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Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  1,081 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Nobel Prize winner Werner Heisenberg's classic account explains the central ideas of the quantum revolution, and his celebrated Uncertainty Principle. The theme of Heisenberg's exposition is that words and concepts familiar in daily life can lose their meaning in the world of relativity and quantum physics. This in turn has profound philosophical implications for the natur ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 3rd 2000 by Penguin Classics (first published 1958)
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Really, the title should have warned me that I was unlikely to get along with this book - but it doesn't actually say, Physics and Metaphysics. I have very little time for metaphysics; it's day is long since past (couple of millenia, at least) and it is really only of historical interest to those concerned with understanding nature. Far too much of the book is spent on either; comparing quantum mechanics (QM) with Western metaphysics or pondering unanswerable conund
Nov 03, 2014 Martina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: physics, philosophy
This has got to be one of the most singular reading experiences ever. Ever. Heisenberg's book is so unusual, refreshing and unique - I'm not even sure on which shelf to put it. The funny thing is, this book is not so much about physics, or about philosophy, for that matter. Perhaps a more apt title would be The life and times of Werner H. It reads like a novel, and, in a way, it is a novel. I would call it a "novelized autobiography", for Werner talks about his life, his work, his thoughts in a ...more
Some Knots Have Knotted Limbs

Toward the end of Physics and Philosophy Werner Heisenberg presciently mentions the incompatibility of quantum mechanics with relativity and the need for coherent concepts that allow for both theories without mathematical inconsistencies. Today unified field theories of quantum gravity that attempt to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativity are being explored by physicists in proposals like string theory. Heisenberg also mentions that the physicists of his time w
Mengsen Zhang
ok. it's a great book. I'm giving three stars based on my personal experience with this book-- I do not fully understand his composition of this book. I have to ignore many passages to have a holistic impression of what he's arguing about.
Based on what I understand, I would give this book another name: "Language and Dispute: the evolution of human knowledge". I would say it's more about language and reality rather than physics and philosophy. The most charming part of this book to me, is his ana
Austin Wright

Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heisenberg Review

Physics and Philosophy is a book published in 1962 by Werner Heisenberg, a “giant of modern physics”, about the theory of Quantum Mechanics and its philosophical implications. This book is certainly best read with prior knowledge of some classical and some quantum physics. I actually read it knowing little or nothing about quantum physics, and the parts that described in detail the physics seemed technical and hard to understand, yet still i coul
Cassandra Kay Silva
Heisenberg the famous Nobel Prize winner takes us through the building up of our current understanding of Quantum Reality and the physics that lead up to this. He gives a good discussion of the Uncertainty principle of which he is so famous for and how this will impact the future of physics and how we see the world. The title is misleading however, don't expect much philosophy out of this book, and of course it was written when many ideas of modern physics were not even hardly fleshed out yet. I ...more
This is really a book about physics that only lightly touches on philosophy. A good reason to read it would be to understand why it is that 20th century physics totally changed the world, something that I think is generally forgotten these days in spite of our (ab)use of technology, the prodigal wunderkind of the advances in science over the last 200 years or so. The thing to remember about Heisenberg's book is that it was written at the height of the Cold War, and therefore beneath the shadow o ...more
Hussain Ali
قد لا يضيف إلى معلوماتك في الفلسفة والفيزياءالشيء الكثير، إلا أنه حتمًا سيوضح لك الرابط بينهما، ويضع لك الأفكار بترتيب منقطع النظير ليشرح لك تطور تصورنا عن المادة من التفكير المجرد إلى نموذج الذرة الحالي. كما أنه أوضح دور الفلسفة في بناء النماذج العلمية عن الزمان والمكان والذرة وغيرهم، فإنه يبدع في تبيين الدور الذي لعبته الفيزياء في تطور الفكر البشري.
Existence and physical reality according to physicist Werner Heisenberg

At the turn of 20th century when quantum physics was born; the founding fathers of this scientific revolution were thinking deeply about the philosophical consequences of the new physics in terms of existence and physical reality (ontology). The reality perceived through the laws of classical physics provided strong challenges to quantum reality and human knowledge of quantum physical concepts (epistemology). In addition, the
Gives a review of the progress of physics in the 20th century, and explains the consequences of the new ideas. Also, he writes about the relationship between physics, chemistry, biology and religion.
Manuel Alejandro
It's a book about how changes found in modern physics gives a paradigm change to the understanding of philosophy.
Daniel Prasetyo
The essence of quantum physics from one of it's founder. Mind blowing..

--Physics and Philosophy
Page Quinton
Heisenberg's historical account of the progression of thought in both physics and philosophy operates, at least in my eyes, as a means to illustrate his understanding of what exactly science is. The information presented in reference to the historical developments in both science (of course most notably physics, given the topic of the text) and philosophy tended towards that of an introductory text. Though for me this added a repetitive nature to some of the essays, it allows the text to be more ...more
Here is Heisenberg's main account of the development of the quantum revolution and its, in some sense, standard interpretation (which he built in the Copenhagen infatuation). He presents the implications and the connections of the advent of quantum mechanics, and to a lesser extent of relativity theory, to modern thought and society. He is almost obsessed with the observation, which dates to Bohr in fact, that common language as we are endowed by daily experience is no suitable to describe unamb ...more
"The observation itself changes the probability function discontinuously; it selects of all possible events the actual one hat has taken place." (54)

"We may remark at this point that modern physics is in some way extremely near to the doctrines of Heraclitus. If we replace the word 'fire' by the word 'energy' we can almost repeat his statements word for word from our modern point of view." (63)

