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This article is about the general framework of distance and direction. For the s
pace beyond Earth's atmosphere, see Outer space. For the keyboard key, see Space
bar. For other uses, see Space (disambiguation).
A right-handed three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system used to indicate po
sitions in space.
(See diagram description for needed correction.)
Space is the boundless three-dimensional extent in which objects and events have
relative position and direction.[1] Physical space is often conceived in three
linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to
be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime. In mathem
atics, "spaces" are examined with different numbers of dimensions and with diffe
rent underlying structures. The concept of space is considered to be of fundamen
tal importance to an understanding of the physical universe. However, disagreeme
nt continues between philosophers over whether it is itself an entity, a relatio
nship between entities, or part of a conceptual framework.
Debates concerning the nature, essence and the mode of existence of space date b
ack to antiquity; namely, to treatises like the Timaeus of Plato, or Socrates in
his reflections on what the Greeks called khora (i.e. "space"), or in the Physi
cs of Aristotle (Book IV, Delta) in the definition of topos (i.e. place), or eve
n in the later "geometrical conception of place" as "space qua extension" in the
Discourse on Place (Qawl fi al-Makan) of the 11th-century Arab polymath Alhazen
.[2] Many of these classical philosophical questions were discussed in the Renai
ssance and then reformulated in the 17th century, particularly during the early
development of classical mechanics. In Isaac Newton's view, space was absolute in
the sense that it existed permanently and independently of whether there were an
y matter in the space.[3] Other natural philosophers, notably Gottfried Leibniz,
thought instead that space was in fact a collection of relations between object
s, given by their distance and direction from one another. In the 18th century,
the philosopher and theologian George Berkeley attempted to refute the "visibili
ty of spatial depth" in his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision. Later, the met
aphysician Immanuel Kant said neither space nor time can be empirically perceive
d, they are elements of a systematic framework that humans use to structure all
experiences. Kant referred to "space" in his Critique of Pure Reason as being: a
subjective "pure a priori form of intuition", hence it is an unavoidable contri
bution of our human faculties.
In the 19th and 20th centuries mathematicians began to examine geometries that a
re not Euclidean, in which space can be said to be curved, rather than flat. Acc
ording to Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, space around gravitati
onal fields deviates from Euclidean space.[4] Experimental tests of general rela
tivity have confirmed that non-Euclidean space provides a better model for the s
hape of space.
1 Philosophy of space
1.1 Leibniz and Newton
1.2 Kant
1.3 Non-Euclidean geometry



1.4 Gauss and Poincar

1.5 Einstein
3.1 Classical mechanics
3.2 Relativity
3.3 Cosmology
Spatial measurement
Geographical space
In psychology
See also
External links

Philosophy of space
Leibniz and Newton
Gottfried Leibniz
In the seventeenth century, the philosophy of space and time emerged as a centra
l issue in epistemology and metaphysics. At its heart, Gottfried Leibniz, the Ge
rman philosopher-mathematician, and Isaac Newton, the English physicist-mathemat
ician, set out two opposing theories of what space is. Rather than being an enti
ty that independently exists over and above other matter, Leibniz held that spac
e is no more than the collection of spatial relations between objects in the wor
ld: "space is that which results from places taken together".[5] Unoccupied regi
ons are those that could have objects in them, and thus spatial relations with o
ther places. For Leibniz, then, space was an idealised abstraction from the rela
tions between individual entities or their possible locations and therefore coul
d not be continuous but must be discrete.[6] Space could be thought of in a simi
lar way to the relations between family members. Although people in the family a
re related to one another, the relations do not exist independently of the peopl
e.[7] Leibniz argued that space could not exist independently of objects in the
world because that implies a difference between two universes exactly alike exce
pt for the location of the material world in each universe. But since there woul
d be no observational way of telling these universes apart then, according to th
e identity of indiscernibles, there would be no real difference between them. Ac
cording to the principle of sufficient reason, any theory of space that implied
that there could be these two possible universes, must therefore be wrong.[8]
Isaac Newton
Newton took space to be more than relations between material objects and based h
is position on observation and experimentation. For a relationist there can be n
o real difference between inertial motion, in which the object travels with cons
tant velocity, and non-inertial motion, in which the velocity changes with time,
since all spatial measurements are relative to other objects and their motions.
But Newton argued that since non-inertial motion generates forces, it must be a
bsolute.[9] He used the example of water in a spinning bucket to demonstrate his
argument. Water in a bucket is hung from a rope and set to spin, starts with a
flat surface. After a while, as the bucket continues to spin, the surface of the
water becomes concave. If the bucket's spinning is stopped then the surface of
the water remains concave as it continues to spin. The concave surface is theref
ore apparently not the result of relative motion between the bucket and the wate
r.[10] Instead, Newton argued, it must be a result of non-inertial motion relati
ve to space itself. For several centuries the bucket argument was decisive in sh
owing that space must exist independently of matter.
Immanuel Kant

