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Customer Review

34 of 36 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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This review is from: A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity (Kindle Edition)
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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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jun 2013 13:26:33 BDT
Peter says:
Many thanks for the review. Sorry to hear you have had problems with the figures when reading the Kindle book. Would you be able to provide a few more details as to which figures aren't displaying properly, along with the type of Kindle model you're using? I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, but this is the first I've heard about such a problem since the book was published twelve months ago. Over the last twenty four hours I've gone through the whole book using Amazon's Kindle for PC, Kindle Paperwhite Previewer and Kindle Fire Previewer, and all the figures looked fine. A friend has done the same with his Kindle for iPad app - again, the figures look fine. A skim through the book using Amazon's Kindle and Kindle DX Previewers also didn't show any figure problems, though (and this has been a problem from the start) the maths images are blown up somewhat and and therefore of lower resolution that I'd like (I've always hoped/assumed that this is a glitch with Amazon's Kindle Previewer). In summary, I haven't seen any figure distortion/problems. More feedback would be welcome.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jun 2013 14:22:26 BDT
Marcus says:
Hi Peter,
My Kindle is one of the first generation, with a keyboard. It says it is version 3.4 (1725970040). I have just stepped through the first few pages of the book to see if the effect happens again. What I see is one image layered on top of another, so for example figure 1.10 shows spherical coordinates and cartesian coordinates on top of the plane polar coordinates it is supposed to show. However, I see that as I step back and forward over these images, the corruption changes. That means it is a problem with my Kindle rather than the actual images in your file, though I've not seen it in other books.

A plus point about reading your book on a Kindle is that the links within the text all work nicely, so there is less leafing back as you read. If this is just a problem on my Kindle, then I can thoroughly recommend the Kindle version to other readers.

Thank you again for writing such a good book. Any chance you could follow it up with a similarly readable text on quantum field theory?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jun 2013 16:14:08 BDT
Peter says:
Hello Marcus
Thanks for getting back. I've no idea what's going on there. For what it's worth, I've just had a look at the Kindle book in the Calibre E-book viewer, and those figures look fine, as they do when looking at the original html pages in a browser. In the nicest possible way, I'm going to assume it's your Kindle that's at fault, though obviously if other readers report the same problem I'll have to have a rethink.

"A similarly readable text on quantum field theory"? Afraid not. My intellect and nerves aren't up to it. One physics book in my lifetime is quite enough!

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jul 2013 16:34:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Jul 2013 16:49:44 BDT
D.MCCORMICK says:
Hi Peter
I wrote a review of your book on the Kindle and am looking forward to receiving the paper version as it's easier to compare text and figures on paper. When I first read the kindle version everything was fine, however about 3 months ago I noticed that the figures were Noe corrupted ie they were overlain. My Kindle is the first version so it does look as though the problem is something to do with the Kindle. I have deleted and reloaded the book but still the diagrams are corrupted

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jul 2013 13:23:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2013 16:49:50 BDT
Peter says:
Hello D.MCCORMICK
Many thanks for the review. After reading your comment I immediately contacted Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing about this problem. One of their support team replied today, saying: "I've checked the converted content file of your Kindle title "A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity" in all modes of the previewer and found that there are no overlapping of images.

I see that you have uploaded the content in MOBI format which is a resultant file. So, in order to assist you, we would like to see the original content with which you have converted your file to MOBI format."

I'll email them one of my html source files and see what they say.

Continued ... A few days later, Kindle Direct Publishing are still unable to duplicate this problem. Unless further information comes to light, it seems reasonable to assume that this is a Kindle rather that an ebook file problem. Just in case it isn't, I've now uploaded a new version of the Kindle book with a page break immediately before each figure, hoping that might do the trick. I've informed Amazon about this update.

Posted on 4 Feb 2014 15:46:52 GMT
Peter says:
Mea culpa. Marcus and other readers were right and I was wrong. I've just discovered that there was, despite my protestations to the contrary, a glitch with the Kindle ebook file that caused the diagrams to (intermittently) overlie each other. All the diagrams were originally in GIF format with a transparent background. That was the problem. When I changed the background from transparent to white, they display beautifully in the Kindle. I've now uploaded a revised Kindle book file with white background GIFs. I've also emailed Amazon, requesting they advise readers there is an updated version available. My sincere apologies to all readers who were inconvenienced by this problem.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Apr 2014 20:24:40 BDT
Marcus says:
The new version works perfectly for me now. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jul 2014 16:50:04 BDT
Peter says:
Hello Marcus
Your choice entirely, of course, but would you consider amending the final paragraph of your review to indicate that the Kindle diagram glitch has now been sorted out? I completely understand if you'd prefer to let your original review stand.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jul 2014 21:18:30 BDT
Marcus says:
Good idea. I have amended the review accordingly.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jul 2014 06:18:55 BDT
Peter says:
Thanks. Much appreciated.
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