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Time, as a physical reality, is merely an illusion. Get used to the idea.
on 9 May 2016
'A World Without Time' is a scattered, somewhat unfocussed but cheerfully-embracing biographical account of Gödel's early life and work coupled to his richer days as a philosophical-thinking scientist who enjoyed a sociable friendship with Einstein whilst at Princeton. It is occasionally erratically and unintelligibly written, although it does remain addictive. Paradoxically it is also an over-generalised focussing upon Gödel's thinking behind his 1949 essay 'A Remark About The Relationship Between Relativity Theory And Idealistic Philosophy.'
Palle Yourgrau writes sympathetically concerning Gödel's philosophical thoughts - essentially that they have remained largely unrecognised by a scientific community who, in Gödel's own mind, demonstrated a consistent aversion in embracing creatively ground-breaking scientific ideas. Running parallel is Gödel's assertion that philosophical thinkers remained loathe to propound scientific thought at all, even when their philosophical thinking contained valuable logical merit that would have empowered the scientific community by providing a birth-point of pseudo provenance for their own scientific theories - especially those describing the potential physical realities of time itself.
Whether or not the title of the book is designed to entice either a scientific or general readership to explore further; I believe the contents, regrettably, slightly dampen the quest for both - largely due to an obtuse writing style. No science contained here, especially Gödel's attempt to demonstrate that the earthly component itself of space-time theoretical science is, or is not, a separate, usable spatial dimension, or that time itself is nothing more than an illusion, is ever satisfactorily established. Nor does the book find itself any nearer to normalising any of this so-called reality by way of valid, physical science. Indeed, how could anyone? Therefore any inferred cerebral implications, either by Einstein or Gödel, of actual travel within this pseudo-medium that we call 'time' (energised as a topic by Gödel's thinking), must remain the stuff of popular literary invention and entertainment. The general reader who is untutored in advanced physics will almost certainly find the scientific conjecture wearing and convoluted. This is not to say that Gödel was not possessed of a brilliantly neurotic and searching mind, but the author, Palle Yourgrau states his case diffidently, and I believe, uses flawed reasoning. During the 20th century far too much fantastical scientific thinking has centred on Einstein's own labyrinthine and, in real physical terms, scientifically unproven theories concerning time as a so-called '4th Dimension.' For myself, I happen to firmly believe that there is no such extant physical entity or matter as time. The earth spins on its axis, and as it spins it travels elliptically within our solar system around the sun. It travels in a real direction, on a real physical journey (that is hopefully continuous). Exactly as an intelligent Creator God caused it to so act. The years we count are little more than a measurement of the number of physical revolutions which our world has accomplished on its physical journey. I believe that Gödel probably understood this perfectly well and used his own philosophical thoughts to express the rather obvious truth that time, in point of fact, does not actually exist at all. In regard to this, at least, the author has done mankind a greater service than Gödel could ever have hoped for. With more clarity of writing style applied to a better-focussed conclusion, (within such a complex series of conjectured thinking) I would have given the book 5 Stars but nevertheless Palle Yourgrau deserves praise for what he has given us - a book's title that contains a more-than-obvious-truth, although he has done so by way of unnecessary scientific conjecture and artificial reasoning.