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10
3.8 out of 5 stars
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory Second Edition
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2011
I won't comment on the quality of the text itself, but please stay away from this edition of the book. The layout is just shameful. 1/It's ugly. 2/It's full of obvious spelling mistakes, the kind a 1990s spellchecker would find immediately 3/It's unclear. For instance the book is made of many chapters and Einstein keeps referring to previous ones by number. However, each chapter's number is nowhere to be found save in the general summary (no header, no footer, not even at the start of the chapter). This makes it painful to go back and forth. 4/The few equations in the book are barely readable. Once again, the equation editor in a 10y old Word produces better results.
Would have expected such a scientific book to be edited in LaTeX which would have solved most issues - as it is it looks like a cheap, quick and dirty edition which really spoils the read.
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on 20 April 2014
This book by Albert Einstein is a wonderfully written explanation of his revolutionary ideas. It is aimed at non-experts and is as such very readable, though be warned that it does contain some equations. This book will allow you to gain some insight into one of the most groundbreaking scientific achievements of the 20th century, and you owe it to yourself to read.

HOWEVER, you also owe it to yourself to read a different version than this sorry excuse for a book. This edition is an insult to the care with which Einstein have attempted to explain his ideas. You will find obvious spelling mistakes, even in the titles for the sections, you will find equations of so poor resolution that they are completely illegible, and you will find references to chapters that aren't even numbered, leaving you confused as to which chapter was actually referenced.
Not only that, but the layout is very ugly as well, with terribly spaced lines and line breaks, and weird irregularities in the mathematical notation. This so-called book is a disgrace, and I hope no one ever buys it again.
As for me, I'm going to throw it out and find another edition that is actually readable.
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on 29 July 2013
After struggling to understand some contemporary popular-science-book renditions of Relativity, I thought well perhaps it might be a good idea to try Einstein himself. Aesthetically and functionally this book was very much to my taste; it has a nice cover, it is 246mm x 190mm in size and each sub-section is small and starts on a new page - great for someone like me whose relevant mental capacities are quite inadequate. There are a few typos in my copy but they were not too irritating nor unsurvivable in terms of inferring the text's meaning. Presently I am only interested in understanding the particular, or "Special" Relativity, and I am not commenting on the book's text on General Relativity. Einstein shows us there is a contradiction in the physics at hand, and then with some quite beautiful and breath-taking reasoning leads us to spectacular new ways of thinking which resolve the issue. I'm slightly baffled as to how anyone could have bought "W=v+w" in the first place, but hindsight and sitting next to Einstein in the exam can lead one to conceit.
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on 19 May 2012
This is a manuscript that has undergone no proof-reading whatsoever and is littered with errors which go beyond mere typos. I suspect it has been scanned using OCR, given the nature of the errors. For example, a fragment that should have read, "clocks and material points under the influence of the gravitational field" is rendered "docks and material points tinder the... ."
Likewise the (few) algebraic equations are odd: 1 is often rendered as I; primed variables are depicted with superscript 1; variables v and V in the same equation are conflated; omega and rho are replaced with w and p and so on.

Aside from this, the book is an attempt at explaining relativity in a non-mathematical way - a brave undertaking. Some of the arguments made in the book might still be opaque to readers with no grounding in classical mechanics.

Finally I should say that the poor quality of the manuscript is at least commensurate with the very low price, so you could say that I got what I paid for.
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on 1 June 2012
I've come back to this book many times over the last 50 years and it still reads as clear as any other explanation I've ever found about Relativity. A modicum of school-level maths knowledge is useful, but most laymen will get by with the basics; after all, we were Einstein's intended audience.

It's sobering to think that this was written in 1916, long before any experimental proof was available, and was probably only understood by a handful of people at the time.

This book should be in the library of anybody interested in science as this is surely one of the founding theories of our understanding of the universe.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Everybody should read this all important text (with excellent clarifications by R. Geroch) about one of the most devastating scientific discoveries, together with quantum physics and Darwinism, ever made by a human mind. It reveals that time and space are not absolute (Kant would say `a priori'), but relative. Einstein's insights shattered existing philosophical, theological, ideological and scientific dogmas.
A basic knowledge of mathematics is necessary for the understanding of the whole text. However, the main reasoning can be followed without the math.

