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Gödel Meets Einstein cover

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ISBN 0-8126-9408-2

$32.00   paper

253 pages

(November 1999)


Gödel Meets Einstein

Time Travel in the Gödel Universe

Palle Yourgrau

What happens when the century's greatest logician meets the century's greatest physicist? In the case of Kurt Gödel and Albert Einstein, the result is Gödel's revolutionary new world models for relativity theory.

Although most famous for his Incompleteness Theorems in mathematical logic, Gödel was a philosopher in his own right, with a special interest in the philosophical problem of Time.

Most people are unaware that Gödel and Einstein were close friends for many years at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. Gödel extended Einstein's General Theory of Relativity with cosmological models—now known as "Gödel Universes"—with extraordinary properties, including the possibility of closed, timelike curves that allow the philosophical fantasy of time travel to become a scientific reality.

For Gödel, however, the reality of time travel signals the unreality of time. If he's right, the real meaning of the Einstein revolution remained a secret for half a century and is only being revealed now.

"Combining careful scholarship with imaginative philosophical insight, Yourgrau has produced a stimulating investigation into the often neglected philosophical aspects of Gödel's thought. Taking as its centerpiece Gödel's discovery of models of general relatively with closed causal curves, Yourgrau goes on to give enlightening accounts of Gödel's platonism in mathematics, his idealism with regard to time, and his subtle views about the actual world from features of worlds that are merely possible."

—Lawrence Sklar, University of Michigan

"Time flows. What is past is real, while what is future is not yet real. Gödel Meets Einstein demonstrates that modern mathematical physics, especially relativity theory, is incompatible with those simple ideas, that the incompatibility needs to be taken seriously, and that standard dissolutions of the incompatibility fail. It analyzes Gödel's fascinating views on this problem, showing that Gödel's work on relativity is a part of the same philosophical program as are his more widely celebrated incompleteness results."

—Shaughan Lavine, University of Arizona

"Palle Yourgrau has written a highly informed, penetrating, and skillful books on the philosophy of time. His central goal is the proper understanding of Gödel's argument for the ideality of time from his famous 'rotating universes' solutions to Einstein's field equations. Since time travel is possible in such universes, time is, in its ordinary sense, merely ideal in such universes."

—Ellery Eells, University of Wisconsin-Madison

"Gödel Meets Einstein is an attempt, often breathtaking, to bring various current scientific, methodological, and philosophical topics into real dialogue with a bona fide Big Issue: the nature of reality and the question of what is or fails to be part of that reality—such as change, time, infinity, the dead. Even in those cases where most of us will join the forces of orthodoxy against him—as in his discussion of the Zenonian Dichotomy paradox, where he denies the significance of the standard distinction between convergent and divergent infinite series—Yourgrau cogently challenges us to see to it that our dogmatism is not of the unexamined, 'slumbering' variety."

—Michael J. White, Arizona State University

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