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More and Different:Notes from a Thoughtful Curmudgeon [Kindle Edition]

Philip W Anderson
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Anderson has put together an entertaining and instructive collection of highly readable reviews, columns, talks, and unpublished essays on science and the scientists he has known. He is rarely inappropriately provocative, and he is a pleasure to read. -- Physics Today "Physics Today"


Named a Top Five Book of 2012 by Physics Today, USA.

Philip Anderson was educated at University High School in Urbana, Illinois, at Harvard (BS 1943, PhD 1949), and further educated at Bell Laboratories, where his career (1949-1984) coincided with the greatest period of that remarkable institution. Starting in 1967, he shared his time with Cambridge University (until 1975) and then with Princeton, where he continued full time as Joseph Henry Professor until 1997. As an emeritus he remains active in research, and at press time he was involved in several scientific controversies about high profile subjects, in which his point of view, though unpopular at the moment, is likely to prevail eventually. His colleagues have made him one of the two physicists most often cited in the scientific literature, for several decades.

His work is characterized by mathematical simplicity combined with conceptual depth, and by profound respect for experimental findings. He has explored areas outside his main discipline, the quantum theory of condensed matter (for which he won the 1977 Nobel Prize), on several occasions: his paper on what is now called the “Anderson-Higgs mechanism” was a main source for Peter Higgs' elucidation of the boson; a crucial insight led to work on the dynamics of neutron stars (pulsars); and his concept of the spin glass led far afield, to developments in practical computer algorithms and neural nets, and eventually to his involvement in the early years of the Santa Fe Institute and his co-leadership with Kenneth Arrow of two influential workshops on economics at that institution. His writing career started with a much-quoted article in Science titled “More is Different” in 1971; he was an occasional columnist for Physics Today in the 1980s and 1990s. He was more recently a reviewer of science and science-related books for the Times (London) Higher Education Supplement as well as an occasional contributor to Science, Nature, and other journals.

Readership: Students, scientists and lay people.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1518 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 423 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: B00HS6Z78E
  • Verlag: WSPC (1. September 2011)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 9814390593
  • ISBN-13: 978-9814390590
  • ASIN: B008WXT92C
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Aktiviert
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 4.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #522.761 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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4.0 von 5 Sternen
4.0 von 5 Sternen
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Many interesting comments from an outstanding scientist. The book has no index, and the dates of the individual chapters are often missing. These are negative features, but it is a good read, particularly for condensed matter scientists.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen A platter full of intellectual treats 5. Februar 2012
Von A. Jogalekar - Veröffentlicht auf
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The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philip Anderson is one of those rare species - a scientist who is not only world-class in his own field but who seems capable of saying something interesting about virtually every topic under the sun. His career at Bell Labs overlapped with the lab's most illustrious period and apart from his prizewinning work in solid-state physics, Anderson has made groundbreaking contributions to at least two other diverse fields - particle physics and the epistemology of science. In this book he holds forth on a wide variety of subjects ranging from postmodernism to superconductivity. The chapters consist of book reviews, commemorative essays, transcripts of talks, opinion pieces and a variety of other writings over the past five decades. In every chapter there are at least a few rather deep statements which deserve close scrutiny.

The book is roughly divided into three parts. The first part details Anderson's views on the history and philosophy of science including his own field - solid-state physics. The second part talks about Anderson's reminiscences and thoughts on his scientific peers, mostly in the form of book reviews that he has written for various magazines and newspapers. The third part deals with science policy and politics and the fourth is dedicated to "attempts" (in Anderson's own rather self-effacing words) at popularizing science.

Some of the chapters are full of scientific details and can be best appreciated by physicists but there's also a lot of fodder for the layman in here. A running thread through several essays is Anderson's criticism of ultra-reductionism in science which is reflected in the title of the book, "More and Different". Anderson's basic viewpoint is that more is not just quantitatively but qualitatively different from less. In 1972 he made a splash by discussing in an article in Science magazine how "higher-level" sciences are based on their own fundamental laws which cannot be reduced to physics. In the book he details this philosophy through several examples from physics, chemistry, biology and psychology. He does not deny the great value of reductionism in the development of modern science but he incisively explores its limits.

Other chapters contain critiques of the latest fads in physics including string theory. Anderson bemoans string theory's lack of connection to concrete experiment and its failure to predict unique, robust solutions. He makes it clear that string theory is really mathematics and that it fails to adhere to the tried and tested philosophy of science which has been successful for almost five hundred years. Other chapters have insightful commentary on the role of mathematics in physics, Bayesian probability and physics at Bell Labs. A particularly amusing essay critiquing the current funding situation in the United States proposes a hypothetical alternative history of quantum mechanics in the US, where scientific pioneers like Dirac and Heisenberg may not have been able to do groundbreaking research because of the publish-or-perish environment and the dominance of the old guard.

