Customer Reviews

6
4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
4
4 star
1
3 star
1
2 star
0
1 star
0
On Space and Time (Canto Classics)
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:£12.99+Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2009
This is an extremely interesting, up-to-date account of various approaches to understanding space and time, by some of the leading thinkers in the field. The first chapter is a description from the point of view of cosmology and astronomy, including a history of the subject since Einstein. The next three chapters are written by foremost mathematicians whose research has also spanned physics. They outline their varying ideas as to how space, time and quantum theory can be married to understand what has been observed. The second chapter explains the approach of Shahn Majid, which focusses on the foundational and conceptual aspects of the subject. In chapter four, Connes explains his viewpoint incorporating his ideas regarding the origin of particles and forces in physics. Chapter 3 expands on Roger Penrose's theories regarding quantum theory and cosmology. The final two chapters are more philosophical in nature and include theological motivations. The book has something for everyone interested in this field. Whilst some of the chapters hint at technicalities, this does not detract from what is a semi-popular account, and an excellent account of the different aspects of some of the most fundamental questions that we can ask.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2011
This book has many thought provoking ideas, personally I was unfamiliar with Majid and his work before reading this book but found his ideas incredibly fascinating. His particular section alone was worth buying the book. That said, I do think his section was a bit too long and at times he digressed quite far. That's not to belittle his effort or to say that the 'extra' thoughts were irrelevant but just not wholly necessary for this book. I think that someone without a lot of experience in maths may struggle with Majid's, Penrose's and Connes's section (at least if you aim for full understanding). I struggled to fully grasp (e.g.) the bicrossproduct but appreciated its apparent usefulness so this book have encouraged me to want to read more about it. I'll add that I do have a physics degree so I'd like to think my maths isn't terrible. I've read a fair amount of pure maths in my spare time (shhh!) so it isn't a lack of will or even complete ignorance that made some parts hard to follow. Given this I would offer a word of warning (as other reviewers have) that this book isn't a light read, nor is it really a book for the layman.

The part that made me smile the most was Majid's eluciation of the 'birth of geometry', how he was able to start from essentially a definition of binary numbers and show how geometry naturally arises from the algebra. Incredibly elegant. Naturally, at least in retrospect, there is a logical progression to Heyting algebra which is the 'proper' name for an extended boolean algebra. This is something I've actually pondered a lot about in my spare time but didn't know what the proper name was. Again I owe thanks for clarification. I actually used this mathematics when considering the construction of the political compass (google that) and associated set of rules. I digress but it is fascinating to see how the universe fits together in a rigorous and elegant mathematical framework. I think that is one of the successes of this book. It provides a logical discussion of how to start with boolean algebra (binary numbers) and build up to the full set of mathematics needed to describe the universe. Of course this isn't the final word on the matter. I also believe this argument underpins how we can apply mathematics to all sociological systems, in principle it is all derivable.

I skim read the first section as it was pretty much my undergraduate notes in book form (author = lecturer). Those unfamiliar with the basics of cosmology should find this section highly readable and I believe it should be accessible to the lay person. The first section broadly covers the current paradigm of modern cosmology. It covers some history of the key scientists and ideas which provides some useful context of how the main ideas came about.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2010
This a thought-provoking book about the physics and meta-physics of space and time. Do not expect an easy read; you will need to think.

The chapters by Majid, Penrose and Connes explore the potential of the notion of non-commutivity, which is at the heart of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. They illustrate the possibility of encompassing gravitational and quantum concepts in testable theories using non-commutative constructs of space and time. Although there is much technical language, the authors have made a significant effort to make their ideas accessible to non-expert readers (of which I am one).

I found the chapter by Taylor rather less convincing. I just cannot accept that the Casimir effect provides an example of "negative pressure". I am sure that if I had expressed such a notion at school I would have attracted the wrath and chalk of the physics master. Isn't the pressure between the plates just less than the pressure outside?

The chapters by Heller and particularly Polkinghorne should provide much thought for those of the opinion that science can define away God. Disciples of Hawking, Witten and M-theory, might find these chapters uncomfortably challenging.

As whole the book is very well written, as might be expected from such experts. I am on my third reading. I expect it won't be the last.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2008
The nature of space and time is not a problem that puzzles
physicists, mathematicians and philosophers only. For historians,
time and space are two of the three most important categories we need
to consider in our analyses. This volume helps put the debate on time
and space into a wider context, making a cross disciplinary
discussion about the elements that are at the very heart of modern
science available to non experts whilst, at the same time, offering
cutting-edge research on the enigma of time and space. This book was
an eye-opener for me as I had no idea that so much on this topic was
still such a mystery even to physicists. There are chapters on dark
matter and energy, on quantum symmetry, on Penrose's pre- Big Bang
theory, on particle physics, and on philosophical and theological
implications of space and time. It is a book of different levels and
in my case the technical aspects were always going to be challenging,
but its nice to know that the arguments are there for readers who
want to work through them. The chapters covering philosophy and
theology would be a good place to start. This volume is a must-read
for those wishing to understand when did "time" begin, and where is
that thing which some call "space"? And it also looks really good on
my coffee table right next to The Brief History of Time and my
battered copy of The End of History.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2012
This book is a collection of essays from several noted science writers:

Andrew Taylor - The dark Universe
Shahn Majid - Quantum spacetime and physical reality
Roger Penrose - Causality, quantum theory and cosmology
Alain Connes - On the fine structure of spacetime
Michael Heller - Where physics meets metaphysics
John Polkinghorne - The nature of time

The collection is edited by Majid and he grants himself by far the longest of the essays. There is a rough progression in the book, with Taylor laying out the experimental evidence showing why theories of space and time are not complete. Majid then looks at how we might start approaching the problems, along with some examples of hypothetical models. Penrose and Connes look in more detail at areas they have helped pioneer (conformal cyclic cosmology and noncommutative geometry, respectively). The last two essays take us more into the realm of metaphysics, looking at what implications beyond the immediate world of academic science (particularly theology) any such new theories may have.

The last 2 essays are very distinct from the rest of the book, which could be perceived by a purist physicist as spoiling it slightly. Instead, I think it adds a different dimension to the book which is quite welcome. The extremely hypothetical nature of the book is what appeals, though to get to grips with it all, you will need a PhD in theoretical physics, which makes it unsuitable for the general lay reader. Where it is accessible, it is highly thought-provoking and will be interesting to return to it in the years and decades to come to see what, if any, becomes mainstream science and what may be discarded as hypotheses that failed to get off the ground.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2013
This book not only clearly and thoroughly explains the scientific concepts but also provides insights into the metaphysical controversies inside the scientific community about the subject.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy
The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time: A Proposal in Natural Philosophy by Roberto Mangabeira Unger (Hardcover - 8 Dec. 2014)
£15.97


 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.