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A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel And Einstein

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  628 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
[Yourgrau] presents the nature of an intimate friendship between two magnificent thinkers and the nature of Godel's work, which inspired Einstein but is now lost in obscurity. (Deseret Morning News) In 1942, the logician Kurt Godel and Albert Einstein became close friends; they walked to and from their offices every day, exchanging ideas about science, philosophy, politics ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 24th 2006 by Basic Books (first published December 28th 2004)
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Danny Brynes
Apr 28, 2008 Danny Brynes added it
Recommends it for: losers, philosophers(same thing)
I was so offended by how bad this book was I actually burnt it. I would not wish to inflict this book on anyone.

Let's start by getting some basic facts straight:

1) Both Godel and Einstein were geniuses who made very fundamental contributions at a rather young age. Godel made one major contribution and Einstein made several contributions including his phD which is one of the most cited papers in physics - it is the use of diffusion in hot liquids to measure a certain constant, but the technique d
Aug 27, 2008 Alex rated it liked it
This was an amusing and fairly light read. It aims to be a kind of popularization, presenting the intellectual and personal connections between Einstein and Godel. Its main substantive focus is Godel's argument for the conclusion that Einstein's physical theory implies a kind of idealism about time. Yourgrau aims at a rehabilitation of Godel's post-incompleteness intellectual labor. The substantive discussion is good -- though somewhat incomplete. (For a more strictly theoretical discussion cons ...more
Sander Almekinders
Aug 10, 2010 Sander Almekinders rated it liked it
First and foremost, this book is an attempt by the author to vindicate Gödel as an important philosopher of the 20th century. However, it is not until the final chapter of the book that Yourgrau finally gets around to this. It is a pity that he does not elaborate on the concept of a world without time as it occurs in a Gödel universe (and therefore also in our universe), or on Gödel's arguments. The explanation of the incompleteness theorem was very clear and well-written, whereas this lucidity ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Isabelle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the philosophy of math, science and especially -- time!
Absolutely phenomenal look at Godel's influence on modern science and his response to Einstein's SR and GR (which contain his theories on SR and GR not allowing for an intuitive notion of flowing time). Amazing insight into the logical positivist movement and Godel's incompleteness theorem, which Yourgrau explains in succinctly (as succinct as it can possibly get) and clearly. Also is a wonderful look at both Godel and Einstein as men and their friendship. Highly recommend it to anyone who quest ...more
Dec 27, 2016 Jeremy rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting description of Godel's life with Einstein, together at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, how they both got there, and their final years. This book is a little more about Godel than Einstein. I really liked how the writer was able to talk at length about the Vienna Circle and each thinker's place in it, how they dealt with WWII, how they interacted with each other and why, and the crux of each one's theories. You don't often get this kind of context, even i ...more
Dec 05, 2016 Gene rated it it was amazing
While your head may explode trying to understand it, you'll come away with a clearer understanding of the complexity of the universe.
Ed Smiley
Apr 11, 2010 Ed Smiley rated it liked it
In the annals of twentieth century physical and mathematical thought there were a series of crises, and as a result of those crises, in many cases some kind of limitative result was derived.

Two of the figures involved in these results became deep friends in their late years at Princeton: the voluble Einstein and the strange reclusive Gödel, and this book dwells on the development of their philosophical views and the outcomes of some of that thought in the late work of Kurt Gödel.

Gödel, it is to
Jul 27, 2015 Christopher rated it it was ok
The title is suggestive of pop-science, but it's misleading: the book is a mathematical-philosophy-heavy Gödel hagiography. It's not really about Einstein, either, except to the extent that he served as a sort of foil and inspiration for Gödel's later philosophical work.

Relativity was the starting point for Gödel's inquiry into alternative relativistic spacetimes and their implications for our intuitive sense of time, and he concluded that time does not exist in any sense that resembles our int
Sep 05, 2007 Rob rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who are already interested in godel and einstein, not beginners
when Kurt Godel died, he weighed 65 pounds. quite possibly the greatest genius ever had become super-crazy and basically starved himself to death due to extreme hypochondria and paranoia. the personal lives and struggles of geniuses are generally interesting to learn about, but come on, aren't their brilliant thoughts much more interesting?

i guess the author wrote a book in 1999 on the same subject, aimed at academic philosophers. then a publisher convinced him to take that book, hack out lots
Keith Akers
May 21, 2010 Keith Akers rated it really liked it
I read this book and "Incompleteness" by Rebecca Goldstein at the same time. They are both quite good books and, as written by academic philosophers, generally mitigate my general negative opinion of academic philosophy. If you are interested in Goedel's ideas about "time travel" then this is your book. (It's actually not a "Star Trek" type concept, as Yourgrau makes clear.) If you are more interested in the proof itself, read Goldstein, who goes into more detail. But really you should read both ...more
Alan Marchant
Jul 11, 2009 Alan Marchant rated it really liked it
A World Withouit Philosophers

... will be the most appropriate legacy of Kurt Goedel.

