Janna Levin on Space and Time

  • By David Levin
  • Posted 11.10.11
  • NOVA

Physicist Janna Levin says that Einstein and Newton had very different ideas about what space and time really are.



Posted: November 10, 2011

Before Einstein, people like Newton would have said that space and time were fixed and permanent—a kind of rigid stage, and all the events of the universe played out against this rigid stage. And that space and time was the same for everybody, everywhere in the universe. It was something you didn't even have to think about. You simply recorded the events of the universe according to where they occurred in space and in time, but there was no need to think much deeper than that.

Einstein famously destroyed that picture of spacetime being a permanent stage against which all of the events of the universe unfold. And instead, spacetime is something that's mutable, that can evolve, that's relative. And he begins to think of space and time as part of a four-dimensional world. And he starts to think about our motion through that four-dimensional world. And just like you can move through space differently from somebody else moving through space—somebody might be sitting still relative to you—you can move through time differently than someone else moves through time.



Produced by
David Levin
Original interview by
Randy MacLowery


(Janna Levin)
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2011

Major funding for "The Fabric of the Cosmos" is provided by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Additional funding for this program is provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

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