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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (15 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465023312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465023318
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Steve Nadis, coauthor of The Shape of Inner Space "Emmy may be one smart dog, but her owner also happens to be an uncommonly gifted communicator. Chad Orzel's treatment of special and general relativity is comprehensive, informative, and amazingly accessible, yet it's funny too. This is, by far, the most entertaining discussion of the subject that I've ever had the pleasure of reading." Frank Close, author of The Infinity Puzzle "With Nero, the egocentric cat who believes it is the centre of the universe, and Emmy, the student dog whose questions and misunderstandings would drive any teacher to distraction, and whose interest in relativity is how E=mc^2 can turn squirrels into energy, Chad Orzel has created a delightful cast of characters to make his introduction to relativity relatively painless. A cleverly crafted and beautifully explained narrative that guides readers carefully into the depths of relativity. Whether you are a hare or a tortoise, or even a dog, you will enjoy this." Louisa Gilder, author of The Age of Entanglement"For the price of a book, Orzel delivers the heady, joyful experience of taking a small college class with a brilliant and funny professor who really knows how to teach. A thoroughly winning romp through a rock-solid presentation of a beautiful subject." James Kakalios, Professor of Physics, University of Minnesota, and author of The Physics of Superheroes and The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics"Move over, Krypto-there's a new superdog in town! Chad Orzel's dog Emmy, having mastered quantum physics, now helps us understand Einstein's theories of relativity in a deep and accessible way. Get this dog a cape!" Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Calculus Diaries "Everyone's favorite physics-loving canine is back, this time giving us a dog's eye view of Einstein and relativity. Physics professor Chad Orzel leads Emmy (and us) through an engaging tour of light speed, time dilation, and amazing shrinking bunnies (length contraction)-not to mention what all this means for the search for the elusive 'bacon boson.'" Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here"Dogs are a practical species. They aren't interested in speculation and conjecture; they like food, walks, and proven physics like Einstein's relativity. If you really want to further your dog's education (and learn something yourself in the process), Chad Orzel's book is the first place you should turn." Publishers Weekly "[A] compact and instructive walk through Einstein's theory of relativity... [T]he prose is breezy and straightforward, and the material well organized... Relativity constantly amazes, and the glimpses of understanding provide rewarding and satisfying moments." Kirkus Reviews "Unlike quantum physics, which remains bizarre even to experts, much of relativity makes sense. Thus, Einstein's special relativity merely states that the laws of physics and the speed of light are identical for all observers in smooth motion. This sounds trivial but leads to weird if delightfully comprehensible phenomena, provided someone like Orzel delivers a clear explanation of why." Science News "A clever introduction to the often intimidating concepts of special and general relativity, couched as a series of conversations between the author and his dog, Emmy. It may sound like a strange setup, but the somewhat kooky concept works well for explaining a field of physics that can sound, well, kooky to the uninitiated... While keeping the math to a minimum, Orzel provides a clear and thorough primer. It might take some practice to start equating subatomic particles to running bunnies, but the reader will find that puzzling through the details is worth the effort." Booklist "With canine humor and math- or physics-related jokes, Orzel keeps readers interested, while teaching the elements of physics that we promptly forgot after we took the test." Library Journal "Readers who enjoy Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, or Neil deGrasse Tyson will love this book. Full of quotes, math jokes, and silly canines, the book strives to make its audience amazed by, not frightened of, physics. With exuberant Emmy at the lead, readers can't help but be dragged (willingly!) toward a better understanding of special and general relativity." Washington Post "Rather than barking or growling, Emmy leavens the mood with requests for walks; and when the academics get heavy, she interjects to beg for clarification. Obviously, real-life dogs will not walk away from the book with a grasp of the universe's mechanics, but the human sort of non-scientist can get some benefit." Nature Physics "[E]ngaging and readable for a general audience... I suggest people who baulk at the idea of a talking dog but are nevertheless interested in the broad sweep of one of the two great theories of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries should give this book a chance. After all, every dog has its day." BBC Focus "Amusing and engaging... It's informal and has a lightness of touch that can be reassuring when trying to get your head around some big concepts." New York Times "Witty and clear-thinking... Professor Orzel, who teaches physics at Union College and runs the blog Uncertain Principles, is turning his own dog, Emmy, into something of a franchise...succinct and entertaining ... bravo to both man and dog."