READ THIS BOOK for an accessible and entertaining summary of Goedel's important contributions to mathematical logic, his troubled life, and the shamefully defensive response of professional philosophy.

DON'T READ IT for insights into Einstein (a very minor part of the story) or the nature of time.

The title of Palle Yourgau's book A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel And Einstein promises new insight
May 06, 2016 David rated it liked it
Almost 4 stars . . .Read the last chapter first - then read the entire book.

"His approach, then, would take the form of a frontal assault on the ontological implications of relativity theory."

What is this book about? Well, simplistically, if you subscribe to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, then you must conclude that time does, not exist if you follow Godel's reasoning. The book covers Kurt Godel, his entrenchment in the Vienna circle before WWII, his philosophy his friendship with Einstein, hi
Sep 04, 2010 Angjelin rated it it was ok
The book is badly written and I do not recommend it to anyone. I do not recommend it to people interested in the subject because it never properly delves into it. It is too distilled with biographical trivia to hold interest in the subject matter it purports to explicate. it is badly structured in the sense that the author has no intuitive sense of how to blend biographical data with philosophical discussion. You realize from the first paragraph what kind of book it is going to be when the autho ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Jan 24, 2011 Fraser Kinnear rated it really liked it
A very good book, but with some limitations. It's pretty clear that this was written by a philosopher, rather than a mathematician. Yourgrau shows it in his explanation of Godel's incompleteness theorems: rather than work through Godel numbering, recursive furmulae, etc., we get a more philosophical illustration of the Incompleteness theorem, which comes out less robust. In fact, I'd have an awful hard time understanding what Yourgrau was saying if I hadn't already studied Godel's work elsewhere ...more
Feb 11, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Maybe I'm a sap for unlikely friendship stories, or maybe I am just that fascinated with all things Godel.
Kurt Godel is a man whom next to nobody has heard of. A 20th century math logician caught in the Nazi drive to rid the world of Jews (he was not Jewish, but he was smart, and that was enough to implicate you in the deep and thoughtful Nazi mind...OK? *rolls eyes*). His eventual emigration to the United States landed him at Princeton where Einstein already had settled. Einstein was a jovial,
Ed Terrell
Nov 29, 2013 Ed Terrell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, mathematics
Wonderful story teller and a wonderful story about the friendship between Godel and Einstein. The book is a good review of the Incompleteness theorem of Godel and how using similar tactics he takes up where Einstein stopped with his theories of relativity. The investigation of the limits of formal methods in capturing intuitive ideas will have your head spinning. There are solutions to special and general relativity in which rotating universes exists in which time cannot be defined without contr ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Caracalla rated it really liked it
Great as an introduction to: the lives of Godel/Einstein, both kinds of relativity, work on natural numbers from Cantor to Godel, the incompleteness theorem, just generally enlightening. That last Yourgrau makes a very good attempt at explaining to a layman (but maybe even something like Godel Escher Bach is more specialized for that and obviously the technical accounts are probably best). The book mainly aims to defend Godel's later work on physics, philosophy of physics and philosophy against ...more
Sep 29, 2014 Kiril rated it liked it
The book is beautifully written, and makes even someone as stupid as me appreciate concepts of logics and philosophy. The only reason I don't give it more stars is that I'm not very familiar with the topic.

It is actually hard to characterize Goedel, since his work in logic and the foundations of mathematics actually defines him not just as a logician, but also as a philosopher. My understanding after reading this book is that Goedel not only proved the Incompleteness Theorem, which was a very ne
Sep 10, 2010 Jose rated it liked it
This book confirms my suspicion, time doesn't exist. It was interesting how the bulk of the book seemed to be about the friendship of Godel and Einstein and thier eccentric personalities. The actual physics of time and relativity kind of took a backseat to this human element, which wasn't necessarily bad. The entire book leaves hints about how Godel and even Einstein thought that maybe time was an illusion created by our brains somehow. They never come right out and say this but it is implied wh ...more
Jan 28, 2009 Ginn rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Although the first few chapters were only mildly interesting (like another reviewer said, you could tell where the inclusion of random 'human interest' type segments was forced), overall it was intriguing. The best chapters were the last three, in which Godel's theory about time is addressed. The very last chapter holds a scathing rebuttal to those who criticise Godel's philisophical achievements.

