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A Most Incomprehensible Thing: Notes Towards a Very Gentle Introduction to the Mathematics of Relativity Paperback – 30 Jun 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 64 customer reviews

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Paperback, 30 Jun 2014
£47.65 £42.86
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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Incomprehensible Books; 2 edition (30 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0957389450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0957389458
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most of the top rated reviews for this book seem to come from those who are fairly well versed in University-level maths. I'm not surprised, because, for them, this book must be a very easy way to get to understand the mathematics of General Relativity. I am not at that level (and - to be honest - don't intend to be), and I did not attempt to follow in detail the more complex mathematical techniques and derivations in the second half of the book. But - you know what? It didn't matter that much - I still had a much better understanding of Relativity and Cosmology after reading it than before. It is very well structured and I can see how someone who is already into maths but not physics (well, at least not Relativity) could lap this up. I now at least know about Tensors and have an appreciation of their place in this field of endeavour: Which is absolutely central. Anyone who has done maths at A-level should be able to get something out of this book. Give it a try!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading through this. Its certainly one of those books that will take a re-read in order to fully digest. The mathematics section at the start is good but is more of a refresher as opposed to an attempt to teach a complete newbie all of the maths. A few explanations did require further reading from other sources (I didn't like the treatment of Minkowski diagrams for example) however I did find the book generally good when it came to conveying tough concepts. I'd certainly recommend it. I'm about to start a 4 year masters degree in physics so it was a great heads-up.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The most incomprehensible thing about this book is how it makes the maths so comprehensible. I have been struggling to get to grips with similar maths for work reasons and this book has incidentally been a great aid, as well as a fantastic read. I very rarely write reviews but I felt I had to for this truly amazing book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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 commenced 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 choose to persevere when things become a little trickier. 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.Read more ›
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