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God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe Paperback – November 28, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385334850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385334853
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Who would have thought a mathematical constant would make such an engaging character? God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe, mathematician Amir Aczel's tale of the search for a scientific explanation of the universe, features the cosmological constant in a role as complex as Einstein's. The great genius referred to it as his "greatest blunder," but recent events in the world of astrophysics have brought the prodigal term back into the fold as an important part of his field equation. Aczel is a powerful storyteller, and makes no secret of his admiration for Einstein; much of the book revolves around his conquest of general relativity. Integrating relativity with gravitation was no easy task (even for Einstein), but the author deftly steers the reader away from the sticky stuff and focuses attention on concepts of importance.

Aczel shows Einstein's aesthetic troubles with the cosmological constant, which preceded theoretical and experimental problems leading to its abandonment. The universe was caught in the act of expansion by Edwin Hubble, and the constant, originally invoked to maintain a steady-state universe, was unnecessary. Fortunately, though, the mathematics underlying the constant had become important tools for physicists; observations in 1997 and 1998 by Saul Perlmutter, Neta Bahcall, and others showed that the universe will continue expanding indefinitely and sent theorists back to the drawing board to revise their equations. The cosmological constant returned triumphant, and while its inventor might never have approved of it, today's scientific community gives it an honored role in God's Equation. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

For decades, scientists have debated whether the universe will eventually collapse upon itself, will expand until it reaches an optimal size and remain steady, or will expand forever. To most everyone's surprise, studies of particular huge supernovae are providing evidence that the last possibility may be right and that billions of years from now the universe will be an unimaginably immense void of burned-out stars. The explanation for this may lie in the "cosmological constant," a part of Einstein's field equation for general relativity. Though Einstein described the constant as the greatest blunder of his career, many scientists now think that it could correctly represent some kind of "funny energy" pushing the universe apart. Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorem; Probability 1) contends that Einstein's equation for the cosmological constant is our best approximation of what he calls "God's equation": the ultimate summary of how the universe works. Though Aczel's analysis of Einstein's work requires familiarity with advanced mathematics, that analysis makes up only a minor portion of his book, and most readers will appreciate the author's inclusion of the great physicist's letters to astronomer Erwin Freundlich. Translated here for the first time, they give a glimpse of Einstein's ambition and of his occasional indifference toward collaborators who were no longer useful to him. Aczel's writing is marred by his proclivity to make hyperbolic statements ("Einstein became one of the greatest celebritiesApossibly the greatestAthe world has ever known"), and some of his historical observations are na?ve. Those fascinated by Einstein will find much of interest here, but general readers hungry for information about recent developments in cosmology may want to consult more accessible authors, such as John Gribbin (The Case of the Missing Neutrinos). Figures not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Amir D. Aczel, Ph.D., is the author of 17 books on mathematics and science, some of which have been international bestsellers. Aczel has taught mathematics, statistics, and history of science at various universities, and was a visiting scholar at Harvard in 2005-2007. In 2004, Aczel was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is also the recipient of several teaching awards, and a grant from the American Institute of Physics to support the writing of two of his books. Aczel is currently a research fellow in the history of science at Boston University. The photo shows Amir D. Aczel inside the CMS detector of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the international laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, while there to research his new book, "Present at the Creation: The Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider"--which is about the search for the mysterious Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle," dark matter, dark energy, the mystery of antimatter, Supersymmetry, and hidden dimensions of spacetime.
See Amir D. Aczel's webpage: http://amirdaczel.com
Video on CERN and the Large Hadron Collider: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ncx8TE2JMo

