Jimena Canales, University of Illinois

Jimena Canales, University of Illinois-Urbana

CANCELLED Thursday, 6 June 2019 at 14:00 in the Large Operon, EMBL Heidelberg

Jimena Canales, University of Illinois-Urbana

The Trouble with Einstein's Time


Einstein’s famous claim that “the distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion” underpins most physicists’ current understanding of time. Yet in recent years, a growing number of contemporary physicists have opposed the need to write off our experience of emergent temporality from our understanding of the universe. The “hole at the heart of physics” (Scientific American, 2002) is usually traced back to how time is defined by the theory of relativity and the “block universe”. Can these debates be solved by science alone or are they inescapably philosophical, historical and cultural? My talk will explore the origins of this persistent quandary by focusing on the relation of physics to philosophy, and history and the humanities.


Jimena Canales is an expert in the history of science. She was formerly the Thomas M. Siebel Professor at the University of Illinois and an Associate Professor at Harvard University.

Canales is the author of A Tenth of a Second (The Guardian’s Top 10 Books About Time) and The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time (Best Science Books 2015 Science Friday, NPR, and Brainpickings, Top Reads 2015 The Independent, Books of the Year 2016 The Tablet, 10 Books to Read if 'A Brief History of Time' Was Too Brief Undark 2018).