God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity and the Expanding Universe Hardcover – 23 Mar 2000
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Who would have thought a mathematical constant would make such an engaging character? God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity and the Expanding Universe, mathematician Amir Aczel's tale of the search for a scientific explanation of the universe, features the cosmological constant in a role as complex as Einstein's. The great genius referred to it as his "greatest blunder" but recent events in the world of astrophysics have brought the prodigal term back into the fold as an important part of his field equation. Aczel is a powerful storyteller and makes no secret of his admiration for Einstein; much of the book revolves around his conquest of general relativity. Integrating relativity with gravitation was no easy task (even for Einstein) but the author deftly steers the reader away from the sticky stuff and focuses attention on concepts of importance.
Aczel shows Einstein's aesthetic troubles with the cosmological constant, which preceded theoretical and experimental problems leading to its abandonment. The universe was caught in the act of expansion by Edwin Hubble and the constant, originally invoked to maintain a steady-state universe, was unnecessary. Fortunately, though, the mathematics underlying the constant had become important tools for physicists; observations in 1997 and 1998 by Saul Perlmutter, Neta Bahcall and others showed that the universe will continue expanding indefinitely and sent theorists back to the drawing board to revise their equations. The cosmological constant returned triumphant and, while its inventor might never have approved of it, today's scientific community gives it an honoured role in God's Equation. --Rob Lightner, Amazon.com
Dealing with cosmology, this book reveals astronomical observations that indicate the presence of a previously unknown force in the universe. It explains, in accessible terms, Einstein's theories and his development of the "cosmological constant".
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Einsten's first contribution in 1905---the special theory of relativity which says is essence that the speed of light is constant regardless of how fast the source of light moves towards or away from the observer---is set out simply and clearly as are its scientific antecedents; ie, the advances in physics (Michelson-Morley), non-Euclidian geometry (Riemann, Grossman), and mathematics (Gauss, Minkowski) which underlay the Special theory and, crucially, the later General Theory. The latter was published in the late 1920s and in effect links the Special Theory to Gravity, producing what is referred to today as the first unified field equation.
Two further points are worthy of mention. One is Aczel's extraordinary grasp of the history of science; to take but one example, Aczel traces the progress of Euclidian geometry from ancient Greece via Ptolemy of Alexandria and the Persian mathematician, Nasiraddin, its smuggling Cordoba by Adelhart of Bath in the 12th Century, from whence it was published in Latin in Venice in 1482. The second is Aczel's account of the relevance of Einstein achievements to the breathtaking world of modern physics and cosmology. All this is accomplished with the greatest simplicity in the space of just over 200 pages.
Aczel wrote the history from Einstein to the present
of the thoughts around Einsteins cosmic constant. The main
part deals with Einsteins struggles with his main equation
and the discovery of the first proof for general relativity,
the bending of star light around the sun. This history part
is presented in kind of zooming in at those times and people,
so that one temporarely becomes part of the times of the
process of verificaton and recognition of general relativity.
From the statements about the cosmic constant the author
then leads the reader into modern times, but this time rather
zoomed out, mentioning many people an theories.
It's all gripping to read, but one does not get answers about
the phenomena which introduced the book, namely, how the
universe could possibly accelerate it's expansion.