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Relativity: The Special and General Theory…

Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1916)

by Albert Einstein

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2,529132,392 (3.92)32
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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Very easy to understand. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
I stand at the window of a railway carriage which is travelling uniformly, and drop a stone on the embankment, without throwing it. Then, disregarding the influence of the air resistance, I see the stone descend in a straight line. A pedestrian who observes the misdeed from the footpath notices that the stone falls to earth in a parabolic curve. I now ask: Do the "positions" traversed by the stone lie "in reality" on a straight line or on a parabola?

Moreover, what is meant here by motion "in space" ? ( )
  arron_kau | Apr 2, 2013 |
The rating doesn't reflect the importance or quality of thinking of this book. It's relative... and subjective. It reflects rather how much I understood and enjoyed it, and at that is overated, although I gave it as high as I did because I'm glad I tried and might come back to it. In Einstein's preface to the 1916 book he said he wrote it for the general educated reader--college graduates--even though it would require "a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader." The front cover of my edition calls it "a clear explanation that anyone can understand." I am a college graduate (and beyond). I don't think I'm stupid. And the equations that are in the book (and the book is littered with them) don't even require college mathematics. We're not talking calculus here--just algebraic equations. So, did I understand the entire book given "patience" and "force of will." No. Maybe I didn't have enough of both. It's a very short book, only 157 pages--but by God, it's not an easy one. Did I understand most of it? No. Some of it. Well, yes. But I suspect my American education in universities in the 1990s isn't the equivalent of German college graduates in 1916. It's not the mathematics--it's the physics. In my American high school biology and chemistry was required. Physics wasn't even offered. To graduate college I had to take some science courses--but the requirement could be fulfilled by "soft" sciences such as biology and anthropology. I have a friend that protests that there's a difference between "verbal" and "mathematical" gifts and people like us shouldn't be forced to take those hard, meanie sciences. I'm not convinced that on the contrary we haven't been short changed. I'd love to know if someone who took at least one course on physics had a different experience with this book.

So, did I learn anything by tackling this? I was able to squeeze out some knowledge after banging my head repeatedly on my desk reading (and rereading) such chapters as "The Principle of Relativity." Einstein does try to illustrate some of the ideas by using everyday examples such as a moving train on an embankment, pans on a stove and a man tethered to a chest. I learned:

1) Special relativity deals with electromagnetic forces; General Relativity deals with gravity.
2) Given the speed of light is a constant, the addition of velocities of moving objects according to classical mechanics fails because it would indicate that the speed of light would be diminished by the velocity of an object. (I think.)
3) Space and time are not absolute in position but relative to the observer; they are not independent of each other but influenced by the distribution of matter (gravity).
4) The theory of general relativity unites the principles of the conservation of mass and of energy.
5) Since college my brain has turned to mush. Maybe I should try to get through a physics textbook? Probably not... (See above on lack of patience and force of will.)

I got this book because Einstein's The Meaning of Relativity was on a list of 100 Significant books. I've since learned that what I bought (and am reviewing here) isn't the same book. Relativity was originally published in German in 1916. The Meaning of Relativity was based on a series of lectures given at Princeton University in 1921. I'm not sanguine I'd do any better with that book given a review quoted from Physics Today says it's "intended for one who has already gone through a standard text and digested the mechanics of tensor theory and the physical basis of relativity." Bottom line, unless you're willing to do some homework to ground yourself in physics you're better off reading more...well dumbed down books by the likes of Asimov, Sagan or Hawking. Incidentally I also recently read Darwin's Origin of Species. That book I found easy to comprehend. Oh well. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | May 18, 2012 |
Not what they'd call "popular" today, but it's written at exactly the level that if I squint and focus my brain real hard, I can follow the arguments despite not having done a real math or physics (intro astro or Fractals for Nonmajors don't count) class since high school.A few of the suspicions and conclusions are a wee bit corrected since the time (quantum happened, Unified Field Theory didn't so far), but this book is really good at giving you a deeper look at the _why_ of relativity, the parts that always get glossed over or oversimplified ("oh yeah, space is curved") for people who can't do the math on their own. His sentences on this stuff aren't luminously obvious, but he never pulls his punches either. ( )
1 vote Snakeshands | Jul 30, 2011 |
I abandoned this to re-read Hawking after an uninspiring start. I think relativity is most interesting with a little more time and cosmology under out collective belt. ( )
1 vote jmccamant | Jun 15, 2011 |
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Albert Einsteinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lawson, Robert W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In your schooldays most of you who read this book made acquaintances with the noble building of Euclid's geometry, and you remember—perhaps with more respect than love—the magnificent structure on the lofty staircase of which you were chased about for uncounted hours by conscientious teachers.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0517884410, Paperback)

How better to learn the Special Theory of Relativity and the General Theory of Relativity than directly from their creator, Albert Einstein himself? In Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Einstein describes the theories that made him famous, illuminating his case with numerous examples and a smattering of math (nothing more complex than high-school algebra). Einstein's book is not casual reading, but for those who appreciate his work without diving into the arcana of theoretical physics, Relativity will prove a stimulating read.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:10 -0400)

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Einstein presents his views on the special and general theory of relativity and the universe as a whole.

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