This book attempts 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 out 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 duration 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.
David Z Albert is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.
Preface 1. Time-Reversal Invariance 2. Thermodynamics 3. Statistical Mechanics 4. The Reversibility Objections and the Past-Hypothesis 5. The Scope of Thermodynamics 6. The Asymmetries of Knowledge and Intervention 7. Quantum Mechanics Appendix: Gedankenexperiments with Heat Engines Index