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Einstein's Clocks and Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time

by Peter Galison

"More than a history of science; it is a tour de force in the genre."--New York Times Book Review A dramatic new account of the parallel quests to harness time that culminated in the revolutionary science of relativity, Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps is "part history, part science, part adventure, part biography, part meditation on the meaning of modernity....In Galison's telling of science, the meters and wires and epoxy and solder come alive as characters, along with physicists, engineers, technicians and others....Galison has unearthed fascinating material" (New York Times). Clocks and trains, telegraphs and colonial conquest: the challenges of the late nineteenth century were an indispensable real-world background to the enormous theoretical breakthrough of relativity. And two giants at the foundations of modern science were converging, step-by-step, on the answer: Albert Einstein, an young, obscure German physicist experimenting with measuring time using telegraph networks and with the coordination of clocks at train stations; and the renowned mathematician Henri Poincaré, president of the French Bureau of Longitude, mapping time coordinates across continents. Each found that to understand the newly global world, he had to determine whether there existed a pure time in which simultaneity was absolute or whether time was relative. Esteemed historian of science Peter Galison has culled new information from rarely seen photographs, forgotten patents, and unexplored archives to tell the fascinating story of two scientists whose concrete, professional preoccupations engaged them in a silent race toward a theory that would conquer the empire of time.

The View from Above

by Jeanne Haffner Peter Galison

In mid-twentieth century France, the term "social space" ( l'espace social) -- the idea that spatial form and social life are inextricably linked -- emerged in a variety of social science disciplines. Taken up by the French New Left, it also came to inform the practice of urban planning. In The View from Above, Jeanne Haffner traces the evolution of the science of social space from the interwar period to the 1970s, illuminating in particular the role of aerial photography in this new way of conceptualizing socio-spatial relations. As early as the 1930s, the view from above served for Marcel Griaule and other anthropologists as a means of connecting the social and the spatial. Just a few decades later, the Marxist urban sociologist Henri Lefebvre called the perspective enabled by aerial photography -- a technique closely associated with the French colonial state and military -- "the space of state control." Lefebvre and others nevertheless used the notion of social space to recast the problem of massive modernist housing projects (grands ensembles) to encompass the modern suburb (banlieue) itself -- a critique that has contemporary resonance in light of the banlieue riots of 2005 and 2007. Haffner shows how such "views" permitted new ways of conceptualizing the old problem of housing to emerge. She also points to broader issues, including the influence of the colonies on the metropole, the application of sociological expertise to the study of the built environment, and the development of a spatially oriented critique of capitalism.

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