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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
IMHO this book achieves exactly what it sets out to, which is to provide an enjoyable background to Einstein's most famous work. Skipping between key points in Einsteins life, light-weight physics and the social-life of certain noteable physicists the book is always entertaining even if some of the physics is flawed. Despite these flaws the book provides a very readable...
Published on 12 Aug. 2002 by D.J.N.Maddox

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a book about history, not physics
Looking at the other reviews it's apparent that the book allowed lots of its readers to finally understand the famous equation. Apparently I'm either too stupid or too inquisitive, but my experience was quite different.

In my opinion this is mostly a history book, just like one could expect from its subtitle "A Biography of the World's Most Famous...
Published 11 months ago by J. Cora


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's a book about history, not physics, 2 Mar. 2014
By 
J. Cora - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Looking at the other reviews it's apparent that the book allowed lots of its readers to finally understand the famous equation. Apparently I'm either too stupid or too inquisitive, but my experience was quite different.

In my opinion this is mostly a history book, just like one could expect from its subtitle "A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation". It provides comprehensive historical background, spiced up with a lot of little known facts about people, whose work eventually contributed to the formulation of the special relativity theory. It also broadly discusses the consequences of this development, with particular attention given to the race between the Nazis and the US to create the first nuclear bomb.

However, when it comes to the actual equation, the book only skims the surface and mostly wanders around vague borders between physics, cosmology and philosophy. It does not offer any math beyond this deceptively simple equation nor does it explain how the equation relates to the formulas describing the relationship between energy, mass and velocity we learned at school.

The book is a well written biography, and if you are interested in the history of science you will probably enjoy it. However, how anyone could learn any physics from this book remains beyond my comprehension.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, 12 Aug. 2002
IMHO this book achieves exactly what it sets out to, which is to provide an enjoyable background to Einstein's most famous work. Skipping between key points in Einsteins life, light-weight physics and the social-life of certain noteable physicists the book is always entertaining even if some of the physics is flawed. Despite these flaws the book provides a very readable introduction for the layman and the physics coverered (such as it is) will be more than sufficient for 90% of people. The remaining 10% (those with a physics background) shouldnt be reading this book, the rest will come away knowing more than they did before!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars even I understood it so it must be simple, 8 Nov. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation (Hardcover)
David Bodanis set out to explain E=mc2 to non-scientists, who knew the equation is supposed to be really important but have no idea why. ie Me.
And he succeeded. Well, pretty much.
The book is very well written and easy to follow. Bodanis not only explains what the equation means, but where it comes from. And where its sources come from, so that you can follow Einstein's logic.
He also gives you fascinating insights into the lives of the scientists - executed at the Bastille, denounced as fools, forced to recant their life's work as false, etc etc.
The scary science stuff is explained using simple examples - a girl on a bike pedalling towards 30mph takes the place of an atom hurtling towards the speed of light - so that implications can be comprehended.
The book will not make you an Einstein. I still found myself asking "but why?" at some points, but at least now I feel that I grasp the concept and can follow what's going on...
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A friendly introduction to the Great man's equation!, 11 Nov. 2001
By A Customer
A well written "biography" of the well known and often quoted equation presented in a clear style. Not a deep mathematical wade through the complexities but a history of the events leading to the equation being born. The book takes the reader through the gestation period, childhood and adult life. Finishing with it's death in the form of the universes demise. A really entertaining read.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expanding spaceships and other stories, 22 May 2004
By 
C. M. Weeks "chris-weeks" (Maidenhead, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a very enjoyable ride through the story of the world's most famous formula. It's classed as popular science but it could just as easily be classed as popular history. The pure science content is firmly set in its historical context and against the personal foibles and character of the principal protagonists. This makes for a highly digestible blend of learning and anecdote.
The book's great strength is in its use of accessible examples to illustrate the science. I've struggled with descriptions of the theory of relativity before and lost them about the time that the train starts stretching as it passes the stationery observer. David Bodanis builds up visual examples with easy to follow logic. He has an instinctive understanding of the layman's instinctive 'difficult' questions that block their understanding and he does not shirk them.
I picked up on this book following its namecheck in Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything". Their styles are similar and if you liked that you will like this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, 19 July 2013
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This book is not about E=mc2 it is about the science and the people involved. The theory of mass, energy, the speed of light and mathematical symbolism that make up the equation. I have been interested in science for many years read numerous books on Einstein and Quantum theory, so I was slightly disappointed it wasn't about Special Relativity but on the other hand it was a very interesting book, amusing, enlightening, easy to read.
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32 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor and misleading - minus 5 stars if allowed, 19 Jan. 2003
By 
This is one of the worst science books I have ever read. It has so many flaws it is hard to list them all; the biographies in many places are completely inaccurate and biased. Heisenberg is damned with no references what-so-ever to any saving graces, even though any science historian will tell you that this is no simple matter. There is no mention of the trivial errors that Heisenberg made in calculations which would have speeded up the German atom bomb and which Heisenberg claimed later were deliberate. All the biographies are completely one-sided and with no depth.
The science is wrong in many places. Continually he writes that kinetic is given by, E=mv^2 when the correct answer is half that. His so-called derivation of this formula is that some scientists measured that E=mv was too small so they tried E=mv^2. A useless explanation of an interesting and fundamental point. On the point of using mv (momentum) or mv^2 ((twice) kinetic energy) in calculations, he misses the point that momentum has direction and energy doesn't. A trivial, but very insightful point completely missed.
His thorough and clear explanation (ha!) of the speed of light being an absolute limit is misleading also. Apparently somehow light 'squirts' out elctric and magnetic waves and therefore must always go at the speed of light! ... as a professional physicist this explanation is laughable and is in no-way helping to understand what actually happens.
A further annoying point was his constant reference to his own website for further details. I know that I can find information on the internet, but here I decided to read a book. If I wanted to search the net, then I would have done so. If the website contains relevant information, then put it in the book.
Basically I hated this book. It's explanations are often wrong and always awkward, which is especially annoying as there are many good books out there (e.g. books like 'Science Matters'). His biographies are glancing and one dimensional and again so often wrong and misleading. Do not buy this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars spot on, 2 Aug. 2006
This is the kind of book that makes science interesting. Bodanis knows what the regular reader is wondering, and responds in an easy, accessible way. I started this book with no idea what the equation meant, and understood it pretty well by the end, but more importantly actually enjoyed reading it.

