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The Philosophy of Space and Time (Dover Books on Physics) [Paperback]

Hans Reichenbach
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 1, 1957 0486604438 978-0486604435 1st English Ed.

With unusual depth and clarity, it covers the problem of the foundations of geometry, the theory of time, the theory and consequences of Einstein's relativity including: relations between theory and observations, coordinate definitions, relations between topological and metrical properties of space, the psychological problem of the possibility of a visual intuition of non-Euclidean structures, and many other important topics in modern science and philosophy.
While some of the book utilizes mathematics of a somewhat advanced nature, the exposition is so careful and complete that most people familiar with the philosophy of science or some intermediate mathematics will understand the majority of the ideas and problems discussed.
Partial CONTENTS: I. The Problem of Physical Geometry. Universal and Differential Forces. Visualization of Geometries. Spaces with non-Euclidean Topological Properties. Geometry as a Theory of Relations. II. The Difference between Space and Time. Simultaneity. Time Order. Unreal Sequences. Ill. The Problem of a Combined Theory of Space and Time. Construction of the Space-Time Metric. Lorentz and Einstein Contractions. Addition Theorem of Velocities. Principle of Equivalence. Einstein's Concept of the Problems of Rotation and Gravitation. Gravitation and Geometry. Riemannian Spaces. The Singular Nature of Time. Spatial Dimensions. Reality of Space and Time.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Physics
  • Paperback: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; 1st English Ed. edition (June 1, 1957)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486604438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486604435
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten jewel? December 14, 1999
This is an absolutely fabulous book about the foundations of special and general relativity. The author's deep understanding of and insight to these complex structures is beautifully displayed and explained using simple but nontrivial examples and very readable text. If you really want to understand relativity, you must read this book. The focus is not on formal mathematics but on the real, intuitive, content of the concepts and the mathematical theory.
If you have been confused by discussions of rigid rods, clocks, simultaneity etc. in other sources, check out Reichenbach's construction of the light geometry and his discussion of the indefinite space type. Want to understand how gravity affects spacetime but do not want to study differential geometry? Read Reichenbach's sections on the Riemannian spaces and his chapter about space and time in gravitational fields. No other source explains these relationships as clearly and without resorting to silly or trivial examples.
A beautiful scholarly book which is thoroughly accessible. The author's great love of the subject is much in evidence.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently written and still relevant today October 10, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reichenbach writes with clarity, reason and passion on a topic that is in much need of this still today. It is accessible to the astute layperson - there is some occasional math, but the text handles most of the important concepts. It is useful for anyone interested in the combined scientific and philosophical perspective of space and time.
Reichenbach, in the Introduction, rues the current estrangement of philosophy and science, longing for the "natural philosophy" of the past, where thinkers were well-versed in both areas.
So this book takes us through the philosophy of space and time accompanied and supported by empirical and theoretical scientific work. He seems to have little in the way of agenda or "-isms" to tout, nor is he inclined to spend much ink on rehashing historical debates or trivial examples. And although the book winds it way eventually to General Relativity, we are thankfully not dragged through the typical "Aristotlean view -> Galilean view -> Einsteinian view" that is so commonly used.
Instead, he begins by discussing Euclidean space, the nature of geometry and so on. Throughout, the notion of topology is a common thread. Time, simultaneity, Lorentz, Principle of Equivalence, and gravitational effects on the topology of spacetime, are some of the steps through the book.
In section 39, for example, he guides us on a detour entitled "The Analytic Treatment of Reimannian Spaces", just to carry "...the treatment of general geometry a little further." In four short pages and a modicum of equations, the nature of tensors as a natural mathematical consequence appear, effortlessly and painlessly.
All along, woven in, are cogent philosophical treatments of the topic currently under discussion. The book is a good example of the author's desire to see philosophy and science melded again, and good example of his prowess in both areas.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on the foundations of relativity September 28, 2006
The reference to "A." which Mr. Ecce Nihil could not find is to a German book by Reichenbach, as written in the author's introduction at page xv. Reichenbach's book IS consistent. It is one of the few books on relativity explaining the question of clock synchronization properly and comprehensively ( in the sense of Bridgman's operational view ).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great treatise on time-space-time September 11, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a "layman" I have had difficulty understanding the "four-vector" system that Minkowski and Einstein formulated. Time does not seem to be a vector in the same way that space is; time is unidirectional, or perhaps my mind perceives it in this manner. Reichenbach tries to explain this geometry and it's consequences, and also tries to incorporate philosophy and epistemology in the discussion. He admits that physics uses mathematical abstractions that may or may not represent "reality".

I would recommend this book to those curious about the meaning of "space time" with the slight caveat that Reichenbach was a Positivist, and there are many who disagree with the basic philosophy of Positivism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fundamental resource for empiricism April 9, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Even though I think empiricism itself as a incomplete world view, Reichenbach is a great thinker who has almost completed it. The way he handles the topic of space, and especially geometry attracts your attention from the beginning. Conceptual and historical facts are blended nicely which makes the reading very joyful.
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