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What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive…
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What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein's Ideas,…

by Jeffrey Bennett

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"What is Relativity?" or "How Modern Physics showed that Black Holes Don't Suck" by Jeffrey Bennett


It’s confirmed. Black holes don’t suck…

I always say that TV is the devil's and god's work at the same time. On the plus-side, the TV has probably provided the biggest push toward making science books more appealing, at least to the eye. It has created a graphic-oriented society, and the persons of today have never known any other kind. All books deserve good graphics, but science books perhaps have the greatest need to make a good first impression, to say, "Look at me".


You can read the rest of this review on my blog. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Targeted (presumably) for high school and early college students, this is about the clearest explanation of the implications of relativity I've come across. Many of the thought experiments he uses are familiar (clocks, rubber sheets, etc.), but his talent for clear language make them seem almost intuitive. For an easy introduction to a difficult subject, you can't do much better. ( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
Received via NetGalley and Columbia University Press for an completely unbiased review.

Jeffrey Bennett is no Brian Greene, but then again his own method of explaining basic physic principals seems to weave its way into its own set of followers. What is Relativity? Special Relativity? Why is it important for scientists that Einstein created Relativity, and what can it be used for? These are a few of the questions that Mr Bennett covers in his brief book of a mere 192 pages.

This concise book includes some images of fundamental principles (how the universe is shaped, or how we perceive the universe), and has limited explanations of each diagram. It would be fantastic if Bennett extrapolated in common terms on certain ideas (the creation of binary stars, for instance) because unless the reader has read a few other physics books, or taken classes in physics, they would probably have found it confusing. The discussion of specific measurements surrounding the gravity and pressure specific types of stars can maintain before falling in on themselves seemed a bit more complicated than necessary, if at all necessary.

I would have liked to see more emphasis on why black holes were so very important to the Relativity discussion. Although Bennett does prove his thesis that Relativity is indeed important to every day life, and the exploration/understanding of outer space, he fails to truly integrate his black hole discussions into the broader picture. If any future edits of this book are done, it would be beneficial to more clearly connect black holes to the thesis before continuing on with the structures and natures of the universe.

I would suggest this book to any physics or space junkie who doesn't want to wade through Einstein's own books, and wants a concise and direct introduction of all things Relative. ( )
  trigstarom | Sep 19, 2015 |
Do you know everything about the Theory of Relativity? Then this book is not for you. However, if you are like me, and know little-to-nothing about Relativity but are highly intrigued by the topic, then this new book by Jeffrey Bennett may be just what you are looking for. Bennett takes the reader through the reality of the universe on a quest to understand why “black holes don’t suck”.

Bennett’s tone makes the book approachable. He uses humor well and writes in a way that minimizes the daunting nature of this topic. He takes the average reader though a complex subject with ease and depth. Bennett’s use of thought experiments helps to make the topics discussed accessible but also is the one area that can get overwhelmingly complex at times. This is to be expected. Bennett, while writing at an introductory level, is covering a topic that is contrary to what is the common understanding of much of the universe. Needless to say, you can get quite lost in the consequences of these ideas.

I saw comments about the mathematics in the book being complex but I couldn’t disagree more. Add to that the fact that all of the math used is supplemental to the text and you really don’t need any grip on mathematics to completely understand the points he makes throughout.

Gravitational redshifting, time running slower in gravity, tidal forces, event horizons, singularity, Special Theory of Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, and on and on and on. This book covers much that is quite interesting. Why would it literally take forever to cross the event horizon? What do ocean tides have to do with entering a black hole? What is actually “relative” in the Theory of Relativity? How is acceleration related to gravity and what effect does this have on our understanding of space and time?

I read mostly books from a Christian perspective so this might seem like a break from my normal routine of theology books. But it is not really. Too often Christians run away from the natural sciences because so many of the ideas seem to be competing or contrary to their own. This is sad. If the Bible is true, which it is, all truth is God’s truth. We should never be afraid to learn something new, even if it were to contradict something we have thought we understood. God is found in the truth and gaining a deeper understanding of His creation should only lead to greater praise and awe and worship. Bennett’s book led me to this and I am appreciative of that.

After reading this book I am an expert on Relativity. Nah, just kidding. But I do have a firmer grasp of much and many more questions I want to learn about. You really cannot ask for more from an introductory text than that. Black holes don’t suck. Neither does this book. :-D It is actually quite good.


***I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
( )
  joshrskinner | Jul 30, 2014 |
This is a primer on the basic ideas of relativity. It includes great, illustrative cartoons and very little math. The author addresses many of the misconceptions people might have about concepts related to relativity because of pop culture and introduces some surprising ways relativity affects our daily lives.

Even though relativity is a topic I’ve been interested in since high school, I learned fascinating new facts from this book. The author made incredibly complex and counterintuitive concepts simple. He started with facts that made sense to me and built on them to make the odder results of relativity make sense too. I liked that he revisited the same thought experiments over and over. This made me comfortable with the ideas and helped me learn.

I liked that the author talked about the implications of relativity for our daily lives. He made a pretty convincing argument for why we should all care about the concepts he teaches here. I also loved that he taught the scientific method as he went. I think this is a book that would be perfect for introductory physics classes. It’s easy to follow and could inspire students to become interested in the topic.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
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It is commonly assumed that if the Sun suddenly turned into a black hole, it would suck Earth and the rest of the planets into oblivion. Yet, as prominent author and astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett points out, black holes don't suck. With that simple idea in mind, Bennett begins an entertaining introduction to Einstein's theories of relativity, describing the amazing phenomena readers would actually experience if they took a trip to a black hole. The theory of relativity also reveals the speed of light as the cosmic speed limit, the mind-bending ideas of time dilation and curvature of spacetime, and what may be the most famous equation in history: E = mc2. Indeed, the theory of relativity shapes much of our modern understanding of the universe. It is not 'just a theory' -- every major prediction of relativity has been tested to exquisite precision, and its practical applications include the Global Positioning System (GPS). Amply illustrated and written in clear, accessible prose, Bennett's book proves anyone can grasp the basics of Einstein's ideas. His intuitive, nonmathematical approach gives a wide audience its first real taste of how relativity works and why it is so important to science and the way we view ourselves as human beings.… (more)

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