Physics and Chance: Philosophical Issues in the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics / Edition 1

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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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521558815
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
I Philosophy and the foundations of physics 1
II The structure of this book 7
2 Historical sketch 14
I Thermodynamics 15
II Kinetic theory 28
III Gibbs' statistical mechanics 48
IV The critical exposition of the theory of P. and T. Ehrenfest 59
V Subsequent developments 71
3 Probability 90
I Formal aspects of probability 91
II Interpretations of probability 96
III Probability in statistical mechanics 120
4 Statistical explanation 128
I Philosophers on explanation 128
II Statistical explanation in statistical mechanics 148
5 Equilibrium theory 156
I Autonomous equilibrium theory and its rationalization 156
II The development of contemporary ergodic theory 164
III Ergodicity and the rationalization of equilibrium statistical mechanics 175
6 Describing non-equilibrium 196
I The aims of the non-equilibrium theory 196
II General features of the ensemble approach 199
III Approaches to the derivation of kinetic behavior 207
IV General features of the rationalization program for the non-equilibrium theory 215
7 Rationalizing non-equilibrium theory 219
I Two preliminaries 219
II Rationalizing three approaches to the kinetic equation 224
III Interpretations of irreversibility 246
IV The statistical explanation of non-equilibrium behavior 279
8 Cosmology and irreversibility 297
I The invocation of cosmological considerations 297
II Conditions at the initial singularity 307
III Branch systems 318
9 The reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics 333
I Philosophical models of inter-theoretic reduction 333
II The case of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics 345
III Problematic aspects of the reduction 361
10 The direction of time 375
I The Boltzmann thesis 375
II Asymmetry of time or asymmetries in time? 378
III What is the structure of the Boltzmann thesis? 385
11 The current state of the major questions 413
References 421
Index 429
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