Special and general relativity
The special theory is based on the principle of relativity between uniformly moving co-ordinate systems devoid of rotation, and the constant speed of light (in vacuo) for all observers.
The general theory incorporates gravity. Space-time is curved through attraction by the gravitational force. The shortest distance between two points in the universe is not a straight line, but a curve.

Cosmological constant
As R. Penrose notes in his excellent introduction, Einstein's `greatest mistake', the cosmological constant, has been re-introduced in modern cosmology. It implicates that the remote future of the universe will be an exponential expansion.

Personal comment (promises shattered)
In his equally excellent afterword, D. Cassidy shows that Einstein's bright vision of science `ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual toward freedom' turned rather into `moral decay'.
As B. Russell said, `science is ethically neutral. It confers power, but for evil as much as for good.' Not every scientist is a Faraday. Science produced the atom bomb and politicians used it.
Today there is a new backlash against reason (science) for apparently religious and ideological reasons. But those are merely a veil for vested `sinister' (B.R.) interests.

This book is a must read for all those who want to understand the universe we live in.
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on 18 April 2012
This book covers both the theories by einstein himself...but aimed at the reasonably educated layman.It,s very enjoyable - aided by einsteins iminently readable style and will imbue you with an insight into both theories.
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on 17 July 2014
The qualityn of printing is very low, but the subject is really great.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2011
It's good but alot like a text book.

It is usefull with other things, but not on its own.
It's quite specific for a general book too.
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4 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Reviewed by Mark Bristow
"Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
Albert Einstein - physicist, philosopher, humanist, humorist, husband, father, lover, rebel. If, like me, you believe that Einstein was probably the greatest genius of this or any age - and you regard him as rather as a `hero' - then this is most definitely the book for you.
Isaacson has written an incisive and impartial biography of `the Great Man'. Indeed this book is, in many ways, the consummate biography, managing at once to be both sensitive and objective, something which many biographers do not manage. Hagiography this most certainly is not.
The reader can be in awe of Einstein's prominence as a theorist and philosopher. Yet Isaacson makes it abundantly clear that Einstein, in common with every `hero, celebrity or star' was simply human - with all the foibles and failings which that condition entails. Here is a genius we can all relate to - full marks to Isaacson for that achievement.
This might also be one of the finest and most comprehensive biographies of Einstein and therefore should be seen as a benchmark. It is such an easy read that I can heartily advocate this book for the academic student and for the general reader alike. Einstein exuded wisdom, humour and articulacy - traits which Isaacson has managed to reflect though this most erudite of biographies.
The author raises all issues one would wish to discuss with Einstein himself. He then proceeds to extract the full story through a comprehensive and lucid understanding of the many intricate questions which make this book such an enlightening read. Indeed, it is possible to learn about both life and physics from this work.
With increasing archival evidence available through Einstein's own papers, this biography re-constructs this incredible, multi-faceted life story with detail not previously available. Moreover, Isaacson has achieved a noteworthy success in clarifying some of the unavoidably complicated scientific issues, and I certainly speak as the archetypal lay reader. And yet - physics graduates will love it.
The book is now widely, and justifiably, regarded as one of the foremost authoritative works on Einstein. It displays one of the great strengths required of biographical writing: Isaacson has illustrated the astonishing `theatre' of Einstein's momentous journey through science (and life itself) though a luminous and vigorous style of writing. Put simply Einstein's life provides a narrative fusion far too good to require any embellishment.
Moreover, Isaacson's account has the inestimable value of reflecting the origin, development and mellowing of a genius, set against a finely-detailed backdrop of the Twentieth Century - a century which Einstein - arguably more than any other - did so much to define. After all, it was Einstein who was primarily responsible for the two great scientific pillars of our time: relativity and quantum theory, alongside the world's most famous equation: e=mc2. And all achieved through an almost childlike inquisitiveness and simplicity, which Einstein himself summed up: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
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