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Time machines

Earman, John and Wüthrich, Christian (2010) Time machines. In: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. UNSPECIFIED. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Abstract

Recent years have seen a growing consensus in the philosophical community that the grandfather paradox and similar logical puzzles do not preclude the possibility of time travel scenarios that utilize spacetimes containing closed timelike curves. At the same time, physicists, who for half a century acknowledged that the general theory of relativity is compatible with such spacetimes, have intensely studied the question whether the operation of a time machine would be admissible in the context of the same theory and of its quantum cousins. A time machine is a device which brings about closed timelike curves—and thus enables time travel—where none would have existed otherwise. The physics literature contains various no-go theorems for time machines, i.e., theorems which purport to establish that, under physically plausible assumptions, the operation of a time machine is impossible. We conclude that for the time being there exists no conclusive no-go theorem against time machines. The character of the material covered in this article makes it inevitable that its content is of a rather technical nature. We contend, however, that philosophers should nevertheless be interested in this literature for at least two reasons. First, the topic of time machines leads to a number of interesting foundations issues in classical and quantum theories of gravity; and second, philosophers can contribute to the topic by clarifying what it means for a device to count as a time machine, by relating the debate to other concerns such as Penrose's cosmic censorship conjecture and the fate of determinism in general relativity theory, and by eliminating a number of confusions regarding the status of the paradoxes of time travel. The present article addresses these ambitions in as non-technical a manner as possible, and the reader is referred to the relevant physics literature for details.


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Details

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Earman, Johnjearman@pitt.eduJEARMAN
Wüthrich, Christian
Centers: University Centers > Center for Philosophy of Science
Date: 2010
Date Type: Publication
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Edition: Winter 2010 Edition
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Refereed: Yes
Title of Book: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Editors:
EditorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Zalta, Edward NUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Official URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2010/entries...
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2012 14:14
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2017 05:07
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/13131

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