Customer Reviews

This is quite a readable and absorbing book.
Tatsuo Tabata
Great book explaining the general background theories for General Relativity, and how Einstein developed the formula to account for the expanding universe.
iplan
If you have interest in science, math, physics or cosmology, this book is well worth the read.
Edward J. Barton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Toolan on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I had expected this book (foolishly judging it by the cover) to present a new theological interpretation of cosmology, or perhaps a theory based on new astronomical observations. In fact it seems as if Aczel had the title "God's Equation" thrust on him by a publisher eager for more sales.
The book is actually a pretty enjoyable and readable introduction to special and general relativity, interwoven with some more modern physics and plenty of anecdotes about Einstein's life.
The author has conducted unique research of his own, commissioning his father to translate some of Einstein's previously unpublished letters. And so an intriguing character sketch emerges, blended seamlessly with the science. It dwells at length on the "greatest blunder", the cosmological constant, which is still debated by cosmologists today.
The explanations of the physics are really rather good. I would highly recommend this book to someone who's after an easier read than Hawking's Brief History of Time, and not yet ready for the Elegant Universe.
A very personal, thoughtful, and welcome book.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It's not Aczel who first brings up God, it's Einstein. One of the most thought-provoking things about this book is that for all our research and increasingly detailed knowledge of the way things work, most physicists are convinced that some sort of Creative Power underlies the workings of the universe. As a physicist and professor myself, I am impressed at the way Aczel clearly -- poetically, even -- lays out some of the more complicated cutting-edge concepts of contemporary science. He's extensively interviewed some of the most prominent figures in the field, and his good research (except for a couple of what I presume are typos regarding historical dates) shows. The previous reviewer must have some personal bone to pick with the author, because he/she and I didn't read the same book. Do read it; it will give you a glimpse -- however fleeting -- into the mind of one of humanity's greatest (Einstein): and therefore, perhaps, a glimpse at the awe-inspiring workings of the cosmos.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By John Rummel on July 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Aczel, whose book about Fermat's last theorem was an enjoyable romp through the history of mathematics, now turns his attention to Einstein's theory of general relativity and its implications for cosmology. Based on his work with some historians who are taking a fresh look at Einstein's life and work through recently discovered notebooks and correspondence (Renn, Stachel, et.al), Aczel is able to reveal some previously unknown factoids about the 20th century's greatest scientist. For example, a previously unknown notebook from about 1912 reveals that Einstein had produced his field equation for gravitation nearly 3 years earlier than its final publication in 1915. Apparently Einstein was not convinced of the accuracy of this equation, for he abandoned it, only to rederive it 3 years later with apparently no recollection that he'd been there before. Aczel also spends some effort refuting the popular myth that Einstein was no good at mathematics. He was a superb mathematician, says Aczel, and largely self-taught, which speaks to his agile intellect and intuitive sense for fruitful areas of research.
Unlike any other biographies of Einstein or expositions of relativity that I've read, Aczel takes a "mathematician's eye view" of general relativity, and spends considerable time tracing the development of the geometry of curved space through Gauss, Reimann, and several other lessor known contributors. He also reveals, which I had not known previously, that Einstein kept up an ongoing correspondence with the legendary British mathematician David Hilbert, and that Hilbert published some work of his own based on early copies of Einstein's field equations.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By LarryE on October 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed Fermat's Last Theorem, also by Aczel, so perhaps I came to this book with unfairly high expectations, but I was a little disappointed. Make no mistake, it's a good read and the author's account of Einstein's struggle to get experimental verification of relativity (including showing his tendency to be unduly harsh in dealing with others) humanizes the great physicist in a way few volumes have. But there are some flaws, some minor, others more serious.
One minor gripe is that the pacing of the book is uneven; it drags in places and picks up in others. Interestingly but perhaps not surprisingly considering the author, the pace seems to pick up just at those times when Aczel is discussing the mathematics involved. I could almost feel his enthusiasm for his subject rising. (Those discussions are excellent, by the way.)
I also confess to being annoyed at how, if you follow Aczel, no one measures up to Einstein, everyone falls short, everyone is in his shadow and if only somehow he had lived longer he would have solved - as only he could - all these questions which now plague astrophysics. Admiration is one thing, hero-worship is another.
A more serious flaw is that Aczel, while a master of the mathematics involved, seems to be not well-versed in the state of observational knowledge of cosmology. He says, for example, that just a few years ago, most scientists maintained that the expansion of the universe would slow, stop, and reverse into a "Big Crunch." Some, he says, held it would slow to a stop and then maintain a steady state, neither expanding nor contracting - and "only a few" believed the expansion would continue forever.
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