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The Philosophy of Space and Time (Dover Books on Physics) Paperback – June 1, 1957

ISBN-13: 978-0486604435 ISBN-10: 0486604438 Edition: 1st English Ed.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Physics
  • Paperback: 336 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: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book is not for your average reader.
Cece Lafluer
So this book takes us through the philosophy of space and time accompanied and supported by empirical and theoretical scientific work.
T. Gwinn
If you really want to understand relativity, you must read this book.
Arja Turunen-Red

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Arja Turunen-Red on December 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By T. Gwinn on 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 By Carlo Del Noce on September 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Hutchings on 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 By Ahmet Hungari on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Parzival on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To be honest I'm far removed from Space and Time theory, but I have extracted the fragments of knowledge (that appeal to me) that are well written (and explained) and for a few dollars it's well worth it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A supurb review of relativity and its relation to epistemology. Reichenbach was among those early pioneers who understood relativity and its implications not only for what it says about the physical universe, but also about how it is we come to be able to understand it. This examination cuts through much of the excess added to the subject in recent decades and gets to the basics of dimensional metrics, the nature of duration, simultaneity, the flow of time as driven by causation and the effect of gravity. All of this is investigated from the viewpoint of epistemology in the matrix of physical reality. An excellent look at the intersection between relativistic physics and our capacity to comprehend it. One of his main points is that how we understand what gravity does to space and time depends on our our measuring devices are understood and the relation between them defined.

I'm updating this review because I wanted to emphasize that throughout Reichenbach's analysis of relativity this remains an epistemological investigation. The question is how we come to wrap our experience and knowledge of universe structure around the implications of relativity. In all more contemporary presentations of the "curvature of 3-dimensional space" we are told to "envision a flat rubber sheet stretched tight on which a bowling ball is placed". The deformation of the sheet represents spatial curvature (though it says nothing about time) and the whole matter is left at that. Reichenbach, by contrast, spends a considerable portion of this book explaining how to actually visualize the deformation in 3 dimensions by applying Euclidean geometry along with the concept of a "ridged rod" of specified length and intervals of time measured by clocks. Reichenbach was a big advocate of "the definition" being the foundation of how what physics reveals is expressed.
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