31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally !
I have read several books on this subject, including those by Jim al-Khalili (very good) and that rather annoying Brian Cox (OK) but surprisingly it was THIS book that pulled it all together and helped me grasp some of the finer points. Lots of bang-on analogies (which are the key to getting your head round relativity) and clear, crisp explanation. Even the odd bit of...
Published on 13 Oct. 2010 by M. J. Harris
2.0 out of 5 stars ALL AT SEA
On page 7 of this book the author refers to 'the expression under the square root sign'. He is setting out the mathematical basis of the phenomenon of time dilation. Unfortunately, there is no square root sign in the equations set out here, so mathematically challenged folk like me are even more at sea. I take the view that relativity is so interesting that, despite its...
Published 2 months ago by DCC Gaster
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally !,
I have read several books on this subject, including those by Jim al-Khalili (very good) and that rather annoying Brian Cox (OK) but surprisingly it was THIS book that pulled it all together and helped me grasp some of the finer points. Lots of bang-on analogies (which are the key to getting your head round relativity) and clear, crisp explanation. Even the odd bit of humour ! Not that long at only 109 pages but it packs it in and I reckon this is where everyone should start - I wish I had read this first before attempting the wordier efforts.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relatively short introduction,
When "Time" magazine chose Albert Einstein as the person of the century for the 20th century it was due to his incredible intellectual achievements. Among those, two stand as particularly remarkable, becoming forever uniquely associated with their inventor, in minds of general public and professional scientists alike. These are the special and general theories of relativity. Their reputation is fully deserved. The two theories of relativity forever changed the way that we look at the space, time and matter. They touch upon our deepest understanding of physical reality and their core principles have stood the test of time, a remarkable achievement after a century full of usurpations of some of our most cherished notions.
The special and general relativity also have a reputation of being incredibly complex and hard to understand. In the case of special relativity this has primarily to do with the non-intuitive way that the world of four dimensions appears to us. In the case of general relativity, however, the complexity is substantially increased by the use of very advanced mathematical structures that it requires. And yet, all of the mathematical and conceptual implications of relativity stem from a few very simple ideas: the relativity of all reference frames, the constancy of the speed of light, and the equivalence of acceleration and gravitational field. It is a remarkable achievement of Russell Stannard's book to explain so much with just a very basic application of those principles. This makes it possible for a general reader to appreciate these beautiful theories without having to get bogged down in heavy mathematics. All examples in the book are intuitive and accessible. The illustrations are clear and serve to reinforce the main points in the text. One of the particularly remarkable features of this thin book is that it gives a full treatment of the "Twins Paradox" taking into the account the principles of general relativity - something that is usually brushed over in many other treatments.
The only problem with the book that I have concerns a few math examples that are used. The math notation is not quite clear, and even as simple a math symbol as a square root is printed in a very inadequate way. Also, there are a few glaring math mistakes (3/5 is not .67), but overall these are minor points that don't distract too much from the main content of the book.
I would strongly recommend this book as a good starting point for learning about relativity.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relativity:A Very Short Introduction,
For people interested in Relativity, wanting a reliable descripion of what it is and the effect it has without going through the mathematics that Einstein used to support his theory, this is an excellent little book. Its very readable and packed with facts.
I have two other volumes in the series, Particle Physics and Quantum Theory, and can recommend these also - an excellent series.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really good,
There's been a review of this in the CERN Courier, and they said it all. It is a very good and deep intro to the subject, in a few pages, basically the one to read if you ever read only one (and there 's quite
a competition on the market there). Very good job. Recommended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relativity: A Very Short Introduction,
Excellent introduction to the subject. However, if you are already more or less familiar with the fundamental concepts of relativity, then this Very Short Introduction is a little too short. You probably want something a little more advanced - maybe something at the "intermediate" level.
4.0 out of 5 stars Relativity in the Very Short Introductions Series,
The Very Short Introductions Series of Oxford University Press offers a gateway to the broad scope of knowledge in books usually slightly more than 100 pages in length written by distinguished scholars. I have learned a great deal from the series, both about subjects that I know and about subjects that I don't. Relativity falls easily into the latter category. I wanted to give "Relativity: A Very Short Introduction" (2008) a try after enjoying other works in the VSI series on scientific subjects. The author, Russell Stannard, is Emeritus Professor of Physics at The Open University and has had a lengthy career as a high energy nuclear physicist. Stannard has written many books for both children and adults which attempt to explain scientific concepts in an accessible way. Stannard has also written several books on the relationship between science and religion.
