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Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics Paperback – Sep 29 1995
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Winner of 1995 Lakatos Award "...[it] succeeds admirably in pulling together and making accessible a diversity of sometimes difficult material, serving simulaneously students, researchers, and readers from other areas who would simply like to get a sense of what is happening." Philosophy of Science "What we have in Sklar's work is by far the best systematic, unified treatment of foundational problems in statistical mechanics existing in the philosophical literature and it will certainly set the standard for futher philosophical work in the area." Mind "...Sklar's work should indeed be required and welcome reading for anyone interested in this fascinating subject...In my opinion, Physics and Chance is essential reading for philosophers of science and physicists who have even the slightest interest in how probabilities function in physical theory. The problems are at least as difficult as any that confront the foundations of quantum mechanics. Sklar's discussions of the various issues set the standard for future philosophical work in the foundations of statistical physics." The Philosophical Review "The range and depth of this study are extraordinary, and few experts in the areas of physics, mathematics, and chemistry have as extensive familiarity with either the philosophical or technical developments...One of the most important books in philosophy of science of the last 50 years." Choice "The book occupies itself with foundations and touches on most of the crucial issues. It is, I believe, the only available modern text that has set itself this task, and as such it is recommended." Peter T. Lansberg, Nature
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.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
There are four fundamental theories that constitute, at present, the foundational pillars of our physical theory of the world: general relativity, quantum mechanics, the theory of elementary particles, and statistical mechanics. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
However, it is worth noting it is directed at a philosphy of science audience who are assumed to have some familiarity with the subject already. Although it is a long book on a technical subject, there is hardly any maths and few diagrams. Philosophers who are not familiar with the subject will need to also read a few good textbooks as well. Scientist may find the presentation very wordy, and it can at times seem unclear how the issues discussed in this book relate to the statistical mechanics actually used, in practice, by physicists.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Much of my work concerns applying statistical physics in novel contexts. With that in mind, a few years ago I undertook to take a look at foundational issues. Although this book contains few equations, it is sophisticated and clear, and also a page-turner. My copy is jammed with Post-Its serving as placemarkers.
That said, a few more equations and better references/attribution would have been nice. For instance, Sklar mentions a "pantamicrocanonical" ensemble at one point, but he neither elaborates nor gives a usable reference. I have been unable to track down the origin or precise meaning of this term, to my annoyance.
There are biases in coverage as well: most philosophers of statistical physics are (perhaps rightly) preoccupied with the arrow of time. Personally, however, I found the distinction between ergodicity and mixing far more relevant, insightful, and useful. The coverage of information theory and MAXENT is weak. Many people familiar with MAXENT often come to notice some of its limitations, and a more thorough philosophical treatment (incorporating views from e.g., Jaynes to Grad) of the subject would have been welcome.
But all in all, this is an excellent book, and a worthy read. I recommend it especially highly to the student of statistical physics: buy Sklar, and check out Krylov from the library.