By Palle Yourgrau
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Extra info for A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy Of Godel And Einstein
Worn down by years of verbal battles with the ruthless Mach, Boltzmann succumbed to his wildly unstable moods. In 1906, on holiday at the Bay of Duino near Trieste, the great physicist tried once again to take his own life, while his wife and daughters were swimming, this time by hanging. This second attempt succeeded. A great influence, not only on Einstein, had come to a sudden and tragic end. Ludwig Wittgenstein, who had been hoping to make a career in physics and engineering by following Boltzmann's great model, now embarked on a new course that would ultimately lead him, via research in aeronautical engineering in Manchester, England, to Frege and Russell and the foundations of mathematics.
Positivism, a particularly severe brand of intellectual minimalism-a spirit that thrived in Godel's Vienna-is an anti philosophical philosophy dedicated to the belief that most of what has passed for deep metaphysical thinking over the centuries is nothing more than confusion based on an inadequate understanding of language, which, through artifice, leads the mind by the nose in all the wrong directions. Godel did not share the positivist credo that philosophy begins and ends with an analysis of language and its limitations, nor Wittgensteinian's doctrine that the subject matter of traditional philosophy, as opposed to that of physical science, is precisely that which cannot be expressed in language.
The behavior of the molecules of a gas could be seen to obey precise laws only to the extent to which their motions were considered in the aggregate, statistically. It is one of the great paradoxes of physics that the principles of mechanics are time-symmetric-they operate identically if run in reverse-and yet disorder increases with time. , maximum disorder)holds if the system is given a statistical or probabilistic interpretation. Since the direction of maximum entropy has been held to account for the "direction of time" and for the existence of irreversible physical processes like breaking an egg, Boltzmann's contribution was enormous.