- Series: Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy (Book 11)
- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (May 26, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691165718
- ISBN-13: 978-0691165714
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy) Reprint Edition
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"One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013"
"Taking up the conceptual foundations of classical and modern physics, Maudlin explains in a clear manner how Einstein's special and general theories of relativity emerged from Newtonian mechanics and Galilean relativity. . . . This is a solid work that deserves careful study and rewards readers accordingly." (Choice)
"I would highly recommend Philosophy of Physics to anyone who wants to get a deeper historical and philosophical perspective on the nature of space and time, as well as to any physics student who has been confused by the twin paradox."---Robert M. Wald, Physics Today
"Maudlin has successfully undertaken a very difficult task: to write a book about the physical theories of space and time, accessible to every learned person with genuine interest in philosophy and the foundations of physics, with little mathematical prerequisites but without betraying the physical theories. We are really anxious to read the second volume of his work."---Chrysovalantis Stergiou, Metascience
"An accessible and highly engaging introduction to the major issues in the physics of space and time."---Matt Farr, Philosophy in Review
"Exceptionally clear and comprehensive, this engrossing volume will be extremely useful to students. Most introductions to space-time and relativity are written by physicists, but readers interested in a careful examination of the philosophical foundations of the subject are much better served by starting here. I had fun reading this book."―Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
"Maudlin adroitly guides readers through the mathematical, physical, and philosophical subtleties of Newtonian physics and special and general relativity. The book is filled with lucid and original observations, and succeeds in presenting material that was previously only accessible to those who could stomach significant amounts of differential geometry. A major contribution."―David Wallace, University of Oxford
From the Back Cover
"Exceptionally clear and comprehensive, this engrossing volume will be extremely useful to students. Most introductions to space-time and relativity are written by physicists, but readers interested in a careful examination of the philosophical foundations of the subject are much better served by starting here. I had fun reading this book."--Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
"Maudlin adroitly guides readers through the mathematical, physical, and philosophical subtleties of Newtonian physics and special and general relativity. The book is filled with lucid and original observations, and succeeds in presenting material that was previously only accessible to those who could stomach significant amounts of differential geometry. A major contribution."--David Wallace, University of Oxford
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Readers of this book should read a conventional exposition emphasizing Minkowski's spacetime geometric approach first, else they won't appreciate Maudlin's criticisms and improvements.
Maudlin's first three chapters provide the historical background of Newton and Galileo's understanding of space and time. He explains why they are inadequate - particularly Newton's concepts of absolute space and absolute time - and then launches into his version of SR in chapters 4 & 5. He builds Minkowski spacetime as a real affine 4-dimensional space of events endowed with a real-valued function of pairs of events called the Interval [a quadratic pseudo-metric]. He emphasizes the intrinsic geometry and its applications to physics. Instead of talking about the "constant speed" of light, which tacitly is a Newtonian notion, he says that "the trajectory of light in a vacuum is independent of the physical state of its source," an experimental fact. Hence "the geometry of spacetime alone determines the trajectory of light rays" (in a vacuum). This endows each event with the structure of future and past light cones.
He dispenses with the two principles upon which Einstein based his theory of SR, asserting instead his three principles:
LAW OF LIGHT: The trajectory of a light ray emitted from any event (in a vacuum) is a straight line-ray on the future light cone of that event.
The trajectory of any physical entity that goes through an event never goes outside the light cone of that event.
RELATIVISTIC LAW OF INERTIA: The trajectory of any physical entity subject to no external influences is a straight line in spacetime.
CLOCK HYPOTHESIS: [Ideal] Clocks measure the Interval along their trajectories.
He admits that the latter hypothesis is peculiar and elaborates on its precise meaning in chapter 5, which is all about Lorentz coordinates and measurement. This chapter becomes quite technical and is mainly suitable for physicists. In it he provides an experimental set-up that shows in what sense his SR predicts and explains the constancy of the speed of light.
There is much, much more in Maudlin's treatise that is original and provocative. I look forward to reading his projected volume 2 about Matter.
Tim Maudlin's "Philosophy of Physics" will similarly hone your thinking, at least for the narrow part of physics it covers (space, time, relativity, and kinematics). The issues of inertial versus non-inertial frames, the postulates of relativity, time dilation, and Lorentz contraction are "simple" in the sense that any good physics undergraduate can do calculations with them competently, but the careful definition and interpretation of these concepts has sometimes stumped even first-rate physicists. Maudlin does a nice job of clearing up some of the misconceptions about these topics found in popular physics texts.
Very little math is used. Certainly any physics, math, or engineering student will find this book "easy" in the sense of not needing any mathematical heavy lifting. Don't let that simplicity fool you into thinking it's a mindless read, or worse, not worth reading at all: this is a book about clear thinking about subtle concepts, not about struggling through mathematical complexities.
It's a well-written book with clear explanations. I highly recommend it to every scientist who wants to understand relativity and mechanics at a deeper level.
Others have commented that this is physics for philosophers, not philosophy for physicists. Coming at it from the physics side, I gained a lot as well. I've long felt that doing physics properly requires a certain amount of explicit philosophy. The challenge is getting the important insights without getting bogged down. This book manages pretty well.
One problem for me as a reader, coming at it from the physics side, was his use of language. I must have read each page six times and marked up my copy extensively to make it more comprehensible to me (that this book is worth the effort shows how highly I think of it.) But I had to add the word "absolute" in pencil before nearly every instance where he used "speed" or "velocity" because without that his statements all seemed wildly incorrect and brought my train of thought to a screeching halt.
The tone is very challenging in places, almost harsh. He is correcting common misconceptions about relativity even among physicists, and makes his points forcefully. I definitely felt that there was something of a language barrier as viewed from the physics side. You really have to trust that he knows what he's talking about (he does) despite the way his statements first appear. It reminds me why I don't care for straight philosophy, but it is a gem of philosophy of physics. I learned important things from it.