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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book on a neglected topic, 2 July 2009
This review is from: A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein (Paperback)
This short book introduces the subject of Godel's investigation into the distinction between 'intuitive' time and the 'formal' time used in science, in particular, Einstein's theory of relativity.
On the way, it discusses Godel's incompleteness theorems, and the positivist philosophical agenda for formalising mathematical proof.
It is, accordingly, not a particularly easy read, but the writing style is clear.
The main message of the book is that Godel proved that there exist solutions to Einstein's field equations which describe universes in which time does not exist and that the consequence for us is that our intuitive notion of time must be ideal (i.e. based only on our particular internal experience and not an actual feature of the physical universe ).
This is a shocking result which seems to have been swept under the carpet, Hawking himself attempted an unconvincing ad hoc 'fix' to the issue.
A reviewer below is wrong in stating the Godel universe is profoundly different to our own, in fact it is possible that we live in an expanding Godel universe
I found this to be a fascinating and thought provoking book with few faults other than the last chapter which is a bit of a crusade against philosophical detractors. I agree with a comment below that some knowledge of Godel's theorem and relativity will make the book easier to assimilate.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jul 2009 07:32:22 BDT
The reason as I stated in my review that Godel's solution is ignored or "swept under the rug" as you claim is that it doesn't show Hubble expansion and our universe does, ergo it does not describe our universe. End of discussion.

Also if the Godel universe was expanding then there would be a global time coordinate - follow the slices of increasing volume of spacetime - and Godel's solution don't have such a coordinate.

The issue here is at two levels - firstly we know for a fact that Godel's solution does not describe our universe. Hence the interesting properties may be fascinating to mathematicians or theoretical physicists but it had no scientific impact whatsoever. Secondly, even if it did describe our universe locally time can be said to exist, so our experience of time doesn't conflict with even a Godel solution - essentially if you did a circuit round the universe you would discover that you can not only come back to the same spot but also the same time - but given no living thing has done this there is no contradiction. As for the discussion about casuality, the lack of a global direction for time doesn't contradict casuality. The obvious solution is to have no causes and no effects. If everything happens independently then there is no contradiction. This is precisely the point i was making earlier about having made a mountain out of a trivial point, the philosopher will miss a very subtle one - in this case the difference between a non-causal universe and an acausal one.
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