There's also some valuable material in here about the sociology of science. This is exemplified by an especially insightful and detailed chapter on scientific fraud where Anderson explores the reasons why some scientists commit fraud and others don't expose it as widely as they should. In Anderson's opinion the most valuable method to expose fraud is to ask whether it destroys what he calls the "seamless web of science" - the existing framework of fundamental laws and principles that allow relatively little room for revolutionary breakthroughs on a regular basis. In many cases the web's integrity is clearly not consistent with the new finding, and the rare case where the web can subsume the new discovery and still stay intact leads us into genuinely new scientific territory. He also takes scientists to task for failing to point out the destruction of this seamless web by apparently far-reaching but fundamentally flawed new discoveries. In other chapters Anderson also comes down hard on the postmodernism distortion of science, critiquing such philosophers as Nancy Cartwright and upholding the views of debunkers like Alan Sokal. He also has some valuable commentary on science policy, especially on Star Wars and missile defense. Other writers have written much more detailed critiques of such programs, but Anderson succinctly demonstrates the limitations of the concept using commonsense thinking (The bottom line: decoys can easily foil the system and a marginal improvement by the offense will result in a vastly increased cost for the defense).

Finally, the book contains mini sketches of some of Anderson's peers who happened to be some of the great scientific minds of the twentieth century. Anderson reviews books by and about Richard Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, Stuart Kauffman, Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, John Bardeen and William Shockley among others. I happen to agree with him that books by scientists like Hawking, Penrose and Greene, while fascinating to read, paint a rather biased picture of physics and science. For one thing, they usually oversell the whole reductionist methodology in their constant drive to advertise the "Theory of Everything". But more importantly, they make it sound like particle physics and cosmology are the only games in town worth thinking about and that everything else in physics is done on the periphery. This is just not true. As Anderson makes it clear, there are lots of fields of physics including condensed matter physics, biophysics and non-linear dynamics which contain questions as exciting, fundamental and research-worthy as anything else in science. As just one example, classical physics was considered a staid old backwater of the physics world until chaos burst upon the scene. It's also clear, as was the case with chaos, that some of the most exciting advances will come from non-physicists. There are foundational phenomena and rich dividends to be mined from the intersection of physics with other fields in the twenty-first century.

