Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Gödel and Einstein

Palle Yourgrau has a new book coming out titled 'A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein'. In an excerpt at the Chronicle of Higher Education, he discusses the notion of "Gödel universes", solutions proposed by Gödel to the field equations of general relativity,
solutions in which time would undergo a shocking transformation. The mathematics, the physics, and the philosophy of Gödel's results were all new. In the possible worlds governed by these new cosmological solutions, the so-called "rotating" or "Gödel universes," it turned out that the space-time structure is so greatly warped or curved by the distribution of matter that there exist timelike, future-directed paths by which a spaceship, if it travels fast enough -- and Gödel worked out the precise speed and fuel requirements, omitting only the lunch menu -- can penetrate into any region of the past, present, or future.

Gödel, the union of Einstein and Kafka, had for the first time in human history proved, from the equations of relativity, that time travel was not a philosopher's fantasy but a scientific possibility. Yet again he had somehow contrived, from within the very heart of mathematics, to drop a bomb into the laps of the philosophers. The fallout, however, from this mathematical bomb was even more perilous than that from the incompleteness theorem. Gödel was quick to point out that if we can revisit the past, then it never really "passed." But a time that fails to "pass" is no time at all.
The only story I know involving Gödel and Einstein is the apocryphal one about Gödel finding loopholes in the U.S Constitution that could allow a dictator to take over, and then being convinced by Einstein not to share this with immigration authorities. I had never heard about Gödel dabbling in general relativity: this sounds rather interesting.

Via ALDaily...


  1. "No consistent system can be used to prove its own consistency."

    Why? How is this a philosophical problem? The wikipedia page deals within the context of mathematics. But, going by the theorems reputation, I suppose it has much wider implications. Do you have any suggestions for further reading?

    The idea of Time suggested above is mind-bending! I get the same shock I experienced when I understood Chris Everett's Many-worlds Interpretation. -Selva (

  2. I had read about Godel's solutions to General Relativity quite a while ago. I don't recall where but I remember that the article said that Kurt showed his rotating universe ideas to Einstein who thought it interesting but absurd.

    If you want to learn more about theories that consider time to be nonexistent then you might do a search on Julian Barbour.


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