A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy Of Godel And Einstein

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9780465092932: A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy Of Godel And Einstein

It is a widely known but little considered fact that Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel were best friends for the last decade and a half of Einstein's life. The two walked home together from Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study every day; they shared ideas about physics, philosophy, politics, and the lost world of German science in which they had grown up. By 1949, Gödel had produced a remarkable proof: In any universe described by the Theory of Relativity, time cannot exist . Einstein endorsed this result-reluctantly, since it decisively overthrew the classical world-view to which he was committed. But he could find no way to refute it, and in the half-century since then, neither has anyone else. Even more remarkable than this stunning discovery, however, was what happened afterward: nothing. Cosmologists and philosophers alike have proceeded with their work as if Gödel's proof never existed -one of the greatest scandals of modern intellectual history. A World Without Time is a sweeping, ambitious book, and yet poignant and intimate. It tells the story of two magnificent minds put on the shelf by the scientific fashions of their day, and attempts to rescue from undeserved obscurity the brilliant work they did together.

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About the Author:

Palle Yourgrau is a Professor of Philosophy at Brandeis University. His 1999 monograph Gödel Meets Einstein , the only book-length work on Gödel's cosmological ideas, has caused a resurgence of interest among philosophers in Gödel's ideas about time and relativity. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

From Publishers Weekly:

What if time is only an illusion, if it doesn't actually exist? Yourgrau, a Brandeis professor of philosophy, explains that Einstein's general theory of relativity may allow for this possibility, first realized by the great logician Kurt Gödel. Gödel is best known for his incompleteness theorem, one of the most important theorems in mathematical logic since Euclid. In a typically brief paper written for a Festschrift to honor his friend and Princeton neighbor Einstein, Gödel theorized the existence of what have come to be called Gödel universes: rotating universes in which time travel is possible. But if one can travel through time, how can time as we know it exist in these other universes, since the past is always present? And if time doesn't exist in other universes, then it may not exist in ours either. Yourgrau (The Disappearance of Time) writes that Gödel's paper was almost universally ignored, and he claims that since the logician's death, philosophers have gone out of their way to try to denigrate his work in fields other than logic. This book will appeal to fans of Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach and to Einstein junkies, and makes a fascinating companion to Rebecca Goldstein's Incompleteness (Forecasts, Dec. 20), but all readers who enjoy a good thought experiment or having basic preconceptions about their world challenged will enjoy this. (Jan.)
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