Anderson's book might precisely be the kind of writing ignored by the public because they are too taken with the Hawkings, Greenes and Randalls. To those folks this volume would be an essential and healthy antidote. There's something in there for everyone, and it makes it clear that science still presents infinite horizons on every level. After all, more is different.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen How you judge this book will depend on if you are a physicist or not. 24. März 2012
Von Bavaruspex - Veröffentlicht auf
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Prof. Anderson chooses his title very well: "More and different". It alludes to an old but exceedingly influential paper of his where he points out that from a single copper atom to a hunk of metal (= "more"), is a long, long road with lots of fundamentally new (= "different") governing physics along the way, which decidedly is not contained in the physics of the individual atom. His book is equally appropriately subtitled: "Notes from a thoughtful curmudgeon". As for the "curmudgeon" part: in this hypocritical age of political correctness (political two-facedness, really) a refreshingly down to earth honest opinion might seem confrontational to some, but it's like a large glass of ice lemonade on an oppressively hot summer day to others (me included). Of course, being a heavy weight amongst Nobel Prize winners (the "thoughtful"! part) lends an authority to Prof. Anderson's views that most of us other physicists lack.
The first section of the book is about the authors' reminiscences of his years at the then iconic Bell Labs, and with it the development of modern theoretical solid state physics and the theory of superconductivity. I cannot imagine that a non-physicist gets much out of this, but for the rest of us, this is a very interesting read, even if superconductivity is not your specialty.
Much of the rest of the book essentially consists of a collection of essays and book reviews that those who read Physics Today regularly will likely remember. In the intervening years I had actually read many of the books he reviewed (by coincidence, not by design) and I find particularly his opinions on string theory so very satisfying, because my far lesser mind came to much the same conclusions. There, too, I would think that non-physicists won't have the interest to dig through all of it for the few nuggets they might find. Prof. Anderson himself makes no bones (and no apologies) about having no talent as a popularizer.
But to my physicist colleagues I much recommend this book for a good week of bed time reading. The only reason I don't have 5 stars for it is that I think the book is a bit heavy on previous material stapled together, almost like he ran out of patience. Although that's a bit disappointing, that which IS stapled together is well worth the read.
3.0 von 5 Sternen An idiosyncratic collection of notes on physics, history, politics, complexity, etc. 23. April 2014
Von Pichierri Fabio - Veröffentlicht auf
The title of Anderson's book is a slight modification of his article "More is Different" published in the August 4-th 1972 issue of Science. There, like inside the book, the themes of emergence and broken symmetry were discussed. It is unfortunate that this 1972 article is not included in this book which collects several pieces (or notes) written by Anderson throughout a time span of more than 40 years. Emergence, however, surfaces in several places throughout the book. My impression, however, is that besides pinpointing the importance of emergence in science and society while contrasting it to the overwhelming concept of reductionism, the author does not possess or propose a theory of emergence. What emerges by reading the book is that localization, a concept proposed by the author to explain the transition between classical conductors (where electrons diffuse freely) and semiconductors (where electrons are localized in the 3D material itself). A serious attempt to put emergence on solid feet has been done by J.H. Holland in his book "Emergence" (1998) which, however, is not discussed in Anderson's book.
I enjoyed several of the books reviews that Anderson wrote throughout the years although to appreciate them one should have read those books. I was struck when reading that he listened with disbelief (page 219) the Nobel lecture of Ilya Prigogine (both Prigogine and Anderson received the Nobel prize in 1977, the former for chemistry and the latter for physics) on dissipative structures. Very naively, Anderson states that only real "condensed" structures (proteins, minerals, tables) are those that matter for science whereas structures such as those investigated by Prigogine do not. Well, let us think about a rainbow, we see a beautiful structure in the sky although there is not really a "condensed" structure there except many water molecules under the sunlight. Obviously, the concept of structure goes beyond that of "condensed" structures that surround us every day. I wonder why Anderson did not engage a scientific discussion with Prigogine if not in Stockholm at least somewhere across the Atlantic.
One problem with collecting many pieces written throughout a large time span is that, besides the lack of a story line, the author sometimes self-contradicts himself. Anderson, not an expert in thermodynamics of irreversible processes, is critical of Prigogine but earlier in the book he seems to dislike when physicists from other fields try to solve some hard problems in the field of condensed-matter physics without listening the opinions of the experts. Another problem is the presence in the text of phrases that have nothing to do with the present book: on page 109, when discussing about complex materials such as UBe13, the phrase "These problems are being discussed elsewhere in this book, by Rice, Haldane and Varma." The publisher had better suggest removing it.
Near the end of the book the author discusses RVB (Resonance Valence Bond) theory, starting from Erich Hueckel and then moving toward Linus Pauling while making connections to the band theory of solid-state physics. He seems to grasp well the chemical aspects of the theory but then, on page 392 states: "...try asking a chemist why his most fundamental concept, the chemical bond, is transferable from one compound to another: why is chemistry local?....I assure you, it doesn't interest a chemist." Far from true. While the chemical bond is indeed a fundamental concept in chemistry, the transferability (from molecule to molecule) is not that of chemical bonds but of chemical GROUPS! For instance, organic chemists interpret the IR spectra of complex organic molecules by checking the presence of fingerprints corresponding to specific chemical groups (carbonyl, carboxyl, methyl, etc.). Theoretical chemists, in line with experiments, have developed the Quantum Theory of Atoms in Molecules (QTAIM) which support the idea that the electron density of chemical groups in different molecules is transferable (see R.F.W. Bader's book Atoms in Molecules: A Quantum Theory).
In summary, by reading the book you will find many interesting viewpoints along with autobiographical notes on the Bell Labs (where the author did research for many years) and influential physicists (note, however, that little is written about the personal interaction between the author and his mentor J.H. Van Vleck, co-winner of the physics Nobel prize in 1977). Many passages, however, should be taken with a grain of salt especially when fields outside the authors' expertise are discussed. Unfortunately the book comes without an INDEX (why do we need one?).
4.0 von 5 Sternen Wide-Ranging Summary of a Noteworthy Career 15. März 2014
Von J. Martin - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Phil Anderson’s most recent collection of essays highlights the portion of his career that has been dedicated to thinking about, rather than doing science. Such reflection is a common avocation among physicists, and Anderson has an uncommon gift for resisting the temptations of glib generalization and grandiose rhetoric, which so frequently beguile the reflexive physicist. The essays Anderson highlights here are predominantly purpose-written pieces—editorials, book reviews, lectures, etc. We are permitted thereby to see Anderson and his views in context, rather than filtered through the lens of hindsight. The volume is an excellent compendium of the portion of Anderson’s career for which, justly or not, he is best known.

