Skip to main content

Einstein’s Universe: the layperson’s guide – Nigel Calder ****

Einstein’s Universe is a short and useful book which outlines special and general relativity, and how Einstein’s framework for understanding space and time has remained intact and been continually confirmed since he first gave it to us.
This would be a good start for anyone knowing very little about relativity. Nigel Calder goes through the main aspects and predictions of the special and general theories in short, readable sections, and at the beginning of each chapter there are a few helpful sentences that state plainly what’s going to be talked about. The only equation in the book is E = mc2, and the explanation of the origin of this is better than in most places. The section on how gravity affects time is particularly good for those new to the concept.
The book was originally written in 1979 and, apart from a new afterword, everything remains the same in the 2005 edition now available. This is not really a problem, however, for a book which explains the basics of its subject that are still valid. And having understood these basics, readers would be in a good position to go on to something slightly more technical, like Russell Stannard’s Relativity: A Very Short Introduction or Bruce Bassett’s Introducing Relativity.


Paperback:  
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you  
Review by Matt Chorley

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth - Henry Gee *****

In writing this book, Henry Gee had a lot to live up to. His earlier title  The Accidental Species was a superbly readable and fascinating description of the evolutionary process leading to Homo sapiens . It seemed hard to beat - but he has succeeded with what is inevitably going to be described as a tour-de-force. As is promised on the cover, we are taken through nearly 4.6 billion years of life on Earth (actually rather more, as I'll cover below). It's a mark of Gee's skill that what could have ended up feeling like an interminable list of different organisms comes across instead as something of a pager turner. This is helped by the structuring - within those promised twelve chapters everything is divided up into handy bite-sized chunks. And although there certainly are very many species mentioned as we pass through the years, rather than feeling overwhelming, Gee's friendly prose and careful timing made the approach come across as natural and organic.  There was a w

On the Fringe - Michael Gordin *****

This little book is a pleasant surprise. That word 'little', by the way, is not intended as an insult, but a compliment. Kudos to OUP for realising that a book doesn't have to be three inches thick to be interesting. It's just 101 pages before you get to the notes - and that's plenty. The topic is fringe science or pseudoscience: it could be heavy going in a condensed form, but in fact Michael Gordin keeps the tone light and readable. In some ways, the most interesting bit is when Gordin plunges into just what pseudoscience actually is. As he points out, there are elements of subjectivity to this. For example, some would say that string theory is pseudoscience, even though many real scientists have dedicated their careers to it. Gordin also points out that, outside of denial (more on this a moment), many supporters of what most of us label pseudoscience do use the scientific method and see themselves as doing actual science. Gordin breaks pseudoscience down into a n

Michael D. Gordin - Four Way Interview

Michael D. Gordin is a historian of modern science and a professor at Princeton University, with particular interests in the physical sciences and in science in Russia and the Soviet Union. He is the author of six books, ranging from the periodic table to early nuclear weapons to the history of scientific languages. His most recent book is On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience (Oxford University Press). Why history of science? The history of science grabbed me long before I knew that there were actual historians of science out there. I entered college committed to becoming a physicist, drawn in by the deep intellectual puzzles of entropy, quantum theory, and relativity. When I started taking courses, I came to understand that what really interested me about those puzzles were not so much their solutions — still replete with paradoxes — but rather the rich debates and even the dead-ends that scientists had taken to trying to resolve them. At first, I thought this fell under