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On the Intrinsically Ambiguous Nature of Space-Time Diagrams

During, Elie (2012) On the Intrinsically Ambiguous Nature of Space-Time Diagrams. Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, 6 (1). pp. 160-171. ISSN 1913-0465

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Abstract

When the German mathematician Hermann Minkowski first introduced the space-time diagrams that came to be associated with his name, the idea of picturing motion by geometric means, holding time as a fourth dimension of space, was hardly new. But the pictorial device invented by Minkowski was tailor-made for a peculiar variety of space-time: the one imposed by the kinematics of Einstein’s special theory of relativity, with its unified, non-Euclidean underlying geometric structure. By plo tting two or more reference frames in relative motion on the same picture, Minkowski managed to exhibit the geometric basis of such relativistic phenomena as time dilation, length contraction or the dislocation of simultaneity. These disconcerting effects were shown to result from arbitrary projections within four-dimensional space-time. In that respect, Minkowski diagrams are fundamentally different from ordinary space-time graphs. The best way to understand their specificity is to realize how productively ambiguous they are.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
During, Elie
Keywords: Scientific Realism; Epistemic Issues; Epistemology of Science
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Technology
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Jordan Miller
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2021 02:17
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2021 02:17
Item ID: 17867
Journal or Publication Title: Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science
Publisher: The University of Toronto
Official URL: https://spontaneousgenerations.library.utoronto.ca...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v6i1.18645
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Technology
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: 3 October 2012
Page Range: pp. 160-171
Volume: 6
Number: 1
ISSN: 1913-0465
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/17867

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