In general, I'm glad I found this book because Godel's notion that intuitive time does not exist mak
May 17, 2012 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting read if you have any interest at all in philosophy of time and how it relates to Einstein's theory of relativity. Yourgrau highlights an intriguing and under-appreciated relationship between the logician Kurt Gödel and Einstein, which led to a surprise finding by the former: if we accept relativity, then we cannot treat our notion of time as a physically-real property of the universe. The whole idea sounds daunting, and the subject matter most certainly is if you dig into the guts ...more
David M
I confess to having troubles following the logic of the incompleteness theorem, but I don't doubt it was one of the great intellectual achievements of the twentieth century, and its implications are endlessly fascinating.

Otherwise my main takeaways from this book: Godel loved Leibniz and considered Husserl the most important twentieth century philosopher (if that doesn't give you added motivation to read those two, I don't know what will); also, Godel spent a large chunk of his life working out
Aug 29, 2010 Earl rated it it was ok
Interesting anecdotes and a fair version of the first Incompleteness Theorem, but Yourgrau really does seem to be one of those philosophers Feynman warned you about. The misinterpretations of physics verge on the deliberate in his attempt to defend a string of casuistic fumblings derived from incomplete cosmological models. The physical errors are perhaps forgivable, but resorting to modal arguments is pathetic, especially in "defense" of the greatest logician of the twentieth century.
John Jr.
Read as research for a play about suicide: Kurt Gödel essentially starved himself to death. Illuminating for its portrayal of the friendship of Gödel and Einstein as well as its discussions of their work in physics and logic, especially where that pertains to the question of time--if Gödel's 1947 paper is correct (and according to this book no error has yet been found in its reasoning), then time as we think of it does not exist.
Trevor McGuire
Jan 20, 2016 Trevor McGuire rated it did not like it
I didn't actually finish this book. I stopped with about 50 pages to go or so. I just couldn't get into it. It read like what I think a philosophy textbook would be like. One can only use the words ontology and epistemology in the same sentence so many times in one book. I'm sure the author was knowledgeable, and that the material was interesting, but it just didn't do it for me. I'll stick with the science and math side of Einstein and Godel.
May 09, 2014 Guy rated it it was amazing
A remarkable book that shows how Gödel's brief work in relativity theory has heretofore been improperly considered, that it really stands as an important work that illuminates the metaphysical nature of time, and should be considered in correlation with Gödel's profound incompleteness theorems (probably the greatest discovery of the 20th century). Deep concepts are explained quite clearly, as are Gödel's philosophical aims.
Aug 07, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing
A history of the often unknown relationship between two of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Gödel, one of the most ground-breaking mathematicians in history, friend to Einstein, without equivocation the most famous of all physicists. A great story of the lives of incredibly insightful and innovative men, how they interact with each other, and how they interact with us lower life forms.
Jen Jen
Jan 30, 2015 Jen Jen rated it it was amazing
Leí este hermoso libro hace ya algunos años y desde el momento en que lo compré tuve la corazonada de que sería una experiencia inolvidable y que se convertiría en uno de mis mejores libros. Así fue, desde entonces no he encontrado otro igual a éste. Mi primera lectura fue en español ahora espero practicar mi inglés.
Jan 11, 2010 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-math
An interesting discussion on the impacts on the Positivist school of philosophy of Godel's later researches into General Relativity while at the Institute for Advanced Studies. More interesting still were the biographical anecdotes about Godel.
Mar 15, 2007 Jafar rated it really liked it
Godel, on the occasion of Einstein's 70 birthday, gives him a solution of his equations in which, under certain circumstances, time becomes circular.... Does that sound like a mathematical proof for Nietzsche's eternal recurrence?
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“There is no doubt that Einstein's pipe was his closest associate, while others--including wife and family--were never permitted the illusion that they would ever be at the center of his life.” 2 likes
“For Einstein, as for Gödel, philosophy without ontology was an illusion, and physics without philosophy reduced to engineering.” 1 likes
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