New Adventures in Spacetime

The Institute of Art and Ideas


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With his first paper on special relativity, Albert Einstein demonstrated that our intuitions have no place in the study of spacetime. But even today we have not reached a consensus on the profound implications of relativity. Eternalism, a view in which past, present and future are equally real, has long been the orthodoxy amongst physicists, but this view is now being challenged at the cutting edge. In this course Dr Eleanor Knox builds up a framework in special relativity to ask: can we recover the present?

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

the two postulates of special relativity
the consequences of special relativity (time dilation and length contraction)
how Minkowski space and lightcones are used to represent Einstein’s spacetime
how the past, present and future are seen in the major perspectives on spacetime
McTaggart’s A and B series
how the block universe might be avoidable.

As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, suggested further readings to explore topics further, discussion boards to have your say and an end of course assessment set by Dr Eleanor Knox.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

The end-of-course assessment is available for authentication by our online proctoring partners Software Secure. Lean how you can earn a verified certificate.

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What you'll learn on the course

Special relativity
Albert Einstein
Perspectives on spacetime
A and B series
Early Career Research

Course programme

Course Syllabus
  • Part One: Introducing Special RelativityHow do space and time become spacetime? Explaining Einstein’s greatest achievement.
  • Part Two: About TimeDoes the past exist? Is the future fixed? Does time flow? Introducing the metaphysics of time.
  • Part Three: Dissolving the PresentKnox presents a philosophy of spacetime: the past and future exist, but the present does not.

Suggested Further Readings

A selection of further readings has been suggested by Dr Knox as part of this course.

Explore Further

Our editors have brought together a range of content from across which explore the ideas in this course.

About the Instructor
  • Eleanor Knox

    Philosopher of science Eleanor Knox is Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Kings College London. Her work focuses on philosophy of space time physics, explanation and intertheoretic relations.