About the Author

Chad Orzel received his BA in physics from Williams College, his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Maryland, and his postdoctorate from Yale University. He maintains a regular blog, Uncertain Principles, and is author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. He is currently a professor at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He lives near campus with his wife, their daughter, and, of course, Emmy.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 July 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A large number of books have been published in recent years that attempt to explain relativity to the layman. Many cover the standard topics, often in a similar way; very few have a really original approach to what is, after all, well-trodden ground. So what makes this book different? Well, for one thing there is the dog; the book is partly a continuing dialogue between the author and his (talking) dog Emmy. It follows his successful book "How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog". Not haven't read that, I approached the present volume with some hesitation, because a talking dog seemed to be a rather twee device and I assumed it would be simply annoying. But I was wrong. Yes, the dog doesn't always add much to the narrative, but the exchanges are often humorous, and usually to the point. Moreover, the conversations are interwoven with somewhat more technical discussions (but still without mathematics) covering the same ground, so the canine ones provide lighter intervals to break up these latter explanations. Overall, it works rather well, certainly better than I had expected.

The first half of the book deals with difficult concepts like measurement, simultaneity and synchronization. These are vital to appreciate relativity and so are discussed in considerable detail, with many examples and some repetition. Without care, there is an obvious danger of this being rather dull, but the author, in the main, successfully avoids this by the extensive use of easily understood diagrams, and exploiting the device of the dog. The book covers special and general relativity, and in the second half discusses some interesting applications of the latter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ms. R. L. A. Amelan VINE VOICE on 14 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Some people may have slept through their physics classes but not me: I barely did any at all and what was taught at our rather demure girls' school was delivered so badly that I could not wait to drop the subject. History was much more fun.

Nowadays, I rather regret it and I have been trying to make up for lost ground. Of course Einstein is a "must know" and Chad Orzel and his dog, Emmy, have ridden to my rescue with this totally enchanting little tome. Mind you, as the proud owner of six cats, I am not sure whether it would be Nero (a cat, of course) whom I would have been consigning to a black hole...

Professor Orzel explains Relativity via conversations with his dog, an eager creature who is anxious to understand his master's work. He is also clearly an extremely intelligent beast with a natural talent for understanding complex theories at "first pass". I am not sure that the same can be said for me.

The subject is presented in a logical fashion. First, we have some basic ground work, then move to Special Relativity and finally to General Relativity. There are also diagrams along the way to assist in grasping the topic. The most interesting bits for me were when we came to applying the topic and I readily understood the synchronisation of GPS systems and the astrophysics. I had more difficulty with the light cone and the space time chapter where the diagrams were more complex.

I absolutely loved the book, especially since the author is a clear enthusiast who delights in his subject. This made up for the fact that I felt that the reader really needed some prior knowledge to grasp the topics thoroughly and I found myself resorting to some background reading to support my learning. (I researched Newton, for a start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Hounslow on 26 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Well, you expect the dog bit to get annoying after a while, but hey, it's what it says on the cover! Otherwise it is a great, easy to understand introduction to the concepts of relativity. The dog of the conversations can be substituted with any figure you wish: student, child, adult, whatever. The important thing is the author has approached the subject from the point of the layman who doesn't have an extensive physics background (unlike some other recently lauded works, which claim to be an everyday introduction to subjects such as quantum mechanics and so on but are way beyond this layman's understanding). If you need to understand what is meant by relativity and its importance and relevance to us, then you should start here.
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I like to think that I'm a well-educated person, but I know next to nothing about relativity beyond the famous mass-energy equivalence "e=mc2" and the infamous prohibition against faster-than-light travel. Orzel's book is my first crack at understanding it since I last opened "A Brief History of Time" or, perhaps, my tragically doomed attempt at "The Road to Reality" by Roger Penrose (if that counts; I never got far enough to encounter relativity). It's a marvelously lucid explanation of the topic that doesn't understate the difficulty of the project, or reduce it to a few fatuous metaphors.

Central to Orzel's success is the book's star, Emmy the dog. Aside from injecting some much-needed comic relief and surprisingly deep musings on the implications of relativity (for a dog, anyway) Emmy and her cat-chasing life provide a familiar, consistent backdrop for relativistic events to unfold. By sticking to a handful of setups throughout the book and expanding upon them, Orzel makes it easy to keep a grip on the material. This is most crucial as he moves from special to general relativity; I don't think I'd ever have understood this section if I didn't feel one hundred percent confident about the consequences of the principle of relativity upon dogs in cars.

That's not to say that this is a technical tome translated into dog-ese, though. Orzel weaves a history of relativity into the text, with many diverting notes and asides, and his writing is warm, conversational, and focussed. I can't say I'm not still confused about relativity, but I will say that at least I know what's giving me trouble now. The best compliment I can give the book is that I look forward to moving onto something more technical.
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