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By David Z. Albert

ISBN-10: 0674731263

ISBN-13: 9780674731264

The following the thinker and physicist David Z Albert argues, between different issues, that the variation among prior and destiny should be understood as a mechanical phenomenon of nature and that quantum mechanics makes it most unlikely to offer everything of what will be stated concerning the global as a story of “befores” and “afters.”

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All we have to go on are small intimations—the ones mentioned above, the ones you can make out in the behaviors of pinballs and pencils and specks of dust—that perhaps the exact microscopic laws of motion together with the statistical postulate together with the past hypothesis has in it the entirety of what we mean when we speak of anything’s happening at random or for no particular reason or just by coincidence. But if all that should somehow happen to pan out, if there is a true and complete and fundamental physical theory of the sort that we have been trying to imagine here, then it is indeed going to follow directly from the fundamental laws of motion, together with the statistical postulate, together with the past hypothesis—all of it conditionalized on the existence of our galaxy, and of our solar system, and of the earth, and of life, and of whatever else is implicitly being taken for granted in scientific discussions of the descent of man—that the first humans are indeed extraordinarily unlikely to have condensed out of swamp gas, or to have grown on trees, or to have been born to an animal incapable of fear.

Think (for example) of the points on the real number line between 0 and 1. There is a way of putting measures on that set of points according to which the measure of the set of points between any two numbers a and b (with a < 1 and b < 1 and b > a) is b − a, and there is another way of putting measures on that set of points according to which the measure of the set of points between any two numbers a and b between (with a < 1 and b < 1 and b > a) is a2 − b2, and according to the first of those two formulae there are “as many” points between 1 and 1 ⁄2 as there are between 1 ⁄2 and 0, and according to the second of those two formulae there are three times “as many” points between 1 and 1 ⁄2 as there are between 1 ⁄2 and 0, and there turns out to be no way whatsoever (or at any rate none that anybody has yet dreamed up) of arguing that either one of these two formulae represents a truer or more reasonable or more compelling measure of the “number” or the “amount” or the “quantity” of points between a and b than the other one does.

I’m game. And I agree, until further notice, to your conditions. And I am beginning to see, maybe, dimly, what you have in mind. And I recall that something along these lines was already afoot, a decade or so ago, in Time and Chance, no? Huckleberry: Yes, that’s right. But it has since seemed to me that Time and Chance doesn’t get quite to the bottom of the matter either. I think we can do better now. Jedediah: Tell me the story then, by all means, of how it’s going to work. Huckleberry: Well, the easiest angle from which to approach the project of actually constructing the sort of explanation we’ve been talking about, it seems to me, is by way of the more obvious and less controversial project of constructing a similarly mechanical explanation of the asymmetry of our epistemic access to the past and the future.

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After Physics by David Z. Albert


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