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23 Reviews
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you need in one book
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...
Published 7 months ago by Eric

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9 of 12 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 9 months ago by Mr. Steve Lloyd


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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good introduction, 12 Nov 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)
The author is to be thanked for his efforts. I graduated in physics many years ago and always wanted to get a reasonable understanding of general relativity which was not studied in my degree course. For my purposes this book was just what I needed and better places me to understand more advanced books.

The book has its weaknesses. For example Section 8.3 seems rather long winded and there appears to be a more straight forward approach in Hobson et al (see below). Section 9.4.8 on the gravitational deflection of light could be better written with less hand waving. I also spotted some typos and incorrect cross references but these are relatively few for a book of this type.

I have an alternative book entitled "General Relativity: An Introduction for Physicists" by Hobson, Efstathiou and Lasenby (Cambridge University Press). The two books complement each other well in that Collier is very good in the basics with Hobson et al excelling in the applications of general relativity and addresses most of the weaknesses in Chapters 8 and 9 of Collier. For those who have gone through this book and wish to read further about the applications and more complete derivations then I would recommend Hobson et al.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The secrets of mathematical physics revealed., 1 Aug 2014
This review is from: A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity (Paperback)
Einstein's achievements are foundation stones of modern physical theory, but like so many are quite impenetrable to laymen. Numerous books have explained their conceptual basis in terms that are too simplistic to be satisfying, since they either omit the mathematics altogether, or, like Max Born's superlative book on relativity, use very simplified alternatives. "You can't understand it without the maths" is the dismissive response by the High Priests of Science to any persistent enquiry. Yet there would be many, like the present writer, who suspect that they are intellectually equal to understanding at least some of the maths, but lack time and motivation for so tedious an undertaking.

If you're one of them, here's your chance to put your suspicion to the test.

Most people think that mathematics is about calculation. Whilst true of Elementary Maths, Higher Maths is a very different animal. Key to understanding it is to realize that it is a formal symbology for representing and manipulating abstract concepts. In Pure Maths, these have no physical interpretation; but in Theoretical Physics, some or all of the initial symbols are given correlates in physical theory. This is not unique; alchemists have a large symbology with well-defined real-world interpretations, as do many occult schools and secret societies. The difference with Applied Advanced Mathematics is the carefully-constructed set of rules for manipulating the symbols - Higher Algebras, if you like. The initial symbols are expanded into parameters within these algebras, which may or may not have physical correlates, and manipulated according to the rules to produce results, sometimes amenable to numeric solutions, that are claimed to describe or predict physical equivalents.

This is a fascinating intellectual exercise that can be followed if the underlying concepts are clearly grasped. Few have the patience or interest needed to master the mechanics of calculation, nor is there any need for this if one seeks only understanding rather than calculational expertise. Peter Collier has done all such aspirants the inestimable favour of plodding through the luminous fields of theory and barren wastes of exercises to emerge, not only with a clear conceptual perspective, but the ability to condense and present it in very readable form.

This book is a valuable contribution to a wider understanding of the inner workings of modern theories that have subtle but profound consequences in today's knowledge-based societies. The High Priests will doubtless wish him exiled to the Siberian tundras along with the likes of Edward Snowden. The rest of us can sing his praises.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book. Probably the best GR book I've read, 17 July 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)
Awesome book. Probably the best GR book I've read. The other good one is Exploring Black Holes by Wheeler.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars monster, 14 May 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)
its a maths monster
if maths isn't your scene you'll feel you're being water boarded by calculus
yes it is incomprehensible
but 1 day I'll master it, perhaps.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST, 24 Feb 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 describe the book as the BEST, BEAUTIFUL, BOLD, and A SUPERB ONE.
The way the book explains and teaches one of the most difficult subjects, (special and general) theory of relativity
is simply amazing. After reading this book , one would be able to understand the technical things related to tensors very easily, and would be able to do calculations with ease as well. Peter Collier has done a great job. I wanted to give more than 5 stars to this book!!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The title caught my attention and the contents delivered, 17 Feb 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)
The booked delivers what it promised and something that I've always wanted to learn about, relativity theory was broken down and digested in very easily understood parts ... if you have some prior grounding the concepts of calculates and vectors. If you don't have this grounding you can still get through the material but probably have a bit more work to do.

Great book that doesn't waffle just helps one understand.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book, well written and clear, 4 Feb 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)
Moves at a reasonable pace and references where you can seek further clarification when required. Excellent over of a complex subject
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really excellent treatment for readers without background in physics., 2 Feb 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 have a background in mathematics for economics and econometrics but no training in physics. I have looked for this type of book for some time and A Most Incomprehensible Thing explains in a most comprehensible fashion the mathematics of relativity theory.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent text, 29 Oct 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)
An excellent book. I am an undergraduate physicist starting level 3 studies and this book was more useful than the official university texts. A couple of days with it cleared up my frustrations, it is a pleasure to read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done!, 21 Oct 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)
Started straight on Page 171 as an introduction to general relativity and worked through the end One of the clearest expositions on the subject I have seen A few typos but less than what I have seen in other books on the subject. I felt that the author had developed the theory of tensors sufficiently well to have derived the Riemann tensor rather than leaving it as a statement The short section on the energy momentum tensor could have been a little clearer I really liked the derivation of the Schwarzschild metric, very thorough and very clear Would have kied an appendix setting out the calculations for the precession of Mercury and the bending of light but well done!
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