Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

by Gary Zukav

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060959685
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/27/2009
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 124,779
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Gary Zukav is the author of four consecutive New York Times bestsellers. In 1979, The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics plumbed the depths of quantum physics and relativity, winning the American Book Award for science. In 1989, The Seat of the Soul led the way to seeing the alignment of the personality and the soul as the fulfillment of life and captured the imagination of millions, becoming the number one New York Times bestseller thirty-one times and remaining on the bestseller list for three years. Zukav's gentle presence, humor, and wisdom have endeared him to millions of viewers through his many appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Six million copies of his books are in print and translations have been published in twenty-four languages. Zukav grew up in the Midwest, graduated from Harvard, and became a Special Forces (Green Beret) officer with Vietnam service before writing his first book.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

My first exposure to quantum physics occurred a few years ago when a friend invited me to an afternoon conference at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California. At that time, I had no connections with the scientific community, so I went to see what physicists were like. To my great surprise, I discovered that (1), I understood everything that they said, and (2), their discussion sounded very much like a theological discussion. I scarcely could believe what I had discovered. Physics was not the sterile, boring discipline that I had assumed it to be. It was a rich, profound venture which had become inseparable from philosophy. Incredibly, no one but physicists seemed to be aware of this remarkable development. As my interest in and knowledge of physics grew, I resolved to share this discovery with others. This book is a gift of my discovery. It is one of a series.

Generally speaking, people can be grouped into two categories of intellectual preference. The first group prefers explorations which require a precision of logical processes. These are the people who become interested in the natural sciences and mathematics. They do not become scientists because of their education, they choose a scientific education because it gratifies their scientific mental set. The second group prefers explorations which involve the intellect in a less logically rigorous manner. These are the people who become interested in the liberal arts. They do not have a liberal arts mentality because of their education, they choose a liberal arts education because it gratifies their liberal arts mental set.

Since both groups are intelligent, it is not difficultfor members of one group to understand what members of the other group are studying. However, I have discovered a notable communication problem between the two groups. Many times my physicist friends have attempted to explain a concept to me and, in their exasperation, have tried one explanation after another, each one of which sounded (to me) abstract, difficult to grasp, and generally abstruse. When I could comprehend, at last, what they were trying to communicate, inevitably I was surprised to discover that the idea itself was actually quite simple. Conversely, I often have tried to explain a concept in terms which seemed (to me) laudably lucid, but which, to my exasperation, seemed hopelessly vague, ambiguous, and lacking in precision to my physicist friends. I hope that this book will be a useful translation which will help those people who do not have a scientific mental set (like me) to understand the extraordinary process which is occurring in theoretical physics. Like any translation, it is not as good as the original work and, of course, it is subject to the shortcomings of the translator. For better or worse, my first qualification as a translator is that, like you, I am not a physicist.

To compensate for my lack of education in physics (and for my liberal arts mentality) I asked, and received, the assistance of an extraordinary group of physicists. (They are listed in the acknowledgments). Four of them in particular, read the entire manuscript. As each chapter was completed, I sent a copy of it to each physicist and asked him to correct any conceptual or factual errors which he found. (Several other physicists read selected chapters).

My original intention was to use these comments to correct the text. However, I soon discovered that my physicist friends had given more attention to the manuscript than I had dared to hope. Not only were their comments thoughtful and penetrating, but, taken together, they formed a significant volume of information by themselves. The more I studied them, the more strongly I felt that I should share these comments with you. Therefore, in addition to correcting the manuscript with them, I also included in the footnotes those comments which do not duplicate the corrected text. In particular, I footnoted those comments which would have slowed the flow of the text or made it technical, and those comments which disagreed with the text and also disagreed with the comments of the other physicists. By publishing dissenting opinions in the footnotes, I have been able to include numerous ideas which would have lengthened and complicated the book if they had been presented in the text. From the beginning of The Dancing Wu Li Masters to the end, no term is used which is not explained immediately before or after its first use. This rule is not followed in the footnotes. This gives the footnotes an unmitigated freedom of expression. However, it also means that the footnotes contain terms that are not explained before, during, or after their use. The text respects your status as newcomer to a vast and exciting realm. The footnotes do not.

However, if you read the footnotes as you read the book, you will have the rare opportunity to see what four of the finest physicists in the world have to say about it as they, in effect, read it along with you. Their footnotes punctuate, illustrate, annotate, and jab at everything in the text. Better than it can be described, these footnotes reveal the aggressive precision with which men of science seek to remove the flaws from the work of a fellow scientist, even if he is an untrained colleague, like me, and the work is nontechnical, like this book.

