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An Illustrated Guide to Relativity 1st Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521141000
ISBN-10: 0521141001
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is the most user-friendly book on special relativity that this reviewer has seen. Replete with useful diagrams, extensive footnotes, and a good index, it should make this difficult subject easier for everyone to grasp."
N. Sadanand, Choice Magazine

Book Description

This unique book explains Einstein's special theory of relativity pictorially, using diagrams rather than equations. It maintains the logic and rigor necessary for physics students, yet is simple enough to be understood by non-scientists. The book also contains entertaining problems which challenge the reader's understanding of the materials covered.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521141001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521141000
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By jcs-2000 on May 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
A highly accessible explanation! Dispenses with the cumbersome and obscuring math formalisms to present the essential elements of special relativity. No crazy matrix notations or cryptic equations. You will understand how the concept of the speed of light being the same for all observes in combination with the Lorentz transformation (which you will derive step by step with illustrated figures) results in surprising conclusions about the fundamental nature of space and time. It worked great for me as an interested layperson, but I think physics students seeking an introductory conceptual approach would also benefit. I do hope a book covering general relativity is also published following this very engaging format.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Crowell on July 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I have a student who wants to learn a little relativity from a commercially published book, I usually suggest one of two books: Taylor and Wheeler's Spacetime Physics (for the mathematically adept) or Takeuchi (for others).

Here are my opinions on the pluses and minuses of Takeuchi:

Pro:

The physics is not obscured by equations that will be impenetrable to gen ed students.

The presentation is for the most part modern and geometical. This is a welcome antidote to outdated presentations that read as though they'd been written in 1935.

The problems seem good on casual inspection.

Con:

The presentation of the distinction between SR and GR is out of date. Takeuchi presents this using Einstein's original formulation in terms of inertial versus noninertial frames of reference, whereas modern physicists think of it as a distinction between flat spacetime and curved spacetime.

p. 92 - "This conservation of spacetime area maintains the symmetry between the tree- and car-frames, since each is moving at the exact same speed when observed from the other frame, and ensures that the correspondence between the points on the two diagrams is one-to-one." This is totally wrong. A one-to-one function from a plane to a plane need not conserve area. There are valid elementary arguments for conservation of area in the x-t plane, but this is not such an argument.

The second half of the book is not as lucid as the first. Takeuchi develops the "mass-momentum vector" in Newtonian mechanics; this seems like an awkward way to approach the topic, and is more abstract than pictures of world-lines. His target audience has never been exposed to 3-vectors. When he discusses the energy-momentum vector in SR, he drifts toward a higher level of math.

The other book to consider for this audience would be Mermin's It's About Time, which strikes me as more rigorous and less inviting.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Florian Colbatzky on December 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
A wonderful book for beginners. Very few equations, many nice diagrams, extremely clear and careful language. But I would presume that even people familiar with special relativity will like it very much.
I hope that Takeuchi-san's intentions to write a book about general relativity will materialize.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Pronin on October 30, 2011
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This is a great book that can be used as a very good entry level introduction to the mysterious and exciting subject of the special theory of relativity. The most amazing thing about this book is that you will not find a single equation in it. Everything is explained using the graphical language of so-called space-time diagrams. Prof. Takeuchi is a great teacher, so it is very easy to follow his explanations. The book covers the basic material typically covered in a standard course on special relativity: Galilean relativity, time dilation, length contraction, the relativity of simultaneity, relativistic causality, clock synchronization, twin paradox, Doppler effect, etc. It also contains elements of classical and relativistic dynamics. But the best part about the book is that it is written in a very reader-friendly way, so you will certainly enjoy reading it. I strongly recommend the book to everybody who wants to learn relativity and even to those who are already familiar with it. The latter can use the book to strengthen their understanding of the subject. (Personally, I am teaching Einstein's special theory of relativity in a college so I know it. But I still had a lot of fun reading Prof. Takeuchi's book.)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Private Person on August 12, 2011
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As a high-school physics teacher, I have been wanting this book for a long time. I'm so grateful that I don't have to write it myself!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Astronomy Guy on January 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
As a novice who enjoys science, I found this book very useful. I've always heard about the Galilei and Lorentz Transformations, but never knew what they were. Using the spacetime diagrams allows you to get a good idea of what's going on and how they differ. I was surprised at the explanation of time dilation and Lorentz contraction. The actual facts are quite different from what you see presented on programs such as Nova. Also that Special Relativity only applies to inertial frames was a new one on me. I didn't realize acceleration was not included. I found the discussion on causality enlightening, as it was not something I had heard about before. I did think that some of the spacetime charts could have been explained more completely, but that could just be my own lack of grasping the concepts. All in all, I recommend it.
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