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Relativity: A Very Short Introduction (2008)

by Russell Stannard

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100 years ago, Einstein's theory of relativity shattered the world of physics. Our comforting Newtonian ideas of space and time were replaced by bizarre and counterintuitive conclusions: if you move at high speed, time slows down, space squashes up and you get heavier; travel fast enough andyou could weigh as much as a jumbo jet, be squashed thinner than a CD without feeling a thing - and live for ever. And that was just the Special Theory. With the General Theory came even stranger ideas of curved space-time, and changed our understanding of gravity and the cosmos.This authoritative and entertaining iVery Short Introduction/i makes the theory of relativity accessible and understandable. Using very little mathematics, Russell Stannard explains the important concepts of relativity, from E=mc2 to black holes, and explores the theory's impact on science and onour understanding of the universe.… (more)
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At first I thought I may had been in over my head, however after rereading the starting chapters, everything seemed much clearer. Therefore, I deem this a very good introductory general relativity book. It does not assume the reader's familiarity with physics, though some general knowledge of at least Newtonian mechanics and kinetics is helpful.

The book begins with an interesting premise - that it will challenge some of the most fundamental ideas regarding space, time and matter the reader likely grew up with. For example: that time passes equally quickly for everyone, that two events occur either simultaneously or one after the other and that the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees.

The first part focuses on Einstein's special relativity, particularly on the concepts of time dilation, space contraction and event simultaneity. It often resorts to diagram-supported use case of an astronaut traveling through space in a spacecraft, being observed by a mission controller on ground to illustrate these concepts.

The second part adds gravity and acceleration to the mix, introducing Einstein's theory of general relativity, thus inviting the reader to contemplate time "running" faster in lower gravity (that's right, time runs faster upstairs!), possibility of existence of multiple universes, the curvature of space-time and the formation and effects of black holes.

Due to the book's shortness, some interesting ideas are merely glossed over or tackled very superficially, but at the end there is a suggested further reading list. Contains a little bit of math and equations, but with the exception of one chapter that can safely be skipped, nothing out of the reach of basic college physics. ( )
  matija2019 | Jan 8, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Russell Stannardprimary authorall editionscalculated
Akins, PhilipCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schröder, JürgenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, NickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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All of us grow up with certain basic ideas concerning space, time, and matter. (Preface)
Imagine you are in a train carriage waiting at a station.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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100 years ago, Einstein's theory of relativity shattered the world of physics. Our comforting Newtonian ideas of space and time were replaced by bizarre and counterintuitive conclusions: if you move at high speed, time slows down, space squashes up and you get heavier; travel fast enough andyou could weigh as much as a jumbo jet, be squashed thinner than a CD without feeling a thing - and live for ever. And that was just the Special Theory. With the General Theory came even stranger ideas of curved space-time, and changed our understanding of gravity and the cosmos.This authoritative and entertaining iVery Short Introduction/i makes the theory of relativity accessible and understandable. Using very little mathematics, Russell Stannard explains the important concepts of relativity, from E=mc2 to black holes, and explores the theory's impact on science and onour understanding of the universe.

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