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The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity [Kindle Edition]

Pedro G. Ferreira
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
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Book Description

Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement in modern physics. Anything that involves gravity, the force that powers everything on the largest, hottest or densest of scales, can be explained by it.

From the moment Einstein first proposed the theory in 1915, it was received with enthusiasm yet also with tremendous resistance, and for the following ninety years was the source of a series of feuds, vendettas, ideological battles and persecutions featuring a colourful cast of characters.

A gripping, vividly told story, A Perfect Theory entangles itself with the flashpoints of modern history and is the first complete popular history of the theory, showing how it has informed our understanding of exactly what the universe is made of and how much is still undiscovered: from the work of the giant telescopes in the deserts of Chile to our newest ideas about black holes and the Large Hadron Collider deep under French and Swiss soil.

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Product Description


Prof Ferreira is an outstanding storyteller, and the tales here reveal more about how science really works than any number of textbooks (BBC Focus)

You couldn't ask for a better guide to the outer reaches of the universe and the inner workings of the minds of those who've navigated it (Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford and author of The Music of the Primes)

Einstein's beautiful theory is almost a century old, and its ramifications have stimulated a crescendo of discovery ever since. It is now, more than ever, one of the liveliest frontiers of science. Pedro G. Ferreira describes, accessibly and non-technically, how the key breakthroughs have been made, and the personalities who made them. Even readers with zero scientific background will enjoy this finely written survey of one of the greatest of recent scientific endeavours, and get a real feel for the social and human aspects of science (Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal)

This is a fascinating introduction to our present understanding of space, time, and gravity, and to the confusion about how to go about finding a still better theory. Ferreira tells the story without equations or graphs, just well-chosen words about the science and how it grew. I particularly recommend the sketches of scientists in all their curious variety of character traits (James E. Peebles, Albert Einstein Professor of Science, Emeritus. Professor of Physics, Emeritus)

Pedro G. Ferreira's The Perfect Theory is especially welcome. It provides us with an enthralling account of the ideas and personalities of those who were involved (Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College)

Einstein's general relativity is a theory of unrivaled elegance and simplicity. But the history of general relativity is messy, unpredictable, and occasionally dramatic. Pedro G. Ferreira is an expert guide to the twists and turns scientists have gone through in a quest to understand space and time (Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe)

The Perfect Theory is a rollicking good read. We watch as Einstein's brilliant successors struggle and squabble about everything from black holes to quantum gravity. With crisp explanations and narrative flair, Ferreira offers us a fun, fresh take on a magnificent part of modern science (Steven Strogatz, Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of The Joy of x)

Pedro G. Ferreira portrays a community ensnared by a single great idea. His telling is incredibly thorough while still beautiful, deeply considered and affecting. With vivid detail, he brings to life the awesome story of one of humanity's greatest achievements (Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College, Columbia University and author of How the Universe Got Its Spots)

With palpable delight, Ferreira details false starts, chance discoveries, and the vindication of long-ridiculed ideas that emerged from the work that predicted singularities, M-theory, and dark energy . . . Ferreira's clear explanations offer a wonderful look into a world of those who tackle the hard math that is "the key to understanding the history of the universe, the origin of time, and the evolution of . . . the cosmos." (Publishers Weekly)

No book better prepares armchair physicists for the intellectual excitement ahead! (Booklist)

One of the best popular accounts of how Einstein and his followers have been trying to explain the universe for decades (Kirkus Reviews)

Pedro G. Ferreira offers an accessible history of Einstein's theory of relativity in The Perfect Theory. (Arminta Wallace Irish Times, Highlights of 2014)

The Perfect Theory is a perfect guide for this most beloved branch of modern physics. (Sam Kean The Wall Street Journal)

A 'biography' of Einstein's brainchild for those with a smattering of science and next to no mathematics . . . Ferreira lucidly sketches several attempts to generalize Einstein's theory, including string theory, which both describes gravity and offers an explanation of why it exists (Graham Farmelo Nature)

Pedro G. Ferreira offers an accessible history of Einstein's theory of relativity (Irish Independent)

Book Description

An engaging popular history of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, taking in the sheer magnificence of its discovery, as well as the infighting that the theory sparked across a century.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1009 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1408703106
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (4 Feb. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #159,168 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Pedro G. Ferreira is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a fellow and tutor in Physics at Oriel College, Oxford. He has held research positions at the University of California at Berkeley, at CERN in Geneva and visiting positions at the University of Geneva, the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris, Princeton University, the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara and the Galileo Galilei Institute in Florence. He is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and has held a University Research Fellowship of the Royal Society.
He has published over 120 papers in international journals and conference proceedings, has delivered over 150 talks at universities, institutes and conferences all over Europe, America, Asia and Africa. His area of expertise is Cosmology, the Early Universe and Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. He has pioneered research in the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang, the nature of the dark Universe (such as dark matter and dark energy) and has led the way in studying alternatives to Einstein's theory of General Relativity. He has given public interviews and lectures all over the world and is regularly invited onto television to comment on Einstein's theories, black holes, the Big Bang and the beauty of mathematics.
Pedro G. Ferreira has written extensively outside academia, popularizing science. His book "State of the Universe" (W&N 2006, Phoenix, 2007), a primer in modern cosmology, was widely reviewed and is now required reading on a number of undergraduate cosmology courses. He has written for Nature, Science, New Scientist, Physics World, Physics Today, Scientific American, Sky at Night, CERN Courier, BBC Focus, The Guardian. His most recent book, "The Perfect Theory: a Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity" was published by Harcourt (US), Little Brown (UK) and is being translated and published in thirteen more countries.

Customer Reviews

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER
Despite the quote from Marcus du Sautoy on the front referring to this book by astrophysics professor Pedro Ferreira as a ‘guide to the outer reaches of the universe’, this is far more a book about what goes on in human brains – and specifically the development and partial solutions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which turned our understanding of the nature of gravitation upside down.

For me it’s a three bears porridge book. We start off with a section that’s just right, then get a bit that’s far too long and end with a bit that’s far too short. (Okay, I know, the porridge was about temperature, not length, but this wasn’t supposed to be taken literally.) That ‘just right’ opening section gives us Einstein’s work and specifically the development of his masterpiece, the ‘perfect theory’, the general theory of relativity.

This takes a totally opposite approach to, say, Cox and Forshaw’s The Quantum Universe. Where that book does not shy away from presenting difficult detail, Ferreira’s swift, breezy and very readable style wafts us through without any detail at all. Biographically this results in a sanitisation of Einstein’s life (for instance, his first child is never mentioned, and Ferreira makes it sound as if he divorced his first wife before becoming romantically entangled with his cousin). Taking the advice given to Stephen Hawking literally, Ferreira doesn’t show a single equation, not even the central equation of general relativity. I think this is a pity – it is perfectly possible to explain what’s going on there without doing the maths. But his approach does make for an easy read.

The centre section is where Ferreira gets boggled down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 11 May 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read it a while ago but remember it as a well written, and authorative account of twentieth century Physics. Very enjoyable too.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good take on a well-worn topic 21 Sept. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very good take on a well-worn topic. Very enjoyable read.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 25 Oct. 2014
By Simon
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting and scientific in the correct proportions! Suitable for those with some prior physics understanding
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting 26 Jun. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A interesting og good book, Some historical differences between general relativity and quantum physics are low priority ( the clash between Einstein and Bohr at Solway conferences and the Aspect experiment)
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