The Tao of Physics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

The Tao of Physics (full title: The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism) was a 1975 book by physicist Fritjof Capra, published by Shambhala Publications of Berkeley, California. It was a bestseller in the United States, and has been published in 43 editions in 23 languages. The fourth edition in English was published in 2000.


[edit] Origin

The following excerpt from The Tao of Physics summarizes Capra's motivation for writing this book.

Physicists do not need mysticism, and mystics do not need physics, but humanity needs both. – (epilogue)

The book grew out of an inspirational moment Capra had while under the influence of psychedelics. Capra later discussed his ideas with Werner Heisenberg in 1972, as he mentioned in the following interview excerpt:

I had several discussions with Heisenberg. I lived in England then [circa 1972], and I visited him several times in Munich and showed him the whole manuscript chapter by chapter. He was very interested and very open, and he told me something that I think is not known publicly because he never published it. He said that he was well aware of these parallels. While he was working on quantum theory he went to India to lecture and was a guest of Tagore. He talked a lot with Tagore about Indian philosophy. Heisenberg told me that these talks had helped him a lot with his work in physics, because they showed him that all these new ideas in quantum physics were in fact not all that crazy. He realized there was, in fact, a whole culture that subscribed to very similar ideas. Heisenberg said that this was a great help for him. Niels Bohr had a similar experience when he went to China. – Fritjof Capra, interviewed by Renee Weber in the book The Holographic Paradigm (page 217–218)

As a result of those influences, Bohr adopted the yin yang symbol as part of his family coat of arms when he was knighted in 1947.

The Tao of Physics was followed by other books of the same genre like The Hidden Connection, The Turning Point and The Web of Life in which Capra extended the argument of how Eastern mysticism and todays scientific findings relate, and how Eastern mysticism might also have answers to some of the biggest scientific challenges of today.

As a trendsetting title, this book has the distinction of being the first "The Tao of" book in a parade of many on unrelated subjects by other authors (not including the classic religious text Tao Te Ching).

[edit] Criticism

Physicist Jeremy Bernstein chastised Tao of Physics:[1]

At the heart of the matter is Mr. Capra's methodology—his use of what seem to me to be accidental similarities of language as if these were somehow evidence of deeply rooted connections.

Thus I agree with Capra when he writes, "Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science but man needs both." What no one needs, in my opinion, is this superficial and profoundly misleading book.

Physicist Leon M. Lederman criticized both The Tao of Physics and Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters in his 1993 book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?[2]

Starting with reasonable descriptions of quantum physics, he constructs elaborate extensions, totally bereft of the understanding of how carefully experiment and theory are woven together and how much blood, sweat, and tears go into each painful advance.

The Tao of Physics is criticized (along with The Dancing Wu Li Masters) in Peter Woit's 2006 book, Not Even Wrong[3], in the section on S-Matrix approaches to Grand unification theory.

The foreword to the second edition of 1983 claims, "It has been very gratifying for me that none of these recent developments has invalidated anything I wrote seven years ago. In fact, most of them were anticipated in the original edition," a statement far from any relation to the reality that in 1983 the standard model was nearly universally accepted in the physics community, and the bootstrap theory was a dead idea. The afterword includes truly bizarre and counterfactual statements such as, "QCD has not been very successful at describing the processes involving strongly interacting particles."

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Jeremy Bernstein (1982) Science Observed, New York: Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-07340-9, p.333-340
  2. ^ Leon Lederman (1993), The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?, New York: Bantam Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-31211-3, p. 189-193
  3. ^ Peter Woit (2006), Not Even Wrong, p139-145

[edit] References

  • The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes, edited by Ken Wilber, Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala, 1982, ISBN 0-394-71237-4
  • Woit, Peter (2006). Not Even Wrong- the Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-09275-6. 

[edit] Editions

[edit] See also

Personal tools