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Special Relativity (MIT Introductory Physics) [Paperback]

A. P. French
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sep 1971 0412343207 978-0412343209 New edition
A self-contained introduction to special relativity for students who have completed an introduction to classical mechanics. The book covers the transition from Newtonian to Einsteinian behaviour for electrons, the relativistic expressions for mass, momentum and energy of particles. Later chapters cover the Lorentz transformations, the laws of kinematics and dynamics according to special relativity. The approach taken is traditional in that it does not rest heavily on electromagnetic theory. However, the final chapter deals with some of the insights that relativity can provide with regard to the relationship between electricity and magnetism. "Real" examples are used and there are problems for students to tackle. Answers are given. This book should be of interest to undergraduate courses in introductory physics and physical sciences.

Product details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Nelson Thornes Ltd; New edition edition (Sep 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0412343207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0412343209
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,111,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I have read many books on relativity (special and general) and have always been left with many questions. Most books, it seems, indulge in hand-waving explanations rather than finding a clear and easy to understand explanation of key concepts. This book is an exception. Starting from first principles, it addresses the concepts in a logical way and each chapter leaves the reader in happy awe at their new understanding.
This book is a must for anyone who wants to develop an understanding of Special Relativity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best introduction to Special Relativity 11 Nov 2011
I first read and owned this book in the late 80s whilst studying for a physics degree. In the intervening years I lent my copy to someone who subsequently failed to return it. It has been missed, so much so that I recently bought a used copy of it to cure my longing - sad, I know! It is because I have recently re-acquired it that I am writing this review to tell anyone who cares that this really is a great book.

Now I also have a copy of another MIT Introductory Physics book by A.P. French, namely Newtonian Mechanics which I have to say is not such a great book as it is overly long and verbose. So I can only conclude that the Special Relativity book is just that, a bit special.

Despite the fact that the price has soared since I bought it I can still recommend this book as it is fairly short, clear, concise and readable ( well, as readable as any textbook can realistically be - I nearly wrote, relativistically ).

It was and still is to me the best introductory text book on Special Relativity available.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have read IT : in my opinion I think to be impossible find a comparable
book for SR.
Bad binding: poor paperback .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive treatment and historical perspective 22 Aug 2003
By actsam - Published on Amazon.com
If you are looking for the fastest way to learn and use special relativity (this is not about general relativity as the previous reviewer says), this is not the best book to use.
After an introductory chapter 1, which quickly previews much of the later material, French systematically analyzes the many observations and contradictions (the Michelson-Morley experiment just one of them), astronomical and laboratory, about the behavior of light that fitted neither an ether-wave model or a particle model. We are thus lead to a deeper appreciation for Einstein's insight and genius in his creation of the special theory of relativity; it was much more than just an extension of the Lorentz-transformations.
French is a master at his subject, and his systematic elucidation will reward the reader with a deep understanding. His problems are very well designed, and he provides answers which is always very helpful in learning.
If you have some time, and would like also to gain historical perspective about what it was like to struggle for a consistent theory in a mass of contradictory observations from the world view of Newtonian mechanics, I highly recommend this book.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple introduction to a very complicated subject 17 July 2002
By digikat - Published on Amazon.com
This book was extremely helpful when I was taking a class on special relativity. The author introduces new concepts and rules in a very logical order, and the examples clearly illustrate the material. The book is written very clearly, especially for such a complicated subject. The problems in the back of every chapter allow you to test yourself and make sure you have grasped the material, since some of them have answers in the back of the book. Overall, a great book to either teach special relativity to yourself, or as a companion for a special relativity class.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only book you need to learn special relativity 30 April 2006
By Vahit Sametoglu - Published on Amazon.com
"Special relativity" is discussed in many classical mechanics, electromagnetism and quantum / modern physics textbooks. You may learn different aspects of this subject from these books.

This book is specifically designed and written for those who want to learn special relativity comprehensively from one single source.

The book starts with the basics of the theories behind special relativity with simple arguments and plain language. In the first 5 chapters, you learn the mechanical fundamentals of special relativity. The examples and end-of-chapter problems are very useful and instructive. Furthermore, the answers to all problems are given in back of the book as well, which enables you to check your answers. Starting from chapter 6, more advanced topics are introduced, like momentum, energy, basic electromagnetism and so forth. Again, the problems should be solved by students in order to gain a thorough comprehension of the subject matter. The diagrams and pictures in the book are also very helpful to understand the concepts.

The bibliography at the end of the book can be used to consult for further discussions, because special relativity has many applications in various areas of physics.

To sum up, this book, all by itself, can be used to learn and understand special relativity very well in a short period of time, because it is concise, simple, effective, pedagogically well-prepared and very suitable for self-study. You do not need any other fancy, expensive book. A.P. French does an excellent job in laying out the principles of special relativity with illustrative examples and problems. It deserves every penny you paid.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 25 Jan 2011
By Self-studier of theoretical physics - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the best book on special relativity that I have ever come across. It truly teaches the reader where all the ideas from special relativity come from. The author spends incredible time trying to explain difficult ideas in a fashion that is as clear as possible. This maybe makes it lose points from the standpoint of brevity and aesthetics, but French's primary goal here is exactly what it should be: to be as clear as possible about the physical ideas. I definitely strongly recommend this superb book to any student of special relativity.

Very little prerequisites are required, just basic calculus (even single variable is sufficient). More than anything the reader needs to be willing to think through the ideas carefully and confidently. At the end of the book, the reader is rewarded by learning how the magnetic field (and corresponding magnetic field laws) has to exist as a natural consequence coulombs law and the principle of special relativity. This ties into advanced ideas on electrodynamics (and can be pursued further in an also excellent book on electrodynamics by Schwartz).

I do have a few potential criticisms of this book. The initial chapter on the history of the field is nice, but it definitely delays the reader (who is willing to take on face the experimental finding that the measurment of the speed of light is the same regardless of one's [inertial] state of motion) that is anxious to get on to SR. Another real criticism of this book is that despite its exceptional explanations of the physical insight and motivation behind SR and its key formulas, it does not nicely develop its four-dimensional formulation. This may be out of the scope of this book, but it really is essential for the development of the general theory of relativity (and is important to understand advanced treatments of electrodynamics such as that by Schwartz mentioned above).

If you have time (and are also looking for an 'easier' read), it is worth reading Wheeler's spacetime physics after this book. That book gives better insight into the geometric nature of relativity than this book and thus helps the reader build up to GR. However, despite also being a good book, the wheeler book teaches you how to 'do' SR but really fails at logically developing the subject and explaining where the (initially very counter-intuitive) ideas come from. That is where French really excels.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic 3 Jun 2006
By G. R. Dixon - Published on Amazon.com
I purchased this classic work at MIT, circa 1972, and have referenced it too times to remember. When I bought it, the book was part of the M.I.T. INTRODUCTORY PHYSICS SERIES. It contains about everything one could wish for on the subject matter. The derived transformations for acceleration and force (i.e. of d(mv)/dt) have been especially useful, and are not often included in other books. It is truly a gem, created by a world class physics instructor at the top of his game. G.R.Dixon.
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