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Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?) Hardcover – 2 Jul 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press Inc (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306817586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306817588
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw, two physicists, have managed to produce an account of relativity physics accessible to a wide range of various publics. If you're not a physicist (or not yet a physicist) and you want to understand what Einstein and relativity theory are all about, you would do well to read this book. The writing is clear, sparkling in places, and totally without vanity. Relativity theory, Einstein's supreme gift to us, is at the heart of the way science currently looks at physical reality, and anyone with an adventurous mind should be intrigued by what two smart physicists say about it in plain language... Read this book. It's your world, isn't it?
-- Huffington Post, July 2009

"An account of relativity physics accessible to a wide range of various publics. If you're not a physicist (or not yet a physicist) and you want to understand what Einstein and relativity theory are all about, you would do well to read this book. The writing is clear, sparkling in places, and totally without vanity. Relativity theory, Einstein's supreme gift to us, is at the heart of the way science currently looks at physical reality, and anyone with an adventurous mind should be intrigued by what two smart physicists say about it in plain language... [A] delightful little book." -- Huffington Post, USA

"Cox and Forshaw take the equation that all of us know and few of us understand - and make it crystal clear for all of us. A thrilling experience of passionate comprehension."
-- Ann Druyan, Cosmos television series

"I can think of no one, Stephen Hawking included, who more perfectly combines authority, knowledge, passion, clarity, and powers of elucidation than Brian Cox. If you really want to know how Big Science Works and why it matters to each of us in the smallest way, then be entertained by this dazzlingly enthusiastic man. Can someone this charming really be a professor?" -- Stephen Fry, 2009

"The authors do a great job of answering the question in the book's title, and of tying it to the cutting edge of 21st century physics. But they do much more besides. First, they give a real sense of revelation as the
equation emerges from the seemingly unrelated concepts of space and time. Second, they're not afraid to take on questions often asked about the equation."
-- BBC Focus

'(The authors have)blazed a clear trail into forbidding territory, from the mathematical structure of space-time all the way to atom bombs, astrophysics and the origin of mass." -- The New Scientist

Review

"The authors do a great job of answering the question in the book's title, and of tying it to the cutting edge of 21st century physics. But they do much more besides. First, they give a real sense of revelation as the
equation emerges from the seemingly unrelated concepts of space and time. Second, they're not afraid to take on questions often asked about the equation."

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

217 of 221 people found the following review helpful By TomCat on 28 Jun 2011
Format: Paperback
Before I start this review, just let me tell you where I stand re: popular science. I'm a complete beginner! The most amateur of amateurs. I'm intrigued, interested verging on passionate - but I've only read a handful of science books. So, I came to this book knowing nothing about the famous equation other than "energy equals mass times the speed of light squared" which, pre facto, was pretty much meaningless to me.

As I understand it, the success of this book varies wildly depending on the individual reader's pre-existing knowledge of science/quantum physics etc. As such, this is a review for people like me: utter beginners in the field.

In brief: the first half of the book is brilliant! Informative, well-written and mind-blowing in the way that high-concept astronomy often is. The second half of the book, however, is an incredibly difficult, long-winded explanation of vectors and the so-called 'master equation', most of which flew right over my head. I read it all, and bits of it made sense to me but, like many people here; this just feels like two books. The first half is clearly for people like me (beginners) whereas the second half is a radically different reading experience, which I imagine is much more suited to hardened afficianados of popular science.

Now for more detail: The first 150 pages or so don't explain the famous equation, as such; rather, they explain the things we *need* to know in order to understand the equation; such as the relative nature of time and space. All of this is articulated with very helpful diagrams, metaphors and fictional anecdotes. Any basic maths here (such as Pythagoras) is re-capped for the forgetful student(i.e. me) and parts of the book are also strikingly funny.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John Dexter on 21 Oct 2010
Format: Hardcover
With so many books to read and so little time to read them, it's rare to find one worthy of being read repeatedly; however, for me, why does E=mc² certainly fits into that category and I found my latest reading to be just as enjoyable as the first. Undoubtedly, Cox and Forshaw have produced one of the outstanding introductory texts to Einstein's theories of relativity, presenting their arguments in an absorbing prose that stimulates the imagination and challenges one's intellect. That said, this book is not without its shortcomings and, consequently, I am not quite convinced that it qualifies as a popular science "classic".

Firstly, whilst acknowledging that Cox and Forshaw did not intend to write "a book about mathematics", the concept of special relativity does benefit from a comprehensive mathematical explanation: its simplicity is what makes the idea so beautiful and the authors fail their readers by simply presenting information without bothering to demonstrate its derivation (for instance, the time dilation equation (p.127)). In essence, readers without the requisite scientific or mathematical training are simply required to accept such assertions (or seek their explanations elsewhere) and that dilutes the impact of the reasoning. Ironically, this is as much a presentational failing as anything else and the authors could have avoided this problem, without a significant increase in explanatory text, by simply improving the quality of some diagrams and including the stepwise transformations of Pythagoras' theorem.

Secondly, notwithstanding my (genuine) praise for the authors' lucidity, there are times when the prose becomes unnecessarily convoluted.
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139 of 145 people found the following review helpful By fatima on 8 Oct 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Recommended by my son who is interested in all things cosmic, I anticipated a better understanding of modern physics, something I never got to grips with at school.

It wasn't an easy read because of the formulae and maths - I think a few more occasions where the formulae were written out in words would have helped. I found myself having to flip back to remember what the letters stood for until they eventually sunk in.

Having said that, once past the fog, it was great, and very satisfying to gain some understanding of curved space, mass and the speed of light. Now I wish I had paid more attention at school. The writing style is entertaining, engaging and not at all patronising.A great journey, well guided - I intend to read it again to make sure it stays in my head.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tsuchan on 20 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For me, the high point of the book is in Chapter 3, where we get an overview of Special Relativity, and - astonishingly - get to prove it with something as simple as Pythagorus!

But Cox and Forshaw have this annoying, matey style which is something like having a Radio 2 DJ for a teacher. They're always telling you what's coming up soon, how interesting it will be - and with minimum of complexity. When the explanation actually starts, there are lots of digressions, apologies for digressions, spot checks on where we've got to, how far we've got to go, motivators to say how well we're doing and how worthwhile this will be when we've got there.

But after all, I don't feel I'm spared any complexity, just worn out with the whole journey. If only the excess chatter had been put into better explanations, this would be a much better book.
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