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Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy) Hardcover – 22 Jul 2012

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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

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"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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Excellent for interested amatures 27 July 2012
By Michael - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This isn't "philosophy of physics for dummies" by any stretch, but for someone who last took physics in 1975 and who only has taken an intro to philosophy course, this was an excellent overview of historical and modern philosophy of the physics of space and time. The author uses next to no math (thank goodness) and his prose expositions are clear and to the point. I imagine the book would also appeal to those with more knowledge of both subjects, as the author suggests that some of his positions are controversial. I'm looking forward to part 2 on matter based upon his exposition of space and time in this volume. Highly recommended.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
An excellent, concise survey of thought on space and time 20 Aug. 2012
By Colin Temple - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A concise, accessible, enjoyable, responsible and rewarding survey of the historical development of the physicist's conception of space and time.

I say it's concise because this volume weighs in at about 200 pages and covers spatial/temporal geometries from Aristotle, Newton, Galileo and Einstein.

There's certainly a bit of math in the book, but not so much as to exclude the layperson. The descriptions and diagrams provided are about as clear as they can be, given the subject.

I say it's responsible because the author makes use of clear arguments, makes assumptions and missing pieces clear and follows up with recommended readings.

The text is rewarding because it clears up many misconceptions about the theories it covers and gives a fresh, clean take on the subject. I can certainly say this book helped sharpen my understanding of special & general relativity.

There's more physics than philosophy in this text. It serves as an excellent description of space and time for a philosopher. I don't see that it would give the physics student a strong philosophical hook, though it's certainly more philosophical than the average physics text. (The exception would be a relatively sizable discussion of the correspondence between Leibniz and Clarke on Newtonian absolute space, which I enjoyed having studied that debate previously.)

Overall a worthwhile read for anyone looking for an introduction to philosophy of physics, or anyone who could stand to improve their understanding of the theories presented.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Physics for Philosophers 18 Oct. 2012
By Kevin W. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
First, it should be understood that this is not so much a philosophy of physics as it is physics for philosophers. This volume does not so much cover the many philosophical issues that have arisen from millennia of trying to know the rules governing the material world. Instead, it introduces the scientific issues that underlie these questioning traditions.

That said, this is a brilliant introduction to the enigmatic field of physics, tilted toward the philosopher's perspective. Most of the writers here are physicists not philosophers. But the tone is not overly mathematical. It is refreshingly buoyant, dwelling more in the realm of meaning and presence than in the cold interplay of systems.

Somehow I am reminded of Parlett's THE Book of Word Games -- perhaps it is the pleasure that this kind of inquiry creates, rather than any topical connection.

Highly recommended for philosophers, the philosophically inclined, or those simply wishing to understand what physics may MEAN -- not simply SAYS. For those who wish to be filled with the brilliant lines, spaces, and internal structures that physics and its philosophical implications can create in the soul.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Will help sharpen your thinking about space and time 5 Jun. 2013
By K. Long - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Back in my student days, one of my housemates was a philosophy student. When we'd talk physics I'd invariably start writing equations, and he'd always pepper me with questions about what was *really* happening behind all that math. His questioning on the fundamentals really helped sharpen my thinking about physics.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Major Revision of Foundations of Special Relativity 26 Feb. 2015
By Marvin J. Greenberg - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book seeking a better understanding of Special Relativity (SR), finding the conventional expositions confusing.
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.
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