Time and Chance

Notes

Time philosophy became a huge component of the research, a truly fascinating subject. Time and Chance by David Albert was the first serious book I read about time, and I must have read it at least five times before I understood it. His style of writing is difficult and he writes for a sophisticated audience of masters and PhD students, as well as peers. Reading the work of professors is a slog, largely because they need to first point out all the problems with other theories before offering their own. Reading how other theories, of which I was unfamiliar, were flawed was somewhat tedious. That said, I believe my understanding of chance and quantum physics were significantly enhanced by this book. Dr. Albert’s argument laid the foundation for how I thought about deterministic versus in-deterministic universe, which sets-up some really interesting discussions in Evolved.

Time and Chance
David Albert
Harvard University Press
February 28, 2003
http://www.amazon.com/Time-Chance-David-Z-Albert/dp/0674011325/

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.