In the eighteenth century the German philosopher Immanuel Kant developed a theor
y of knowledge in which knowledge about space can be both a priori and synthetic
.[11] According to Kant, knowledge about space is synthetic, in that statements
about space are not simply true by virtue of the meaning of the words in the sta
tement. In his work, Kant rejected the view that space must be either a substanc
e or relation. Instead he came to the conclusion that space and time are not dis
covered by humans to be objective features of the world, but are part of an unav
oidable systematic framework for organizing our experiences.[12]
Non-Euclidean geometry
Main article: Non-Euclidean geometry
Spherical geometry is similar to elliptical geometry. On the surface of a sphere
there are no parallel lines.
Euclid's Elements contained five postulates that form the basis for Euclidean ge
ometry. One of these, the parallel postulate has been the subject of debate amon
g mathematicians for many centuries. It states that on any plane on which there
is a straight line L1 and a point P not on L1, there is only one straight line L
2 on the plane that passes through the point P and is parallel to the straight l
ine L1. Until the 19th century, few doubted the truth of the postulate; instead
debate centered over whether it was necessary as an axiom, or whether it was a t
heory that could be derived from the other axioms.[13] Around 1830 though, the H
ungarian Jnos Bolyai and the Russian Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky separately pub
lished treatises on a type of geometry that does not include the parallel postul
ate, called hyperbolic geometry. In this geometry, an infinite number of paralle
l lines pass through the point P. Consequently the sum of angles in a triangle i
s less than 180 and the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is grea
ter than pi. In the 1850s, Bernhard Riemann developed an equivalent theory of el
liptical geometry, in which no parallel lines pass through P. In this geometry,
triangles have more than 180 and circles have a ratio of circumference-to-diamete
r that is less than pi.
Type of geometry
Number of parallels
Sum of angles in a triangle
Ratio of circumference to diameter of circle
Measure of curvature
< 180 > p
< 0
> 180 < p
> 0
Gauss and Poincar
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Henri Poincar
Although there was a prevailing Kantian consensus at the time, once non-Euclidea
n geometries had been formalised, some began to wonder whether or not physical s
pace is curved. Carl Friedrich Gauss, a German mathematician, was the first to c
onsider an empirical investigation of the geometrical structure of space. He tho
ught of making a test of the sum of the angles of an enormous stellar triangle a
nd there are reports he actually carried out a test, on a small scale, by triang
ulating mountain tops in Germany.[14]
Henri Poincar, a French mathematician and physicist of the late 19th century intr
oduced an important insight in which he attempted to demonstrate the futility of
any attempt to discover which geometry applies to space by experiment.[15] He c
onsidered the predicament that would face scientists if they were confined to th
e surface of an imaginary large sphere with particular properties, known as a sp
here-world. In this world, the temperature is taken to vary in such a way that a
ll objects expand and contract in similar proportions in different places on the
sphere. With a suitable falloff in temperature, if the scientists try to use me
asuring rods to determine the sum of the angles in a triangle, they can be decei
ved into thinking that they inhabit a plane, rather than a spherical surface.[16
] In fact, the scientists cannot in principle determine whether they inhabit a p
lane or sphere and, Poincar argued, the same is true for the debate over whether
real space is Euclidean or not. For him, which geometry was used to describe spa

