Monday, September 22, 2008

The Tao of Physics

The Tao of Physics 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 was published in 2000.


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

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 . I lived in England then , 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 he went to India to lecture and was a guest of . 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''

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 .


Physicist Jeremy Bernstein chastised ''Tao of Physics'':

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?''

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'', Fritof Capra, Shambala, 1975
**Shambala, 2nd edition 1983: ISBN 0-394-71612-4 Bantam reprint 1985: ISBN 0-553-26379-X
**Shambhala, 3rd edition 1991: ISBN 0-87773-594-8
**Shambhala, 4th edition 2000: ISBN 1-57062-519-0
**Audio Renaissance, 1990 audio cassette tape: ISBN 1-55927-089-6
**Audio Renaissance, 2004 audio compact disc ISBN 1-55927-999-0

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