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The Nature of Space and Time Paperback – October 15, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0691050843 ISBN-10: 0691050848

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Product Details

  • Series: Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures
  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691050848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691050843
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,855,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Who doesn't love a good argument? When physics heavyweights Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose delivered three sets of back-and-forth lectures capped by a final debate at Cambridge's Isaac Newton Institute, the course of modern cosmological thinking was at stake. As it happens, The Nature of Space and Time, which collects these remarks, suggests that little has changed from the days when Einstein challenged Bohr by refusing to believe that God plays dice. The math is more abstruse, the arguments more refined, but the argument still hinges on whether our physical theories should be expected to model reality or merely predict measurements.

Hawking, clever and playful as usual, sides with Bohr and the Copenhagen interpretation and builds a strong case for quantum gravity. Penrose, inevitably a bit dry in comparison, shares Einstein's horror at such intuition-blasting thought experiments as Schrödinger's long-suffering cat--and scores just as many points for general relativity. The math is tough going for lay readers, but a few leaps of faith will carry them through to some deeply thought-provoking rhetoric. Though no questions find final answers in The Nature of Space and Time, the quality of discourse should be enough to satisfy the scientifically curious. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

This volume contains a series of lectures delivered in 1994 by Hawking (A Brief History of Time) and Penrose (The Emperor's New Mind), renowned professors at Cambridge and Oxford, respectively. The overall topic is how mathematical physics might best represent the realities of the universe. The lectures assume a rather sophisticated knowledge of physics and mathematics. The authors present alternative views on approaching a formulation that fully accommodates both quantum and gravitational (general relativity) theories in physics. One question, for example, is whether parameters in a quantum description of matter can have definite ("real") values before they are measured. The issues extend to cosmological implications and have intriguing philosophical as well as technical aspects. Although well done, the treatment in this book is not for the general reader. Illustrations.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The current understanding of the physical structure of the universe is bipolar. There is Einstein's theory of relativity, which explains the macroscopic behavior of the universe to many places to the right of the decimal point. At the other end of the size spectrum, there is the quantum theory of fields, which explains the observed behavior of fundamental particles to many places to the right of the decimal point. Although one should always be very reluctant to state such a position, the resolution of this bipolar state into a unified one may be the last, great discovery of physics.
The purpose of this book is to present a debate between Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose concerning the possibility of the issue being resolved, and in what manner. It is a series of six short lectures, three from each man and ends with a brief debate between them. These lectures are not for the general audience, as each lecturer assumes a fundamental understanding of general relativity and quantum theory. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of explanation, including diagrams, in the lectures. Therefore, it is possible to understand the material if you have a basic understanding of the two main topics. Without that, don't bother opening the book.
Of course, the issue is not resolved, as that must wait for a later date. It is interesting that Hawking tends to emphasize the points of difference, while Penrose goes to some length to describe how similar their positions are. Penrose continues with the position of Albert Einstein, in that he argues that quantum mechanics is not a final theory, but only the "gross" appearance of much subtler events.
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56 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Erickson on March 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was an early attempt to capitalize on Hawking's commercial success with the Brief History. Roger Penrose, Hawking's PhD advisor, has also written some really fascinating books for lay readers on philosophical implications of physics such as on the nature of intelligence. However, combining the two in a debate, the form of this book, cancels out the reader-friendly accessibility of their solo works as their egos take charge and they try to outperform each other. It makes sense after the fact that if they're debating, they must be discussing matters on which they disagree, and since physics is so well settled and understood on all but the most esoteric and advanced questions, the subject matter of their disagreements must lie in that advanced realm. Of course, "advanced" is a vastly relative term to apply to physics, since many ordinary readers would balk at any physics material. But I have a degree in physics, albeit only a BS - and after the initial material I have to struggle to follow anything they're saying! They should stamp this book's cover with a caveat emptor; this is no "Brief History of Time" or "Elegant Universe." They even mention at the outset that they assume the reader has a basic understanding of physics, but these guys' idea of a basic understanding is a Ph.D. specializing in general relativity. Having said all that, the book still makes for heady reading from what I could pick up here and there, so it's a thrill if you're up to it.
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42 of 53 people found the following review helpful By D. Harp on July 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In spite of the errors mentioned in another review the discussion was fairly interesting but not as great a "debate" as I anticipated. I'd spend my money on Penrose's "The Emporer's New Mind" before this one. For those interested in Black Holes, Kip Thorne's "Black Holes and Time Warps ..." is exceptionally well written and rewarding for the reader. For the technically [mathematically] apt who wants an fascinating treatice on spacetime, try John Wheeler and Ignazio Ciufolini's book on Geometrodynamics (Princeton Univ. Press).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Light Pebble on November 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. It goes beyond the popular accounts of Hawking's and Penrose's ideas, without going into all the technical detail. You get to find out (sort of) why Hawking attributes entropy to black holes, and his explanation of why we don't see the galaxies in quantum superposition. And Penrose's ideas about twistors and quantizing them, and people's caveats about twistor theory.
It would help to be familiar with:
- Feynman integral over paths
- what is the action, and how it becomes a phase in quantum mechanics
- Euler characteristic
- special relativity, what spacelike, timelike and null mean
- Basic topology and analysis. Like what does "compact" imply.
- thermodynamic partition function
- contour integral in complex analysis
- what is a manifold
- how you find the expectation of an operator in quantum mechanics
- decoherence in quantum mechanics
- what is a conformal map
That sort of thing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill J. Grossman on May 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you liked "The Road to reality" and have an understanding of the Mathmatics of Quantum Physics and Relativity then you will enjoy this book. Otherwise don't bother.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peidyen on February 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
I found this to be a fascinating overview of some of the major issues in cosmology from both Hawking and Penroses point of view. What is amazing is the actual level of agreement between the two. Perhaps only the real physicists appreciate the nuances of their differences of opinion.

I would recommend this book for anyone who's gone to the trouble of picking up a basic understanding of relativity ( special and/or general ).

The math is not terrbily daunting in most places and you get a real overview for the big picture of the state of relativity and quantum gravity.
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