ce, was a matter of convention.[17] Since Euclidean geometry is simpler than non
-Euclidean geometry, he assumed the former would always be used to describe the
'true' geometry of the world.[18]
Albert Einstein
In 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper on a special theory of relativity, in
which he proposed that space and time be combined into a single construct known
as spacetime. In this theory, the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for al
l observers which has the result that two events that appear simultaneous to one p
articular observer will not be simultaneous to another observer if the observers
are moving with respect to one another. Moreover, an observer will measure a mo
ving clock to tick more slowly than one that is stationary with respect to them;
and objects are measured to be shortened in the direction that they are moving
with respect to the observer.
Over the following ten years Einstein worked on a general theory of relativity,
which is a theory of how gravity interacts with spacetime. Instead of viewing gr
avity as a force field acting in spacetime, Einstein suggested that it modifies
the geometric structure of spacetime itself.[19] According to the general theory
, time goes more slowly at places with lower gravitational potentials and rays o
f light bend in the presence of a gravitational field. Scientists have studied t
he behaviour of binary pulsars, confirming the predictions of Einstein's theorie
s and non-Euclidean geometry is usually used to describe spacetime.
In modern mathematics spaces are defined as sets with some added structure. They
are frequently described as different types of manifolds, which are spaces that
locally approximate to Euclidean space, and where the properties are defined la
rgely on local connectedness of points that lie on the manifold. There are howev
er, many diverse mathematical objects that are called spaces. For example, vecto
r spaces such as function spaces may have infinite numbers of independent dimens
ions and a notion of distance very different from Euclidean space, and topologic
al spaces replace the concept of distance with a more abstract idea of nearness.
Classical mechanics
Main article: Classical mechanics
Classical mechanics
\vec{F} = m\vec{a}
Second law of motion
Core topics[show]
Space is one of the few fundamental quantities in physics, meaning that it canno
t be defined via other quantities because nothing more fundamental is known at t
he present. On the other hand, it can be related to other fundamental quantities
. Thus, similar to other fundamental quantities (like time and mass), space can
be explored via measurement and experiment.

Main article: Theory of relativity
Before Einstein's work on relativistic physics, time and space were viewed as in
dependent dimensions. Einstein's discoveries showed that due to relativity of mo
tion our space and time can be mathematically combined into one object
. It turns out that distances in space or in time separately are not invariant w
ith respect to Lorentz coordinate transformations, but distances in Minkowski sp
ace-time along space-time intervals are which justifies the name.
In addition, time and space dimensions should not be viewed as exactly equivalen
t in Minkowski space-time. One can freely move in space but not in time. Thus, t
ime and space coordinates are treated differently both in special relativity (wh
ere time is sometimes considered an imaginary coordinate) and in general relativ
ity (where different signs are assigned to time and space components of spacetim
e metric).
Furthermore, in Einstein's general theory of relativity, it is postulated that s
pace-time is geometrically distorted- curved -near to gravitationally significan
t masses.[20]
One consequence of this postulate, which follows from the equations of general r
elativity, is the prediction of moving ripples of space-time, called gravitation
al waves. While indirect evidence for these waves has been found (in the motions
of the Hulse Taylor binary system, for example) experiments attempting to directl
y measure these waves are ongoing.
Main article: Shape of the universe
Relativity theory leads to the cosmological question of what shape the universe
is, and where space came from. It appears that space was created in the Big Bang
, 13.8 billion years ago[21] and has been expanding ever since. The overall shap
e of space is not known, but space is known to be expanding very rapidly due to
the Cosmic Inflation.
Spatial measurement
Main article: Measurement
The measurement of physical space has long been important. Although earlier soci
eties had developed measuring systems, the International System of Units, (SI),
is now the most common system of units used in the measuring of space, and is al
most universally used.
Currently, the standard space interval, called a standard meter or simply meter,
is defined as the distance traveled by light in a vacuum during a time interval
of exactly 1/299,792,458 of a second. This definition coupled with present defi
nition of the second is based on the special theory of relativity in which the s
peed of light plays the role of a fundamental constant of nature.
Geographical space
See also: Spatial analysis
Geography is the branch of science concerned with identifying and describing the
Earth, utilizing spatial awareness to try to understand why things exist in spe
cific locations. Cartography is the mapping of spaces to allow better navigation
, for visualization purposes and to act as a locational device. Geostatistics ap
ply statistical concepts to collected spatial data to create an estimate for uno
bserved phenomena.
Geographical space is often considered as land, and can have a relation to owner
ship usage (in which space is seen as property or territory). While some culture
s assert the rights of the individual in terms of ownership, other cultures will

