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Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time Paperback – 12 Nov 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (12 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393326047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393326048
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.8 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 967,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This is how twentieth-century science really began...Engaging, original, and absolutely brilliant." -- James Gleick "An easy-reading but penetrating book. [Galison] brings the story of time to life as a story of wires and rails, precision maps, and imperial ambitions, as well as a story of physics and philosophy." "Few books have ever made Einstein's work more accessible-or more engrossing-for general readers." "Galison provides a unique and enlightening view on the origin of time as we know it in the modern age."

About the Author

Peter Galison is Mallinckrodt Professor for the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Max Planck Prize, as well as the Pfizer Prize for the Best Book in the History of Science for Image and Logic.

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TRUE TIME WOULD never be revealed by mere clocks-of this Newton was sure. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mystacinus on 16 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
If you read and enjoyed Longitude, and wanted to know what happened next, this is the book to read. The book is not perfect, but the other reviewers here are unduly negative. The book deserves to be much better known and more widely read. Chapters 2-5 are well written, accessible popular science, and tell a great story.

My advice to readers:
Skip chapter 1 - relativity is better covered elsewhere, and this chapter is hard going (as another reviewer hinted). However, you do need to know that Poincare almost managed to develop a version of relativity before Einstein.
Read chapter 2 - the story of Poincare's non-mathematical work is very relevant, is interesting in its own right, and is presented here in a very accessible form.
Read chapters 3 and 4 - a terrific presentation on the emergence of global time and an insight into the nationalist politics from the French perspective led by Poincare (less well known - since Greenwich won the argument and this is the history we remember).
Read Chapter 5 - which highlights Einstein's non-mathematical activities (not well represented in other Einstein books), and illustrates what is perhaps one of the more surprising outcomes of the events recorded in chapters 2-5.
Skip Chapter 6, unless you are interested in the author's more usual territory in science studies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "sophiehlg" on 17 Feb. 2004
Format: Hardcover
I was slow to warm to this book, but the further I read, the more gripped I became.
It's astonishing how recently time was coordinated between rail companies and then around the world, and how physically difficult it was to map places like Peru and West Africa. Let alone agree how far Paris is from London.
I was inspired by the book to read some more about Einstein and time.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ronaldo S. de Biasi on 6 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Writing about science for laypersons is a tricky business, especially with regard to the scientific accuracy of the exposition and the human dimension of the characters. In the first instance, the author must choose between a superficial approach, full of analogies, fit for beginners, at the risk of boring the initiated, and a more elaborate treatment, intended for someone already familiar with the subject, that will probably scare the uninitiated. As to the characters, the author may reduce the scientists to a secondary role and concentrate on the results of research or fill the narrative with personal details about the people involved. The first choice will please the scientific-minded, while the second can make the reading more attractive to the humanists.
My main criticism of the book Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps: Empires of Time is that the author does not make up his mind about the two points mentioned above. The long expositions about relativity and chaos do not bring any new contribution to the subject; the best popular books on relativity were written by Einstein himself, while chaos theory is brilliant reviewed by James Gleick in his best-selling Chaos: Making a New Science. At the same time, the wording is sometimes confusing for beginners. As to the biographical aspect of the work, several personal anecdotes on Einstein's and Poincaré 's lives are included (some utterly irrelevant), but the book does not dwell on the rich personalities of these two giants of science.
In short: trying to please everybody, the author wrote a book that possibly will please nobody
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Silverswan on 30 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Half way through chapter 1, I checked to see whether I was reading a translation from a foreign language text. Apparently not. So why does his prose flow so unpropitiously? I was rereading sections to find the main verb or make sense of the punctuation. I wasn't helped by the pretentious inclusion of "difficult" words like "quotidian" and "propinquity". The concepts of special relativity are famously difficult to understand and require a clear, well delivered, accurate, unambiguous exposition. As another reviewer has pointed out, Einstein's own account for the lay reader achieves this requirement. The present book does not.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Keith Appleyard VINE VOICE on 18 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, I don't think this subject warrants a book of this length.
Whilst there is a story there, it could have been much shorter, and so the book drags it all out, wandering off at tangents before coming back.
The illustrations & photographs were poorly reproduced and poorly chosen - why we needed to see the public clocks in Berne that Einstein would have seen on his way to work confused me.
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