The "new physics," as it is used in this book, means quantum mechanics, which began with Max Planck's theory of quanta in 1900, and relativity, which began with Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity in 1905. The old physics is the physics of Isaac Newton, which he discovered about three hundred years ago. "Classical physics" means any physics that attempts to explain reality in such a manner that for every element of physical reality there is a corresponding element in the theory. Therefore, "classical physics" includes the physics of Isaac Newton and relativity, both of which are structured in this one-to-one manner. It does not, however, include quantum mechanics, which, as we shall see, is one of the things that makes quantum mechanics unique.

Be gentle with yourself as you read. This book contains many rich and multifaceted stories, all of which are heady (pun?) stuff. You cannot learn them all at once any more than you can learn the stories told in War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, and Les Miserables all at once. I suggest that you read this book for your pleasure, and not to learn what is in it. There is a complete index at the back of the book and a good table of contents in the front. Between the two of them, you can return to any subject that catches your interest. Moreover, by enjoying yourself, you probably will remember more than if you had set about to learn it all.

One last note, this is not a book about physics and eastern philosophies. Although the poetic framework of Wu Li is conducive to such comparisons, this book is about quantum physics and relativity. In the future I hope to write another book specifically about physics and Buddhism. In view of the eastern flavor of Wu Li, however, I have included in this book those similarities between eastern philosophies and physics that seemed to me so obvious and significant that I felt that I would be doing you a disservice if I did not mention them in passing.

Happy reading.

Gary Zukav
San Francisco
July 1978

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Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book. I've tried to wade my way through contemporary physics, but it is all too esoteric to comprehend. Along comes the Dancing Wu Li Masters. Written for people who have no background in the complicated mathematical theories behind what's happening in physics today, this book is a life saver for those who wish to know, but don't have the time to explore, the new interpretation of our universe. Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a college science instructor always seeking new ways to express the basal concepts (and deeper implications) of physics, chemistry, and the geosciences to beginning science and non-science majors, this book is a fine resource.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Perception, as it turns out, is not reality. Gary Zukav takes us on a journey of discovery through the bizzare landscape of quatum physics. Beautifully written. Some of the hardest scientific concepts to understand are explained in simple conversational english. This book is a must read for anyone on a quest of discovery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If ever wanting to start to read anything for all ages, or at least in high school and above, this is the perfect book. From cover to cover this book keeps you interested. my favorite qoute, 'nonsense is only nonsense until viewed from a different perspective and understood' and 'my uncle thinks he is a football does that make him a genous, no that means he has problems.' This book explains the latest physics in terms that a dumb person can understand, although the more curious you are the better. If you ever ask someone who read this book you will instantly become friends for this book is a landmark for the building of your mind. This is a must read book for any one.
Pattern-chaser on LibraryThing 26 days ago
Physics and philosophy; cultural crossover. Well worth reading.
latefordinner on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Quantum science meets Eastern philosophy, Recomended.
michaeldurden on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I've finally finished The Dancing Wu Li Masters after years of it sitting on my shelf and weeks of reflecting on what it is saying. It's an old book when considering present developments in the observation of quantum mechanics, but quantum theory itself is twice as old and since its inception has hardly changed. This book however is the first I've read that was capable of viscerally explaining the non-locality and non-linearity of space-time. Limited by "symbols" it acknowledges this limit and it dances with you within these confines so as to allow you, the reader, to experience the reality that the ambiguity of language prohibits. I've read books that describe the world in terms of eastern philosophy, relativity, string theory, quantum electrodynamics, probability functions, and from the historical perspective of the human perception of time itself, and yet none of them were able to convey what was on the tip of their brains, and the tip of mine as well. They all touch upon the fact that at the plank level no further observations are possible, or that energy and matter, waves and particles, are merely two different manifestations of the underlying fabric of space-time. That the linear passage of time is only a construct resulting from the methods with which the relativistic mind collects the information, while space-time itself is only motion, with no preference towards forward or backward. They all extol the words of Bohm, Bell and Schrödinger, but none of them ever try to conceptualize these precepts beyond the application of their useless symbolism, or then take so many angles in driving home the truth of the matter.Here's a mantra saved like a jewel in one of the very last pages.Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.As far as information is concerned, this book pales in comparison to the likes of In Search of Schrödinger's Kittens or The Elegant Universe, but it's what this book leaves open to interpretation that brought me the most pleasure.
talltrickster on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A classic that helped me understand some basic principles of quantum mechanics.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is quite an old book now. It is a strange combination of physics and oriental metaphysics, probably best for a non-mathematically inclined reader. I doubt if any practicing physicists would give it much credence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Go back to truth or dare? In th reg place though
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