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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new gold standard for physics books
Chapter one starts by teaching you basic algebra, rapidly but at a consistent speed developing through calculus to tensors. At no point does Peter Collier rely on concepts that he has not previously introduced; even greek letters are named as they are used. OK, to be fair, the rate of progress is such that you either need some knowledge of maths or a brain like...
Published 9 months ago by Marcus

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Still pretty incomprehensible, I'm afraid
I picked up this book because I've always wanted to understand the mathematical ideas and insights - the 'story' if you like - underpinning General Relativity.

I studied Mathematics at Oxford 30 years ago, and took courses in Special and General Relativity. The SR course was very clear and I quickly got the explanation for the formula of the Gamma factor,...
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Steve Lloyd


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new gold standard for physics books, 29 Jun 2013
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Marcus (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Chapter one starts by teaching you basic algebra, rapidly but at a consistent speed developing through calculus to tensors. At no point does Peter Collier rely on concepts that he has not previously introduced; even greek letters are named as they are used. OK, to be fair, the rate of progress is such that you either need some knowledge of maths or a brain like Einstein's to keep up. It would be an interesting experiment to give this book to someone very clever but with only basic maths, and see how they cope. I think anyone who has done any maths at university level should be very comfortable with the book.

In terms of the maths and physics, the book really does take you up to and beyond the General Relativity field equations, and give you an understanding of what they mean. Don't expect proofs of everything on the way, though there are some, and at least you get good hand-waving arguments for why equations have the form they do. The introduction to tensor calculus is particularly clear.

I very strongly recommend any academic writer to study this book carefully. It sets a new standard for how to write an easy-to-understand textbook.

There are a few typos in the formulae, though fewer than you normally get in a book like this, and none that get in the way of the understanding. I'd like to see some questions for the reader at the end of each chapter. It is very reassuring (though sometimes deceptively so) to be able to answer problems as you work through a book like this.

My main criticism is of the Kindle version. The formulae are all fine, but many of the figures have been bizarrely corrupted, so one figure overwrites the previous one. I recommend you only get the Kindle version if you are confident enough to work through the book without pictures. It is possible, but the paper version is only a few pounds more, and you will not regret the expense.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need in one book, 14 Mar 2014
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This review is from: A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity (Paperback)
I am slowly catching up on relativity. But my maths was a little bit rusty. I know the basic concepts, but had not used them for a long time. This book is well structured and has enabled me to undertake rapid revision of my basic understanding. Already I am half way through the book (some 170 pages), thoroughly having understood all the concepts and data structures and a total refresher of my relativity knowledge. This is after three days of reading in my spare time.

I can thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding general relativity from a physical significance point of view. I can't wait to finish it and then return to my higher level text books with a better understanding of where it is trying to go. He deals with Tensors at a level appropriate to understanding relativity. More advanced topics are left to the reader from other sources.

He cites websites where one can practise the concepts introduced and this certainly helps one to get a feel for the subject.

Great book, I wish I'd found it earlier.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book on relativity including understandable mathematics!, 10 Jan 2013
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First of all do not be put off by the title! This is a great book on relativity which nicely bridges the gap between those books catering for readers who know little or nothing about relativity and those texts intended for physics mathematical specialists. The author introduces the concepts of special and general relativity in an easy understandable manner and most importantly makes the key mathematical ideas understandable. The worked examples are appreciated. There are some typos in the text but this is a book I would recommend to all those who would like to get to grips with some of the mathematical ideas behind relativity but were previously putoff by the reputation for complexity in relativity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make a difficult subject very accessible, 2 Jan 2014
This review is from: A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity (Paperback)
I would highly recommend this to anyone who's interested in delving below the level of "popular science" level.
The mathematics is very clearly laid out. The language used throughout is almost 'conversational', which I felt made the text much easier to read.
You still need a reasonable background in maths and physics to fully understand the material covered. That said, the author makes the material very accessible and I think this should be required reading for anyone who sets themselves the challenge of understanding Einstein's general theory of relativity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil Hattan, 23 Nov 2013
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One of the best expositions of the topic I have ever read. Whilst I am coming to terms with much of the mathematics, I feel that with a little more re-reading I am beginning to see fundamental concepts falling into place. I have never really gotten my head around tensors, until now. I can now begin to appreciate how beautiful Einstein's general theory of relativity truly is. I have studied courses on special relativity and I too thought, as the author did, was nothing too difficult. There are many books that attempt to explain the topic but These always steered away from the maths, an I was always left wanting to know more. When I read the sample chapter for this book I was convinced that this was the book I was always looking for. You will not be disappointed in purchasing this book if you want this deeper understanding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the title,this is brilliant, 22 Dec 2013
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This review is from: A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity (Paperback)
This book, despite it's off-putting title, is quite simply one of the best self-study textbooks that I have ever read.
It assumes zero mathematical background, and guides you with relative ease (pun partially intended) to the manipulation of Ricci tensors, Lorentz transformations and Minkowski spacetime etc.

