Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers, and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes

Hardcover | November 1, 1995

byJohn Earman

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Almost from its inception, Einstein's general theory of relativity was known to sanction spacetime models harboring singularities. Until the 1960s, however, spacetime singularities were thought to be artifacts of the idealizations of the models. This attitude evaporated in the face of a seriesof theorems, due largely to Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, which showed that Einstein's general theory implies that singularities can be expected to occur in a wide variety of conditions in both gravitational collapse and in cosmology. In the light of these results some physicists adopted theattitude that, since spacetime singularities are intolerable, general relativity contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Others hoped that peaceful coexistence with singularities could be achieved by proving a form of Roger Penrose's cosmic censorship hypothesis, which would placesingularities safely inside black holes. Whatever the attitude one adopts toward spacetime singularities, it is evident that they raise a number of foundational problems for physics and have profound implications for the philosophy of space and time. However, philosophers of science have been slowto awaken to the significance of these developments. Indeed, this is the first serious book-length study of the subject by a philosopher of science. It features an overview of the literature on singularities, as well as an analytic commentary on their significance to a number of scientific andphilosophical issues.

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From Our Editors

Almost from its inception, Einstein's general theory of relativity was known to sanction spacetime models harboring singularities, which involve a breakdown in the very fabric of space and time and, consequently, a failure of the known laws of physics. Until the 1960s, however, spacetime singularities were thought to be artifacts of id...

From the Publisher

Almost from its inception, Einstein's general theory of relativity was known to sanction spacetime models harboring singularities. Until the 1960s, however, spacetime singularities were thought to be artifacts of the idealizations of the models. This attitude evaporated in the face of a seriesof theorems, due largely to Stephen Hawking...

From the Jacket

Almost from its inception, Einstein's general theory of relativity was known to sanction spacetime models harboring singularities, which involve a breakdown in the very fabric of space and time and, consequently, a failure of the known laws of physics. Until the 1960s, however, spacetime singularities were thought to be artifacts of id...

John Earman is at University of Pittsburgh.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.49 × 6.5 × 1.14 inPublished:November 1, 1995Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019509591X

ISBN - 13:9780195095913

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From Our Editors

Almost from its inception, Einstein's general theory of relativity was known to sanction spacetime models harboring singularities, which involve a breakdown in the very fabric of space and time and, consequently, a failure of the known laws of physics. Until the 1960s, however, spacetime singularities were thought to be artifacts of idealizations of the models. This attitude evaporated in the face of work by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, whose theorems showed that Einstein's general theory implies that singularities can be expected to occur in a wide variety of conditions in both gravitational collapse and in cosmology. In the light of these results, some physicists began to believe that, since spacetime singularities are intolerable, general relativity contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Others hoped that peaceful coexistence with singularities could be achieved by proving a form of Roger Penrose's "cosmic censorship" hypothesis, which would place singularities safely inside black holes. Whatever the attitude one adopts toward spacetime

Editorial Reviews

"It is greatly to be hoped that this book, by setting out and elucidating the main problems, will stimulate more work in this area, so important for the understanding of the foundations of physics. Earman has shown in a most impressive way that the philosophy of science can develop only if itkeeps closely in touch with the latest scientific advances."--International Philosophical Quarterly