believe that only your immediate surroundings arose, and that happened only a few seconds ago, with your past memories happening by chance.

Unfortunately as the book continues the frequency of diagrams and other clarifying features tends to decrease, just when the reader is in most need of such help. The confrontational style goes on, but it becomes harder to follow the argument - is Albert just saying the same thing over and over again, or is he finding fault with all other points of view just for the sake of it. He concludes that there is no way that the arrow of time can fit in with classical thermodynamics, but I didn't find his arguments very persuasive. If you do then the final chapter gives Albert's way out of the problem, based on a collapse interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 192 pages  
ISBN: 0674011325
Salesrank: 936168
Weight:0.66 lbs
Published: 2003 Harvard University Press
Amazon price $20.69
Marketplace:New from $20.69:Used from $7.37
Buy from Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 186 pages  
ISBN: 0674011325
Salesrank: 925631
Weight:0.66 lbs
Published: 2003 Harvard University Press
Amazon price £18.95
Marketplace:New from £15.70:Used from £15.16
Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca info
Paperback 192 pages  
ISBN: 0674011325
Salesrank: 876407
Weight:0.66 lbs
Published: 2003 Harvard University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 27.84
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 27.84:Used from CDN$ 27.83
Buy from Amazon.ca





Product Description

This book is an attempt to get to the bottom of an acute and perennial tension between our best scientific pictures of the fundamental physical structure of the world and our everyday empirical experience of it. The trouble is about the direction of time. The situation (very briefly) is that it is a consequence of almost every one of those fundamental scientific pictures--and that it is at the same time radically at odds with our common sense--that whatever can happen can just as naturally happen backwards.

Albert provides an unprecedentedly clear, lively, and systematic new account--in the context of a Newtonian-Mechanical picture of the world--of the ultimate origins of the statistical regularities we see around us, of the temporal irreversibility of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, of the asymmetries in our epistemic access to the past and the future, and of our conviction that by acting now we can affect the future but not the past. Then, in the final section of the book, he generalizes the Newtonian picture to the quantum-mechanical case and (most interestingly) suggests a very deep potential connection between the problem of the direction of time and the quantum-mechanical measurement problem.

The book aims to be both an original contribution to the present scientific and philosophical understanding of these matters at the most advanced level, and something in the nature of an elementary textbook on the subject accessible to interested high-school students.