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Einstein's Universe: The Layperson's Guide [Paperback]

Nigel Calder
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Feb 2005
An updated edition of a classic of popular science. Leading science writer Nigel Calder, author of Magic Universe, wrote Einstein's Universe to mark the centenary of Einstein's birth in 1979. Now it is reissued to celebrate the centenary of Einstein's 'miraculous year' in 1905, when he wrote five astonishingly original scientific papers and launched his theory of relativity. Calder explains the mind-boggling ideas of relativity in a way every reader can understand, and provides a new chapter detailing discoveries in the years since his book first appeared.

Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Rev Ed edition (24 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141020563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141020563
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 797,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A valuable contribution to the de-mystification of relativity. ("Nature") Calder's gift for simplifying the complex has rarely been better demonstrated. ("San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle")

About the Author

Nigel Calder served his apprenticeship as a science writer on the original staff of the magazine New Scientist, and became its editor, 1962-66. Since then he has worked as an independent author and TV scriptwriter. He won the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for his work for the BBC in a long succession of 'science specials', with accompanying books. Examples are Violent Universe, Restless Earth and The Comet is Coming! The original version of Einstein's Universe accompanied a BBC-WGBH documentary with the same title, scripted by Calder and featuring leading scientists together with the actor Peter Ustinov. Calder continues to report from the frontiers of research, and his most recent book is a comprehensive guide to modern science, called Magic Universe (2003). It was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize for Science Books.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
For those who would normally find Einstein's theories perplexing, or yawn inducing;read this book! The author has succeeded in communicating the genius of Einstein's theories and how they can be, and have been used to explain the universe. The book is arranged such that it is possible to read selected sections in isolation, covering theories on gravity, time, light etc and includes related history. The presentation and style are extremely readable and comprehensive, whilst not patronising to the novice reader. Typically many books on this subject fly to high or low of the mark leaving the reader either bored through over simplification or frustrated from 'techno babble'. The author has done a great job of inspiring and generating interest for the audience.
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I'm a complete lay person, and I found the book extremely interesting. In a way I feel I was short changed in my own education as it seems I was given a Newtonian view of the universe as opposed to an Einsteinian view. I still find it very hard to get my head a round this view, and feel either the book does not do a good job of explaining gravity or it's so incredibly difficult that even the author hasn't fully got his head around it!

Still worth the read though in my own estimation. After this I' going to read Stephen Hawking's "A Briefer History of Time"

A Briefer History of Time
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating 18 Jun 2009
I'm about half way in and struggling to understand the key ideas on gravity, time and light. He's started to say that nothing can travel faster than light without explanation. Too often he passes off descriptions of appearances as if they are reality and I can't believe this is failthful to Einstein. For example he says a spaceship travelling at light speed leaves a black hole behind it. That's like saying when I drive away from my house it shrinks. Without grasping the basics I'm going to have to find another read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relativity for Dummies 6 Dec 2003
By Avid Reader - Published on Amazon.com
I hesitated on the title because it could imply that this book is for "dummies" when in actuality one must have a "relative" understanding of science (phyics and math) in order to truly tackle the subject. But Nigel Calder has made the whole thing a lot easier.
This is NOT one of those small books with large writing and illustrations every over page. It is condensed but not obtuse - no difficult equations or esoteric 11 dimensional theory. The author tackles two subjects - Einstein and his work. Both are interesting to study but as time passes the focus will swing to the latter.
The book has chapters on almost every aspect of the theory - time, gravity, space, acceleration, light, energy, matter... It is almost too much to grasp but Calder does a fine job of organizing the material. Good book.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars E=mc finally makes sense 5 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
For the first time I had the impression I could grasp some of the ideas behind the Relativity Theory. I had read a couple of books before this and did not go much further than understanding the principles of Doppler effect. But Calder's explanations and examples managed to give someone completely innocent of anything but the basics of Newton's gravitation laws some understanding of the relations between energy, mass, acceleration and gravity. The reading is always interesting, the chaining of ideas makes sense most of the time, and the understanding of this quite counter-intuitive theory is enormously rewarding.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book! 3 Sep 2008
By kclam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Nigel Calder's illuminating account of relativity in plain language is amazing. The summary notes in italics at the beginning of each chapter are particularly useful. I enjoy most reading the "Afterword 2005". As the author puts it: "Einstein's questioning of the quantum theory backfired. Discoveries bolster his theories of gravity and cosmology. In the melting pot of ideas, relativity remains untamed. Dawdling spacecraft hint at a flaw in Einstein's theory. Whatever happens, his achievement is indelible."
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introduction I've read on the subject 10 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Calder's book is a lucid and revealing introduction to a subject that defies intuition on first exposure. Einstein developed Special Relativity first, then General Relativity. Virtually every other book presents the two theories in this order. Calder's reverses the order, and makes the subject much more approachable.
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