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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2014
I have lots of books on relativity: many at advanced undergraduate level, some graduate level. I learnt GR in the first place by working through the final chapters of Schaum's 'Vector Analysis' - curvilinear co-ordinates and basic tensor analysis before enjoying working through all of Foster and Nightingale's 'Short Course', Schutz's 'First Course in GR' and then progressing to more advanced works. I already had sound basic knowledge of Linear Algebra, Vector Calculus and Differential Equations etc before I started my (independent) study of GR. I have to say I bought Peter Collier's book for two reasons: I was curious to see if it could truly lead a 'mathematical novice' towards an understanding of Einstein's Field Equations and also I was staggered at how inexpensive the book is. Despite the enormity of the intellectual achievement in deriving the field equations in the first place, GR at this level of understanding ( basic derivation and simple applications), from a mathematical viewpoint is rather shallow water and probably accessible to many who might choose to follow the route I took. Peter Collier's book is carefully crafted, beautifully presented and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from the perspective of someone already familiar with all of the subject matter. Bravo, Peter. I cannot think of £8 better spent by myself on anything ever. Tremendous value for money.It does not pretend to be mathematically rigorous - it covers material in approximately the same depth as Lenny Susskind's entertaining Stanford Physics Lectures, omitting more difficult proofs and not getting bogged down with inappropriate mathematical rigour. I do not see in the reviews yet a delighted 'true mathematical novice' having worked all the way through it. I await this event with continued curiosity. Would Einstein himself have approved of Peter Collier's book? By his own admission never a mathematician, I am quite sure he would have applauded this attempt to bring the awesome General Theory one step closer to the common man.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2013
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.

In my original review I criticised the rendering of the pictures in the Kindle edition. I am pleased to say that this glitch has been completely sorted out. I can now recommend this book either in Kindle or paper form.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Chapter1 basically takes to to a place slightly beyond A-Level Pure and Applied Mathematics and A-Level Further Mathematics. If you've learned A-Level Physics too, you've basically got most of chapter 2 also. From then on, you need to get into serious learning mode. This is a physics book, and as such, it can't really give you the grounding in mathematics and familiarity that comes with learning mathematics as a separate subject. That is, it points you to the areas of mathematics which you need and you will have to find the motivation to learn or relearn it in able to move onto the next bit. Matrices have always been my weak point, and I've paused to relearn them as they are crucial to the later chapters. It will be interesting how I shall be with tensors, and the spacetime manifold geometry etc. My goal is an understanding of relativity and how it pertains to cosmology. From a cursory look through, it seems this book is going to be a hard but interesting slog to reach that goal.

The author's website has a list of corrections. I've printed it out, 16 pages of them. It's just my luck that I bought this book a couple of weeks prior to the author issuing a statement that a corrected Second Edition is out from 14 June 2014. However, having bought lots of physics textbooks in my day, this volume is very cheap (rrp £9.99) for the value of the information inside. I got my older first edition at a cut price, so I am not complaining.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2015
I hesitated to buy this book as a Kindle edition, as previous reviewers had stated that equations and graphs were illegibly tiny, making it completely uselss. However, the equations and graphs in this new 2014 revised edition are absolutely clear on my Kindle for PC (the free Amazon reader app) and on my iPad. It's also a terrific book. One of the obstacles to mathematically interested laymen trying to get to grips with modern physics is that, unless you're already a mathematician, it's hard to figure out what maths you need to learn - and what maths you need to know before that, in order to understand the more advanced stuff - and so on. This book encapsulates in a structured course in the necessary maths in a very understandable format. It will also give you the grounding you need to move on to even more advanced work, should you be inspired to go there. Highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 2013
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2014
This book is about 320 pages long and it is structured as follows:

- the first 80 pages constitute foundational mathematics to prepare you for what is to come,
- then Newtonian physics is covered for 20 pages or so,
- then it's Special Relativity for about 55 pages,
- then there are about 40 pages covering some of the geometry and maths needed for General Relativity,
- then the remaining 120 pages or so covers General Relativity and its related fields (like cosmology).

Over all, this is well-written book and it provides a great foundation for the mathematics of relativity. I might, however, take issue with the "very gentle" part of the book's title. The pace of the maths is quick and, even though I have some university maths from 20 years ago, I had to stop reading and give myself a bit of a calculus refresh before continuing.

The book does indeed cover all the maths you're going to need but if you're out of touch with maths (as I was) you might find the pace a bit too rapid. If you're looking to step up from what are generally called "popular science" books and you don't have at least A-level maths, this book might be too big a step.

Once you have a handle on the maths, though, this book starts to shine and the structure and style make for an enjoyable read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2012
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2015
I am in awe of Mr Collier's achievement. To have started from sixth-form/high-school level level and taught himself all the mathematical tools needed to understand and present General Relativity in the way he has is simply staggering. It is just the book I wanted, as general reader, to help me understand GR - a topic not covered in my physics degree course 45+ years ago.

As others, I wonder how well the mathematical novice would get on with it. He or she would need to be very determined, but Peter Collier has shown it can be done. Maybe "...very gentle..." is pushing it a bit, though perhaps it is compared to the full-blown text books. He uses "...it can be shown that..." in (from memory) only a couple of places, no doubt with good reason to save the reader from something truly indigestible.

Perhaps the author could try his hand at the Standard Model of particle physics, including Quantum Field Theory and Group Theory, for his next book. I'd buy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2015
A clear and concise account of a fairly difficult subject. If only this type of material were available when I was in school! It shows that we're now in a time when educators have finally realized their previous obtuse mannerisms of education were insufficient to attract gifted people - and in fact, turn them off instead. It looks as though a sufficient number of enlightened teachers that understand how to write to an audience, and not to themselves or colleagues have filtered through the cracks. Hooray for this book, reading it is a pleasure, as should be the case. And hooray for any that read books like this and support the efforts to steer education in the right direction. Write a review, and say it's a wonderful thing!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2015
This is a glorious book, easily worth ten times the asking price. I now understand special relativity quite a lot, and general relativity a little. But the unknowns are all known, as it were, and I can and will go back to patch the gaps. Don't underestimate this book - it begins at the beginning of maths and takes you all the way to the end of general relativity.

I had just started Einstein's own book, but broke off to read this one, and I'm so glad I did. Now I'll return to the master.

The diagrams and maths all render perfectly on iPad Kindle app. Don't hesitate to buy this.
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