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How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog Paperback – February 28, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0465023318 ISBN-10: 0465023312
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How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog + How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog + Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Steve Nadis, coauthor of The Shape of Inner Space
“Emmy may be one smart dog, but her owner also happens to be an uncommonly gifted communicator. Chad Orzel’s treatment of special and general relativity is comprehensive, informative, and amazingly accessible, yet it’s funny too. This is, by far, the most entertaining discussion of the subject that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.”

Frank Close, author of The Infinity Puzzle
“With Nero, the egocentric cat who believes it is the centre of the universe, and Emmy, the student dog whose questions and misunderstandings would drive any teacher to distraction, and whose interest in relativity is how E=mc^2 can turn squirrels into energy, Chad Orzel has created a delightful cast of characters to make his introduction to relativity relatively painless. A cleverly crafted and beautifully explained narrative that guides readers carefully into the depths of relativity. Whether you are a hare or a tortoise, or even a dog, you will enjoy this.”

Louisa Gilder, author of The Age of Entanglement
“For the price of a book, Orzel delivers the heady, joyful experience of taking a small college class with a brilliant and funny professor who really knows how to teach. A thoroughly winning romp through a rock-solid presentation of a beautiful subject.”

James Kakalios, Professor of Physics, University of Minnesota, and author of The Physics of Superheroes and The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics
“Move over, Krypto—there’s a new superdog in town! Chad Orzel’s dog Emmy, having mastered quantum physics, now helps us understand Einstein’s theories of relativity in a deep and accessible way. Get this dog a cape!”

Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Calculus Diaries
“Everyone’s favorite physics-loving canine is back, this time giving us a dog’s eye view of Einstein and relativity. Physics professor Chad Orzel leads Emmy (and us) through an engaging tour of light speed, time dilation, and amazing shrinking bunnies (length contraction)—not to mention what all this means for the search for the elusive ‘bacon boson.’”
 
Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here
“Dogs are a practical species. They aren’t interested in speculation and conjecture; they like food, walks, and proven physics like Einstein’s relativity. If you really want to further your dog’s education (and learn something yourself in the process), Chad Orzel’s book is the first place you should turn.”

Publishers Weekly
“[A] compact and instructive walk through Einstein’s theory of relativit.... [T]he prose is breezy and straightforward, and the material well organized.... Relativity constantly amazes, and the glimpses of understanding provide rewarding and satisfying moments.”
 
Kirkus Reviews
“Unlike quantum physics, which remains bizarre even to experts, much of relativity makes sense. Thus, Einstein’s special relativity merely states that the laws of physics and the speed of light are identical for all observers in smooth motion. This sounds trivial but leads to weird if delightfully comprehensible phenomena, provided someone like Orzel delivers a clear explanation of why.”

Science News
“A clever introduction to the often intimidating concepts of special and general relativity, couched as a series of conversations between the author and his dog, Emmy. It may sound like a strange setup, but the somewhat kooky concept works well for explaining a field of physics that can sound, well, kooky to the uninitiated.... While keeping the math to a minimum, Orzel provides a clear and thorough primer. It might take some practice to start equating subatomic particles to running bunnies, but the reader will find that puzzling through the details is worth the effort.”

Booklist
“With canine humor and math- or physics-related jokes, Orzel keeps readers interested, while teaching the elements of physics that we promptly forgot after we took the test.”

Library Journal
“Readers who enjoy Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, or Neil deGrasse Tyson will love this book. Full of quotes, math jokes, and silly canines, the book strives to make its audience amazed by, not frightened of, physics. With exuberant Emmy at the lead, readers can’t help but be dragged (willingly!) toward a better understanding of special and general relativity.”
 
Washington Post
“Rather than barking or growling, Emmy leavens the mood with requests for walks; and when the academics get heavy, she interjects to beg for clarification. Obviously, real-life dogs will not walk away from the book with a grasp of the universe’s mechanics, but the human sort of non-scientist can get some benefit.”
 
Nature Physics
“[E]ngaging and readable for a general audience.... I suggest people who baulk at the idea of a talking dog but are nevertheless interested in the broad sweep of one of the two great theories of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries should give this book a chance. After all, every dog has its day.”

BBC Focus
“Amusing and engaging.... It’s informal and has a lightness of touch that can be reassuring when trying to get your head around some big concepts."

New York Times
“Witty and clear-thinking.... Professor Orzel, who teaches physics at Union College and runs the blog Uncertain Principles, is turning his own dog, Emmy, into something of a franchise….succinct and entertaining.... Bravo to both man and dog.”