"Natural science does not simply describe and explain nature; it is a part of the interplay between nat
Conner Houghtby
I would like to quoto the final paragraph of this very insightful and compelling book:

"Coming now to a conclusion from all that has been said about modern science, one may perhaps state that modern physics is just one, but a very characteristic, part of a general historical process that tends toward a unification and a widening of out present world. This process would in itself lead to a diminution of those cultural and political tensions that create the great danger of our time. But it is acco
I thought I would wait until today December 5th, 2012 on Heisenberg's 111th birthday to write this review. Heisenberg was without a doubt a "wunderkind", a "giant" in physics and an vital contributor to the discovery and the progress of Quantum Mechanics. In 1900, Max Planck discovered something strange and scary, that energy did not flow in a steady continuum, but was delivered in discrete packets Planck later called "quanta." What I think was the greatest discovery of all time, Quantum Mechani ...more
Jason Britt
This is the most challenging book I have read in many years. The physics, by definition, I think, are unfathomable, and I do not have the physics knowledge to even begin to understand much of what Heisenberg describes. Though I understood the philosophy better than the physics, I am very much a novice in that field as well and clearly do not have Heisenberg's grasp of metaphysics and epistemology.

Even with these challenges, I found myself engrossed in this book. It has served as an inspiration
This work is an interesting historical window into the philosophical crisis caused by quatum thoery. Having come to academic maturity well after quantum mechanics was thoroughly formulated I've never had the crisis of philosophy presented here: as a student the duality of nature was presented as mathematically elegant description of how nature works and it didn't occur to me then any more than it occurs to my students today that this somehow subverts the tenants of natural science. Given the sta ...more
Tanti anni fa, quando ancora frequentavo il liceo, presi l’abitudine di conferire alle mie letture una continuità concettuale che potesse legarle tra loro, così da svolgere uno studio per quanto possibile sistematico e non troppo “dislocato”. E le abitudini, si sa, sono dure a morire. Riprendiamo dunque da dove abbiamo interrotto con l’ultima recensione: principio di indeterminazione, meccanica quantistica, filosofia della fisica. Sono questi, infatti, i temi del saggio di Werner Heisenberg, che ...more
Nathan Ellzey
I'd been wanting to explore the impact of modern physics on philosophical thought ever since I took Modern Physics in preparation for grad school. My continued my studies into quantum mechanics and general relativity only strengthened this desire. Heisenberg's book meets that need. He presents a fine survey of the history of philosophy as it relates to the physical world and a survey of the amazing finds in physics during the early 20th century. The discussion of the impact, particularly of quan ...more
This was a history of physics and the philosophy of natural science, while at the same time being a defense of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory. It is grounded in the argument between classical physics and quantum physics that was then ongoing at the time of publication. Heisenberg gives equal time to the detractors of the Copenhagen Interpretation, even as he refutes each one. It is an interesting read today, as much of the old argument has been proven obsolete. A rather difficul ...more
Sven Anton
Teadus ei ole midagi muud, kui sõnademäng.
If the mark of intelligence is to take the complex and explain it cogently, then the mark of genius may be to take the incomprehensible and express it persuasively.


It was Richard Dawkins, I think, who said that forcing children to attend Sunday school was child abuse. Exposing an innocent child to religion would permanently injury their confidence in their native power to comprehend the world.

It that doesn't work, we could always tell them about two slit experi
Vale mucho la pena leerlo para desilusionarse con el final. Aunque la descripción acerca de la filosofía de Descartes es precisa la interpretación puede no serlo asi que no se dejen llevar y vuelvan a leer el Discurso del Método.
Demás decir que Heisenberg dio grandes aportes sobre el conocimiento actual de la cuántica lo que es interesante es su visión acerca de los acontecimientos durante el dessarrollo de la teoría misma
De cualquier manera un libro ampliamente recomendado para todo público.
Jeff Gabriel
Werner Heisenberg was clearly an amazing intellect on many levels. This challenging book provides excellent insight into the nature of theoretical physics and the challenges of defining a new age in science. It also delves deeply into the issues with human language and thought. Always with keen insight, broad historical treatment, and thoughtful intelligence. I can't say more, you'll just have to read it yourself.
Aug 16, 2008 Robert rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robert by: Humanities class at UA
"What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."

Heisenberg has great language subtlety in this book. It really pushes what you would considered exacting descriptions. He is obviously brilliant, and the nice thing is that he conveys it equally through science and written language.
The edition I plan on reading is from the UofM library, and is actually the 1958 edition, so I'll be missing out on any of the forewords, prefaces, etc., from this 2007 edition. It would be interesting to see if there are any differences in translation or any revisions, too.
Review pending...
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Wrong Cover 6 7 Apr 18, 2013 06:39PM  
  • What Is Life? with Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches
  • Wholeness and the Implicate Order
  • The Character of Physical Law
  • The Value of Science: Essential Writings of Henri Poincare
  • The Principles of Quantum Mechanics
  • The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science
  • One, Two, Three...Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science
  • The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society
  • On The Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres
  • Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican
  • Disturbing the Universe
  • Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science
  • Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge
  • The Scientific Outlook
  • The Ghost in the Atom: A Discussion of the Mysteries of Quantum Physics
  • At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
  • The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta
  • The Two Cultures & A Second Look: An Expanded Version of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution
Werner Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory. In addition, he made important contributions to nuclear physics, quantum field theory, and particle physics.
More about Werner Heisenberg...
Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory Encounters with Einstein and Other Essays on People, Places and Particles Quantentheorie und Philosophie Philosophical Problems of Quantum Physics

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“What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” 80 likes
“Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word 'understanding.” 26 likes
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