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Since antiquity, opposed concepts such as the One and the Many, the Finite and the Infinite, and the Absolute and the Relative, have been a driving force in philosophical, scientific, and mathematical thought. Yet they have also given rise to perplexing problems and conceptual paradoxes which continue to haunt scientists and philosophers. In Oppositions and Paradoxes, John L. Bell explains and investigates the paradoxes and puzzles that arise out of conceptual oppositions in physics and mathematics. In the process, Bell not only motivates abstract conceptual thinking about the paradoxes at issue, but he also offers a compelling introduction to central ideas in such otherwise-difficult topics as non-Euclidean geometry, relativity, and quantum physics.
These paradoxes are often as fun as they are flabbergasting. Consider, for example, the famous Tristram Shandy paradox: an immortal man composing an autobiography so slowly as to require a year of writing to describe each day of his life he would, if he had infinite time, presumably never complete the work, although no individual part of it would remain unwritten. Or think of an office mailbox labelled mail for those with no mailboxif this is a persons mailbox, how can they possibly have no mailbox? These and many other paradoxes straddle the boundary between physics and metaphysics, and demonstrate the hidden difficulty in many of our most basic concepts.