I'm an editor and writer by profession, and found the writing really absorbing. And criticisms of the book's level from professional scientists are a little bizarre - why buy such a book if you understand the topic thoroughly? For me it hit the spot, entertained me, and frankly gave as much depth as I was looking for. I can't wait to read Bodanis' next book.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars PHYSICS LITE --- IN VACUO, 30 Jan. 2001
This review is from: E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation (Hardcover)
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When you read the Preface of this book, the author tells us he was inspired to write it, following a comment made by a Hollywood starlet in a movie magazine. This sets the tone for the rest of the book. Pure flim flam.
The Bodanis approach includes giving us salacious details on the love life of Voltaire's mistress. His dumbing down of basic chemistry includes a description of Lavoisier's oxidation experiments as "some of the gases must have flown down and stuck to the metal".
With the speed of light as the critical element to his story he persists throughout the book in giving its speed in miles per hour (670 million). To impress us he squares it and gives us all the zeroes. Wouldn't he be doing everybody a favour if he introduced scientific notation and even occasionally referred to the International System for units of measurement? After all, those French guys 220 years ago did come up with metres and kilograms, without which modern science would be impossible. Those relationships between mass, time and energy (which is what this book is meant to be all about) are unlikely to have been realized without the introduction of the metric system.
His description of radioactivity is almost comic when we have radiation "squirting out" of Marie Curie's uranium ores. We are told poor Marie's fate was sealed when "radioactive dust slams into the DNA of her bones". We are given no mention of her inhaling all the radon gas emanating from that radium she so famously discovered. It is the effects of this radon that is now generally acknowledged as the most probable cause of her death.
In many places in the book he confuses nuclear fission and fusion, at one point drawing similarities between the processes at work in a star and what makes a uranium bomb work. For example, he writes "our sun explodes the equivalent of many millions of such bombs every second"
The most fundamental fallacy in the book is the way Bodanis links directly Einstein's equation of 1905 and the unleashing of man-made nuclear energy in the early 1940's. The Special Theory of Relativity of which the famous equation is central had nothing to do with the development of the A-Bomb. The essence of Einstein's argument (and equation) is that energy has inertia, and inertia has energy. There was no reference in his work as to how the energy may be released; yet Bodanis persists in referring to "the full power of Einstein's equation" when he talks about the events of 1905.
Glaring contradictions are found throughout the book. On page 169 Bodanis writes " when that great mushroom cloud appeared E=mc^2's first work on planet Earth was done". A chapter or so later when talking about natural process at work within the earth he gives us " Volcanoes exploded upward - powered by the constant E=mc^2 derived heat beneath".
The sad irony of this book is seeing a significant topic dealt with in such a lightweight manner. Worthwhile (and readable) science books for general audiences do exist. The superficial, error-ridden and vacuous crassitude of this book is most disappointing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for bringing this most famous of equations to everybody, 4 Jun. 2010
By 
MweaG (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
I read a lot of science books, and my background and training is all in science as well. And I love this book!

Having done some teaching, my biggest problem with how science is taught is that the human element, i.e. the bit that makes it more interesting and easier to remember, is almost always left out. This book corrects that in spades, and brings what is probably one of the most fundamental equations of all time to the masses. Which is as it should be, this kind of thing should not be the reserve of the elite few. As you're reading about the people and their work, you're also learning about the equation, without it being painful and without really realising it. This is popular science written as it should be!

The only reason I would dock a star is that I would have liked some of the meatier information, stuff on the equation requiring more brainwork, more of the mathematics. However, this probably contradicts what I've already written, as it might have made it somewhat less accessible to the general public. There are other books around where I can satisfy that compulsion, and this book certainly motivates me to go find out more. And isn't that what any good science book should do? Okay, sod it, five stars!

Please read this book, you will definitely enjoy it!
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E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation
E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis (Hardcover - 22 Sept. 2000)
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