As one reviewer put it, this is a "new gold standard". If you want to see how a clear exposition, without any patronising oversimplification, of a complex topic is done, read this book.

By the end you will have an enriched and enhanced world to inhabit, one in which you have acquainted yourself with one of the handful of remarkable ideas that can truly be classified as great.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done – a magnificent achievement – I use to it help teach the principles of relativity., 28 Feb 2013
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This book is absolutely brilliant if you have forgotten some of the maths. There are also numerous clear examples that have been worked out to illustrate the techniques. It is clearly rigorous with simple explanations, and covers the things you might have forgotten about Newtonian Mechanics too.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Despite the title, this is an ace book, 13 July 2012
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Although many years since I utilised my dubious mathematical skills, this book brought me up to speed (almost) painlessly, and introduced me to the application of this knowledge towards a fuller understanding of relativity.
It is also bang up to date (2011-12).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Still pretty incomprehensible, I'm afraid, 16 Jan 2014
By 
Mr. Steve Lloyd (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity (Paperback)
I picked up this book because I've always wanted to understand the mathematical ideas and insights - the 'story' if you like - underpinning General Relativity.

I studied Mathematics at Oxford 30 years ago, and took courses in Special and General Relativity. The SR course was very clear and I quickly got the explanation for the formula of the Gamma factor, Minkowski spacetime and 4-momentum and I feel I could probably go through the essentials of the theory all the way to E=MC2 with any reasonably switched on class of Maths GCSE students. However, I just didn't get GR at all, perhaps because there was too much to fit in in a typical course. My recollection was that the course started with some general background on cosmic phenomena that GR informs us about, and then promptly dove into lots of abstruse talk of tensor arithmetic, without any discussion of the physical concepts we were trying to model. I think my initial enthusiasm about determining the secrets of cosmology was eventually washed away by a tsunami of boring talk of summation indices, covariant tensors and other sleep-inducing terms.

I was hoping that this book would succeed where my University course failed. However, it seemed much the same story - a lot of terms and arithmetic conventions without any accompanying physical discussion of the point of the exercise. Add to this the fact that the equations are basically unreadable on Kindle and I found myself skipping past most of the meat of the book.

I'm also a bit disappointed in the treatment of those parts of SR that I am familiar with. The derivation of the Gamma factor seemed a lot more wordy and equation heavy (and therefore less intuitive to the lay reader) than the "Imagine a light clock on a train" story that I'm familiar with, and the equation for the total energy seemed to be plucked out of thin air (was a logical step missed out there?) and again the point was less clearly made than the "conservation of the time-like component of 4-momentum" argument I remember from Uni.

To be fair, the synopsis does say that this is fundamentally a maths book, and you do need to "do the math" to get to the gold. However, it does claim to be a book for the lay reader, and I do wonder what sort of lay reader the author has in mind.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehending the incomprehensible, 17 April 2013
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Always wanted to understand the general theory. A unique book. Well done the author. Only three months to read and only 118 pages of written notes. Now for a second reading for complete understanding. A gargantuan effort to the summit but we'll worth the view.
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