Stannard's book consists of two sections covering, in turn, special relativity and general relativity. Einstein developed the theory of special relativity in 1905. Stannard defines it as dealing "with the effects on space and time of uniform motion." In 1916, Einstein presented the general theory of relativity which "includes the additional effects of acceleration and gravity." Special relativity is a special case of general relativity. Stannard shows how relativity revolutionized scientific thinking and how it runs contrary to a number of ideas considered part of common sense.
The book is clearly and engagingly written given the complexity of the subject. Stannard shows how Einstein developed his theories by thinking about seemingly commonplace observations together with the work of earlier scientists. Stannard offers effective illustrations and examples showing the development and content of relativity. His diagrams also are clear and useful. For both special and general relativity, the book works from the relatively simple to the extraordinarily complex. The book does not require a knowledge of mathematics but it makes, for me, a substantial use of mathematical formulas which I couldn't follow. I found it easier to understand the verbal discussions of a point rather that the formulas, regardless of how elementary the formulas might be to some readers.
The book gave me, a reader with no mathematics and little background, a better understanding of relativity than I probably had a right to expect. Reading the book proved a humbling experience as well. For all Stannard's skill in writing for lay readers, this book is difficult to understand. Making readers aware of the difficulty undoubtedly is part of the purpose of the book. There is little chance that any reader will consider him or herself an instant expert after reading this VSI. I became more fascinated with the book as I continued to read. The final pages show how general relativity forms part of broad questions about the nature of the universe. It explores matters such as black holes, gravitational waves, dark matter and dark energy. Stannard offers a strong sense of the sheer enormity of the universe and its mystery. I was reminded again about how little I know and more importantly how little scientists know even with astonishing accomplishments such as the theory of relativity.
The book includes a short three-tiered bibliography based upon the reader's level of mathematical knowledge. Together with the book, I learned from the reader reviews on Amazon. Some of the reviewers have a professional-level knowledge of the subject while others are lay readers such as myself. It was valuable to read these differing perspectives on Stannard's book. This is an excellent book for readers wanting a basic understanding of a complex and profound scientific theory.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Struggling with the little things in life then read this,
One of the difficulties in teaching A level is that the text books tend to be curriculum specific. This means the basic concepts are often stirred in with various calculations and practical investigations.
If you are to teach any subject you need to nail the basic concepts and theory first and that's what these very short introductions (VSIs) do very well. I am currently working through thermodynamics as I will be teaching this again soon and it is not a favourite subject however the VSI has helped clarify key points and has given some useful analogies that will be used in the classroom. The particle physics has improved my teaching and I have had positive feedback from students who have read it (I know some do actually use the reading list!!)
These should be in the school library and listed as recommended reading for all A level physics students and teachers old and new.
2.0 out of 5 stars ALL AT SEA,
On page 7 of this book the author refers to 'the expression under the square root sign'. He is setting out the mathematical basis of the phenomenon of time dilation. Unfortunately, there is no square root sign in the equations set out here, so mathematically challenged folk like me are even more at sea. I take the view that relativity is so interesting that, despite its practical irrelevance to common experience, anyone with a reasonable education ought to be able to understand the basic concept. Why not put the final equation of a series like that at (1) on page 7 in a box on the page with identifying notes for each of the symbols? The box could be headed 'It can be shown that'. As to how, the whole sequence of equations could be put in an appendix for those who are better at manipulating abstractions. For some, mathematics is a language, but not for all.
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Best,
Quite simply this is the best introduction to Special and General Relativity you will ever read. It's taken scientists a couple of generations to make it this easy. This book is suitable for introducing an 'A' level student to the subject. The only thing I would like to add is the observation that gravity IS the time dilation gradient. In other words it's just a part of the fabric of space-time.
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughtly enjoyed,
Enjoyed this book. Not the first I've read on the subject, so have built up my understanding of the subject from several authors. What can be disappointing when reading books on this subject, is the lack of maths. I'm now at the point of wanting to understand the maths behind the theory. So I went on line and find a site that explained time dilation.
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Relativity: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Russell Stannard