The concept of mass is one of the most fundamental notions in physics, comparable in importance only to those of space and time. But in contrast to the latter, which are the subject of innumerable physical and philosophical studies, the concept of mass has been but rarely investigated. Here Max Jammer, a leading philosopher and historian of physics, provides a concise but comprehensive, coherent, and self-contained study of the concept of mass as it is defined, interpreted, and applied in contemporary (...) physics and as it is critically examined in the modern philosophy of science. With its focus on theories proposed after the mid-1950s, the book is the first of its kind, covering the most recent experimental and theoretical investigations into the nature of mass and its role in modern physics, from the realm of elementary particles to the cosmology of galaxies.The book begins with an analysis of the persistent difficulties of defining inertial mass in a noncircular manner and discusses the related question of whether mass is an observational or a theoretical concept. It then studies the notion of mass in special relativity and the delicate problem of whether the relativistic rest mass is the only legitimate notion of mass and whether it is identical with the classical mass. This is followed by a critical analysis of the different derivations of the famous mass-energy relationship E = mc2 and its conflicting interpretations. Jammer then devotes a chapter to the distinction between inertial and gravitational mass and to the various versions of the so-called equivalence principle with which Newton initiated his Principia but which also became the starting point of Einstein's general relativity, which supersedes Newtonian physics. The book concludes with a presentation of recently proposed global and local dynamical theories of the origin and nature of mass.Destined to become a much-consulted reference for philosophers and physicists, this book is also written for the nonprofessional general reader interested in the foundations of physics. (shrink)
Newly updated study surveys concept of space from standpoint of historical development. Space in antiquity, Judeo-Christian ideas about space, Newton’s concept of absolute space, space from 18th century to present. Extensive new chapter (6) reviews changes in philosophy of space since publication of second edition (1969). Numerous original quotations and bibliographical references. "...admirably compact and swiftly paced style."—Philosophy of Science. Foreword by Albert Einstein. Bibliography.
Max Jammer's Concepts of Simultaneity presents a comprehensive, accessible account of the historical development of an important and controversial concept -- which played a critical role in initiating modern theoretical physics -- from the days of Egyptian hieroglyphs through to Einstein's work in 1905, and beyond. Beginning with the use of the concept of simultaneity in ancient Egypt and in the Bible, the study discusses its role in Greek and medieval philosophy as well as its significance in Newtonian physics and (...) in the ideas of Leibniz, Kant, and other classical philosophers. The central theme of Jammer's presentation is a critical analysis of the use of this concept by philosophers of science, like Poincaré, and its significant role in inaugurating modern theoretical physics in Einstein's special theory of relativity. Particular attention is paid to the philosophical problem of whether the notion of distant simultaneity presents a factual reality or only a hypothetical convention. The study concludes with an analysis of simultaneity's importance in general relativity and quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The eminent mathematical physicist Sir Hermann Bondi once said: “There is no more to science than its method, and there is no more to its method than Popper has said.” Indeed, many regard Sir Karl Raimund Popper the greatest philosopher of science in our generation. Much of what Popper “has said” refers to physics, but physicists, generally speaking, have little knowledge of what he has said. True, Popper's philosophy of science and, in particular, his realistic interpretation of quantum mechanics deviates (...) considerably from the generally accepted doctrine. But as Popper, rightly I think, points out, it is precisely the proliferation of divergent theories which promotes the growth of scientific knowledge; it would be a danger for physics if physicists were dogmatically tied to a single theory or would not test their theory against alternatives. It is for this purpose that, on the occasion of the nonagenarian celebration of Popper's birthday, the present essay has been written. (shrink)
‘‘The strange Story of the Concept which inaugurated Modern Theoretical Physics’’ is the title of a lecture which I delivered on the invitation of Professor Franco Selleri at the University of Bari about 20 years ago. Since Professor Selleri himself has written several interesting papers on this concept and since the centennial of the birth of modern theoretical physics will be celebrated soon, I found it appropriate to dedicate this essay, containing so far unpublished critical and historical comments on this (...) concept, to Professor Selleri on the occasion of his 70th birthday. It should be emphasized that the critical comments in this essay are not intended to question the validity of the theory initiated by this concept, a theory which in the realm of its applicability is daily corroborated by numerous experiments in high-energy laboratories all over the world. Although these critical remarks refer almost exclusively to the first publication of this theory, a publication which has been hailed as ‘‘the most important paper written in the 20th century,’’ they discuss profound problems of general importance for the study of the foundations of physics. (shrink)
« Concepts d’espace » est un classique de la philosophie et de l’histoire des sciences. Enrichi d’une célèbre préface d’Albert Einstein, l’ouvrage de Max Jammer couvre près de vingt-cinq siècles d’élaboration du concept d’espace physique. L’auteur allie la méthode historique à la méthode philosophique dans l’analyse des différentes traditions scientifique et philosophique, et c’est là l’originalité de ce travail dont la cohérence tient à l’unité d’une question sans cesse remise sur le métier : le problème de l’espace dans la théorie (...) physique. Depuis sa première parution en 1954, l’ouvrage a été considérablement augmenté, d’abord en 1969 par l’allongement du cinquième chapitre consacré au concept d’espace dans la science moderne, puis en 1993, par l’ajout d’un sixième et dernier chapitre visant à apprécier les avancées théoriques nouvelles.L’édition française comporte une postface originale de Marc Lachièze-Rey qui prolonge et renouvelle l’analyse de Max Jammer par une présentation de certains développements actuels en physique. (shrink)