Although I knew bits about the theory of relativity, my knowledge was patchy, so I got this book. It's very well-written; given that it's clearly targeted at a lay audience, and includes very little maths, it's about as good a compromise between readability, comprehensibility and completeness as you're likely to get.
That's not to say that it's perfect; although the main principles underlying Special Relativity are derived clearly and logically (and very readably), the author apologises for being unable to cover General Relativity with the same rigour. Apparently, this would require far more in-depth maths.... and let's be honest, if you want a more in-depth tome, you can buy one, but this book succeeds admirably within the given constraints.
Consider it a grounding; there's still plenty of meat in the closing sections, enough (possibly) to motivate you to read some "heavier" books on the subject.
Einstein and his theory of relativity. It took the genius who was Einstein 19 years (1986-1915) to sort it all out, so is it really possible to compress all the ideas into a 250 page book that I'm going to understand? Well, yes! Although I have done A-level physics, I didn't need it. The books easy, conversational language, numerous usefull diagrams, (and a glossary for all those who are unfamiliar with the sciency terms) make its pages accessible for all. By taking a mainly qualitative approach, the book contains only the smallest amount of maths (or math), and for those who are looking for something to get their hands dirty, there's the appendix! As well as exploring the ideas behind Einstien's relativity theories, 'Simply Einstien' goes even further. It gives a history of the preceeding events, past theories and experiments helping the reader to see the logic behind Einstiens thinking. Futher exploration of the consequences of relativity begin to extend the readers thinking and understanding of aspects such as the nature of past, present and future, and time and space. This book discusses ideas that are still at the fore-front of modern physics in a way that people with a background knowledge will be able to use and apply, while people with just an interest will understand and find fascinating. All in all, a good book for all with an interest in simply what relativity actually is, and so consequently space, time, gravity, cosmology and the history behind them all.
...you'll probably get the knowledge from this book. Although the subject matter is not the easiest to understand, the author takes you through a series of steps to the understanding of the general theory of relativity. I would suggest a minimum requirement would need to be a good GCSE/O level in Physics. Without this i think you would struggle. Excellently explained the author needs congratulating for making a difficult subject relatively (no pun intended) straightforward. I recommend it!!
This is a very readable and informative intro to relativity - special relativity and then general relativity. It presents more justification for the theory of special relativity than it does for the general theory, but I think this is because the latter is more difficult to explain without going into a lot more maths. Only very little maths is used in this book, and most of this is in an Appendix for those who are interested.
It provides a fascinatiing description of how relativity changes the view of space-time and the universe compared to the preceding Newtonian paradigm, and is pretty mind opening.
The book starts of with some back ground info about how things were understood before Einstein, and shows how Einstein's theories were revolutionary.
A great read for anyone wanting a basic intro to relativity, anyone wanting to know what was so great about Einstein and anyone who wants to challenge what they think they know.
As this book makes clear, everything is not relative - but I would say that Richard Wolfson's attempt to describe Einstein's theories and their implications is relatively successful. He takes you toward Einsteinian thought one step at a time. First, he gives you a grounding in Newtonian physics, then walks you through Einstein's special theory of relativity, using a number of examples designed to simplify your conceptualization of ideas that tend to go against common sense thinking, and then he attempts to summarize Einstein's general theory of relativity - which, by its nature, is more difficult to expound upon using models and logical examples. Finally, he touches upon some of the implications of the general theory of relativity, giving the reader a quick trek through the notions of black holes, the future of the universe, and other largely astrophysical theories and concepts. Simply Einstein is written for a layman audience, but it is by no means an easy read. I really believe you have to have at least some affinity with mathematics and logic in order to really grasp what Wolfson is saying. Of course, those with no such affinity will - I feel safe to say - never even think about reading a book such as this. Wolfson works very hard to provide numerous examples of the theories and concepts of Einsteinian thought, but you can't just breeze through these things and expect to have everything click into place automatically; oftentimes, you have to stop, review, and ponder what you have just read in order to truly get a handle on things. Wolfson's examples are, it seems to me, two-edged swords of a kind. If you know absolutely nothing about relativity, they are quite good and certainly helpful. If, however, you already have some familiarity with the space-time paradoxes of Einsteinian thought (the twin paradox, for example, or the space and time "distortions" of near-light speed travel), a few of Wolfson's examples muck up the water, at least temporarily - you basically have to forget what relativity theory you already know and start again from scratch in order to fully grasp what the author is attempting to show with each example. Wolfson does do a great job demonstrating the significant differences between Newtonian physics and Einsteinian physics (as well as clearing up popular misconceptions about both subjects), and his information on gravity is enlightening and informative. By the time he gets around to stating that gravity is not a force per se, he has built the foundation upon which he can prove why this is the case. Going further, this allows him to offer an excellent explanation of the curvature of space-time owing to the presence of matter or energy throughout the universe. If you just want to read about black holes and other fascinating aspects of the universe, this isn't the book for you. That kind of discussion is rather protracted here and comes only after a lot of theory has been introduced and described in some detail. Of course, to truly understand the strangest and most fascinating aspects of our universe, you really do need to have a decent grasp on the general theory of relativity, and this book makes for an excellent introduction to that very subject.
If you want a book which explains Einstein's two theories of relativity in a thorough, but non-mathematical way, then I can recommend this one very highly. After reading it, I think I now understand relativity in ways which I most definitely didn't before, and yes, it did take some effort, but not as much as I expected.
Prof. Wolfson's attitude is helpful because he takes the approach that relativity is very easy to understand - as a principle - but very difficult to absorb as a way of looking at the universe because we, as a species and as individuals, evolved in a non-relativistic world. Or as the Professor would say: all our experiences, from cradle to grave, happen in the same Uniformly Moving Reference Frame.
I particularly liked the cheesy drawings. There are just enough of them to anchor the text, and they are big enough to stare at. I did a lot of staring at some points.
My other strong plus point is the historical build-up to Special Relativity (SR). This really hammers home the problem that Einstein was trying to solve; it gives a strong intellectual motivation, and helps explain why other scientists cared. Until I read this book, I had no idea that SR was really a consequence of Maxwell's work on electromagnetism.
The latter parts of the book, on General Relativity (GR), are a lot skimpier, in part because there are far fewer thought experiments that can be done in GR, and a much greater need for advanced maths.
I imagine that everyone will have issues after reading this book - mine are as follows: >? Professor Wolfson never attempts to explain why instantaneous transmission of information would violate SR - he just asserts it as a given. >? Also, the explanation of gravity in GR is clear at the astronomical level (I now understand why massless photons are affected by gravity), but it's less so on the ground. According to the book, gravity is not a force. Fine. But why am I out of breath when I walk up a hill but not down it?
Overall, this is a very well written and satisfying book.
Will have to read it again but that's just me. Still seems to me that the author stresses that you must believe as you cannot offer a better explanation but wasn't that the situation before Einstein came up with a "better" theory? What's to say that a better idea won't pop up in the future? There's a lot of evidence supporting Einstein but so there is for Newton but as yet I'm still am not convinced that the "Theory" ie an unproven hypothesis, is any more than a theory.
The author is one of those gifted people who can convey the seemingly impossible....very smooth language, full of illustrations and Thought Experiments. Every page is a joy. The first two thirds of this book cover Special Relativity in a very solid reasoning approach, the last third covers General Relativity (Albeit reasoning is not as concrete as for Special Relativity)
Recommended for all of those who are new in the field looking for simple answers for their big questions.