identify with a communal approach to land ownership, while still other cultures
such as Australian Aboriginals, rather than asserting ownership rights to land,
invert the relationship and consider that they are in fact owned by the land. S
patial planning is a method of regulating the use of space at land-level, with d
ecisions made at regional, national and international levels. Space can also imp
act on human and cultural behavior, being an important factor in architecture, w
here it will impact on the design of buildings and structures, and on farming.
Ownership of space is not restricted to land. Ownership of airspace and of water
s is decided internationally. Other forms of ownership have been recently assert
ed to other spaces for example to the radio bands of the electromagnetic spectrum
or to cyberspace.
Public space is a term used to define areas of land as collectively owned by the
community, and managed in their name by delegated bodies; such spaces are open
to all, while private property is the land culturally owned by an individual or
company, for their own use and pleasure.
Abstract space is a term used in geography to refer to a hypothetical space char
acterized by complete homogeneity. When modeling activity or behavior, it is a c
onceptual tool used to limit extraneous variables such as terrain.
In psychology
Psychologists first began to study the way space is perceived in the middle of t
he 19th century. Those now concerned with such studies regard it as a distinct b
ranch of psychology. Psychologists analyzing the perception of space are concern
ed with how recognition of an object's physical appearance or its interactions a
re perceived, see, for example, visual space.
Other, more specialized topics studied include amodal perception and object perm
anence. The perception of surroundings is important due to its necessary relevan
ce to survival, especially with regards to hunting and self preservation as well
as simply one's idea of personal space.
Several space-related phobias have been identified, including agoraphobia (the f
ear of open spaces), astrophobia (the fear of celestial space) and claustrophobi
a (the fear of enclosed spaces).
See also
Book icon
Book: Space
Absolute space and time
Aether theories
Effect of spaceflight on the human body
General relativity
Personal space
Shape of the universe
Space exploration
Spatial-temporal reasoning
Spatial analysis
Space propaganda
Britannica Online Encyclopedia: Space
Refer to Plato's Timaeus in the Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University,
and to his reflections on khora. See also Aristotle's Physics, Book IV, Chapter
5, on the definition of topos. Concerning Ibn al-Haytham's 11th century concepti

on of "geometrical place" as "spatial extension", which is akin to Descartes' an

d Leibniz's 17th century notions of extensio and analysis situs, and his own mat
hematical refutation of Aristotle's definition of topos in natural philosophy, r
efer to: Nader El-Bizri, "In Defence of the Sovereignty of Philosophy: al-Baghda
di's Critique of Ibn al-Haytham's Geometrisation of Place", Arabic Sciences and
Philosophy: A Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press), Vol. 17 (2007), p
p. 57-80.
French and Ebison, Classical Mechanics, p. 1
Carnap, R. An introduction to the Philosophy of Science
Leibniz, Fifth letter to Samuel Clarke
Vailati, E, Leibniz & Clarke: A Study of Their Correspondence p. 115
Sklar, L, Philosophy of Physics, p. 20
Sklar, L, Philosophy of Physics, p. 21
Sklar, L, Philosophy of Physics, p. 22
Newton's bucket
Carnap, R, An introduction to the philosophy of science, p. 177-178
Lucas, John Randolph. Space, Time and Causality. p. 149. ISBN 0-19-875057-9.
Carnap, R, An introduction to the philosophy of science, p. 126
Carnap, R, An introduction to the philosophy of science, p. 134-136
Jammer, M, Concepts of Space, p. 165
A medium with a variable index of refraction could also be used to bend the
path of light and again deceive the scientists if they attempt to use light to m
ap out their geometry
Carnap, R, An introduction to the philosophy of science, p. 148
Sklar, L, Philosophy of Physics, p. 57
Sklar, L, Philosophy of Physics, p. 43
chapters 8 and 9- John A. Wheeler "A Journey Into Gravity and Spacetime" Sci
entific American ISBN 0-7167-6034-7
"Cosmic Detectives". The European Space Agency (ESA). 2013-04-02. Retrieved
External links
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