On Space and Time (Canto Classics) Paperback – 29 Mar 2012
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'… a unique collection of essays. … The non-specialist might struggle with some of the mathematic vocabulary but the philosophical content is thought provoking … a worthwhile read.' Federation of Astronomical Societies Newsletter
'… an attractive little book, featuring some highly original thinkers. The chapters by Penrose and Connes are especially good and easily worth the price of the book alone.' Mathematical Reviews --This text refers to the Printed Access Code edition.
This unique volume brings together world leaders in cosmology, particle physics, quantum gravity, mathematics, philosophy and theology, to provide fresh insights into the deep structure of space and time. Subjects ranging from dark matter to the philosophical and theological implications of spacetime, ensuring that the issue is thoroughly explored.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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