Emergence is the watchword that sums up Anderson’s agenda. If the sum of this book’s essays can be said to have a common goal, it is the advancement of the idea that science, in its most fascinating, fruitful, and as yet poorly understood form, grapples with how to understand complex phenomena by examining how new, novel, unpredictable laws emerge from simple constituents. Anderson recalls arriving at this view through his own scientific work, particularly in the aftermath of the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory of superconductivity, which awakened the physics community to the importance of spontaneous symmetry breaking. He also extends this view beyond physics, to the “seamless web” of science as a whole, embracing—reservedly—the hope that techniques honed investigating complex physical systems might offer insight to the study of complex biological, social, and economic systems.

Seen as a paean for emergence, the book might be split roughly in half. Anderson develops his emergentist view of science in the first. In the second, we see it applied to a series of debates, of both contemporary and historical interest. The first half begins with a series of historical recollections. The most substantial of these are the two chapters, excerpts from Anderson’s unpublished history of superconductivity. These strike a balance between biographical background and clear exposition of conceptual details. Sections III and IV contain what is likely to be the most interesting material for many readers. They outline Anderson’s views on emergence, present his attack on reductionist theories of everything, and outline thoughts on how a national science infrastructure organized his way might look.

The second half is less focused. Its many tangents include reflections on the nature of scientific genius, lamentations about the hopelessness of futurology, arguments against the wisdom of Strategic Defense Initiatives, and a small spat with Nancy Cartwright over the epistemological foundations of science. Section IX on complexity picks up the thread of the first half again before the final section, “Popularization Attempts,” attempts to articulate what it is condensed matter physicists do in a manner that is, alas, likely to exceed the grasp of most lay readers; Anderson’s scrupulous habit of presenting his arguments in all their nuance and complexity, which is an asset elsewhere, makes him a poor popularizer. The winding path the second half takes, while it does not directly advance the objectives evident in the first, nonetheless provides several instructive examples of how Anderson’s distinctive take on science plays out in actual political, scientific, and philosophical controversies.

My biggest gripe is that the book feels slapped together. Many of its 10 sections appear to be ad hoc devices minted solely to impose some semblance of structure on its 55 essays. Several of the later sections contain primarily book reviews. Although Anderson does use the occasion of reviewing a book to expound on his own views, these sections are thin compared with earlier, more substantive sections. The text contains a larger than average number of typographical errors, further reinforcing the unpolished feel. Sparse annotations leave the provenance of many of the essays unclear, and Anderson’s perfunctory introductions to each section give the impression that he set out to write a popularly accessible book articulating his distinctive view of science, only to discover that, in aggregate, he already had. That said, the unmanicured quality that results conveys a sharper sense of Anderson’s views and their development than a more polished work might have. Although a lay reader might find its meandering off-putting, historians and physicists will appreciate the way this book chronicles the evolution of one of the sharpest critical voices in American science.
5.0 von 5 Sternen A delightful read - From the POV of a TOTAL layman.... 3. Oktober 2013
Von Seeker of Truth, - Veröffentlicht auf
I picked this book up on a whim in an effort to see what a lifetime of the richest scientific experience and achievement looks like. Dr. Anderson did not disappoint.

His reviews of the works of other authors, on subjects in which he has the deepest insight and experience, were humble, yet thorough in their critiques. He showed how easily he eviscerated sloppiness on the part of other scientists, yet almost without exception, even if he pretty much tore apart the books, he found areas he admired and generally left the authors with a semblance of dignity.

Dr. Anderson mentions twice in the book that he is not a particularly effective communicator of complex concepts in a way that is accessible to the layman. With this, I would heartily concur! It was particularly evident when, in the end of the book, he claimed to make an effort to do so... But it was so full of jargon and "trade secrets", that it was incomprehensible - to me, anyway.

So rather dwelling on what was outside my reach, I noted with interest, his views of science in general, its limitations and some of its challenges. His reluctance to jump onto the string theory bandwagon was explained satisfactorily. As was his role in noticing that the philosophical concept of emergence, also has a place in Physics as he explored the ideas of emergent properties as a counterbalance to reductionism.

This is not to say that the book was not an absolute delight to read! To hear the story of an extraordinarily successful scientist, whose insatiable curiosity, natural drive and brilliant mind - propelled him to the forefront of understanding many deep and complex scientific discoveries, was mesmerizing.

What a pleasure it was to have the opportunity to sneak a brief glimpse into the mind of a giant of a man.
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