About the Author

Chad Orzel received his BA in physics from Williams College, his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Maryland, and his postdoctorate from Yale University. He maintains a regular blog, Uncertain Principles, and is author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. He is currently a professor at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He lives near campus with his wife, their daughter, and, of course, Emmy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465023312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465023318
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chad Orzel is a professor, blogger, and author of popular-audience books about physics. He has a BA in Physics from Williams College and a Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he did his thesis research in the laboratory of William D. Phillips (1997 Nobel laureate in Physics) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, studying collisions between laser-cooled xenon atoms less than a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. He then spent two years as a post-doc at Yale University in the group of Mark Kasevich, studying quantum effects in a Bose-Einstein Condensate. In 2001 he joined the faculty of Union College in Schenectady, NY, where he is now an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Since 2002 he has run the physics weblog Uncertain Principles (http://scienceblogs.com/principles/ ), now part of the ScienceBlogs network. He lives in Niskayuna, NY with his wife, Kate Nepveu, their two children, and Emmy, the Queen of Niskayuna.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dave on March 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
I've read Why Does E=MC2 by Brian Cox, Fabric of the Cosmos and The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, Einstein's Cosmos by Michio Kaku, but this is by far the best book on relativity that I've read. Brian Greene's books were amazing, but didn't focus entirely on special and general relativity, Einstein's Cosmos was an excellent book but was a little more biographical than I was hoping it would be, and Brian Cox's book was very good. This book however is just simply amazing.

The explanations are extremely clear and I'm just amazed at how much he was able to cover in just a couple hundred pages. It never seemed like the book was moving too fast or too slow. The dog conversation idea sounded like it would be annoying and corny, but it was perfect. The dog could have been replaced with a human, a rabbit, or a cat (which were all animals he used along with his dog in the book). The reason it worked so great is that he clearly anticipated the exact questions that people ranging from total layman who never read a science book in their life to geeks like myself who try and read every science book they can get their hands on would have when it comes to relativity.

I'm at the point know where I could answer some of the most basic questions that his dog has, but I remember a time when I couldn't and when the questions the dog asks would've been exactly the questions that I would have had. Pretty much every time a statement by the author left me slightly confused or uncertain his dog would stop him in his tracks and ask either the question that I was thinking or a different question that either way would lead to the answer that I needed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lobsta Johnson on June 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A pretty good introduction to relativity, including special and general relativity. The conversations with the dog are cute at first, but rapidly got annoying and you can just skip past them. The explanations are very clear. Worth reading if you're interested in the gist of Einstein without the math.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John J. Payne on November 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author did a great job of providing the big picture of relativity without having to resort to very much math. I'm an engineer and so have taken several high school and university-level physics courses; I believe that I (and my fellow students) would have benefited from first reading this book, before the big picture was, if not lost, then obscured by the oft times difficult math associated with relativity. Teaching relativity through conversations with Emmy the dog was very cleaver and effective! I would recommend this book to high school and beginning college students who are about to take physics and anyone who is interested in relativity without wanting to wade through the gory math details.
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Format: Paperback
If you are interested in relativity at all or just enjoy physics you need to read this book. It is a fantastic introduction to the complex and dense ideas of the theory of relativity. Every time i read a chapter i would learning something new and it would blow my mind and shatter preconceived notions on how the world works. When i was picking up this book i was worried a little bit about the title. I thought that this was another book that was trying to trick you into liking physics. This is not the case and the dog throughout the whole books plays a vital part in the learning process.
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Format: Paperback
Professor Chad Orzel and his mad mutt Emmy are back, this time to explain the concepts of relativity. I enjoyed enormously the companion book on quantum physics last year, and was very much looking forward to seeing the other great area of modern physics receive the same treatment.

As before, Orzel sets out a clear account of the field, working in many cases from first principles, but continuously framed by very funny exchanges between him and his dog, who, like any of her kind, is constantly looking for ways to increase her food intake, and her success in hunting bunnies and squirrels.

The quantum physics volume introduced me to a lot of relatively new thinking and experimental evidence, and I was hoping for the same this time, but relativity is obviously a more mature field, and there was less that was new to me in this book. That said, the teaching of this field has obviously moved on since my student days, and I was surprised to find, for example, the concept of relativistic mass increase referred to as an "old" model, with the book focusing much more on momentum calculations. Similarly the basics of special relativity are presented using a range of geometrical models, with a heavy emphasis on the spacetime diagram, which is a different approach to some previous books I've read.

I had some complaints about the Kindle edition of the quantum physics volume separating diagrams and footnotes too far from the relevant text. On this occasion I received a physical copy of the book and was looking forward to that being less of an issue. The physical book layout is definitely better, but could still be improved, as diagrams are often a page or more away from the descriptive text.

However, that's a minor niggle, and really my only one. If you want to learn more about relativity and also have a good laugh, this is a strong recommendation.
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