Monday, January 27, 2014

What Is Relativity? - A Review

A Review

I generally enjoy science.  In college I was a chemistry major and had a mathematics minor.  A majority of my career focused on Computer Science in which I had a graduate degree and spent teaching in the college classroom.  I enjoyed studying science.

My exposure to physics began with a year course during my senior year and then three semesters of physics in college.  Sadly, my appreciation for science and my courses in physics left me with a dislike of physics.

I wish I could say Jeffrey Bennett’s book cured me of my dislike.  It did not.  However, it did leave me a better appreciation of Einstein’s theories and contributions to modern science.  As he writes, the author includes a number of milestones where he says, “This is what we now know …” and he repeats the basic points covered to that point in the book.  Though I occasionally felt overwhelmed as I read, at those points, I could hear myself thinking, “Okay, I know how he came to that point, and that one.”  I was able, though it was still confusing, to follow the argument from point A to point D.  I was learning something about relativity.

Though relativity has its roots in mathematics, What Is Relativity? does not require a great deal of mathematics.  I did not say none, but it is not the foundation upon which the book is built.  There are occasional sections which authors says are written for the mathematical astute and others should skip them - a very small portion of the book is of this nature.

The book would make a good piece of ancillary reading for a high school or college freshman physics course.  There were still times I wish there has been an instructor nearby ready to answer questions.  There are details that the book discusses that are still being hammered out in physics labs around the world (e.g. Do Black Holes exist?  Just this week, Stephen Hawking was very vocal about the non-existence of Black Holes, saying that only grey holes existed.).  

I would not classify the book as “light” reading - but it certainly understandable and can be appreciated in its own right.  For that reason, I would recommend the book for the reader who has an interest in science, but for whom physics was over the top, as it was for me.  It made a tough subject understandable.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

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