A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein

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Basic Books, 2006 - Science - 210 pages
3 Reviews
It is a widely known but little considered fact that Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel 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, Godel 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 Godel'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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I'll say it right now: this book was mathematically over my head, so the discussions of four-dimensional geometry, recursive functions and the arithmetization of syntax were beyond comprehension. My grasp of the philosophy/metaphysics of time and space, despite my determined readings in the field, is tenuous enough that I sometimes felt I had a hold of the central arguments of the book, while at other times my comprehension wavered and squirmed and I found myself squinting and speed-reading. And yet Yourgrau's depiction of scientific schisms and interfluences and the politics and personal relationships of recent scientific history is fascinating -- up to and including the fascinating friendship of Godel and Einstein in Princeton, but also going back to Leibniz and through such luminaries as Wittgenstein and Schrodinger and countless others. This is the intellectual history a well-educated person like me should know, and I'm ashamed that I don't and wish it would stick better.  

Review: A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel And Einstein

User Review  - Adam - Goodreads

A history of the often unknown relationship between two of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Gödel, one of the most ground-breaking mathematicians in history, friend to Einstein, without ... Read full review


A German Bias for Metaphysics
Logical Circles
A Spy in the House of Logic
Its Hard to Leave Vienna
Amid the Demigods
The Scandal of Big T and Little t
Twilight of the Gods
In What Sense Is Godel or Anyone Else
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About the author (2006)

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.

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