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Relativity: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – August 15, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0199236220 ISBN-10: 0199236224

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199236224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199236220
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 6.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Russell Stannard is Emeritus Professor of Physics at the Open University. A prolific writer for both adults and children, his books are translated into 20 languages and have been shortlisted for many scientific book prizes. His trilogy of Uncle Albert books introduces children of 10+ to relativity and quantum theory. He is the co-author, with Paul Davies, of The God Experiment.

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Customer Reviews

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The book is divided into two sections.
Randolph Eck
I would strongly recommend this book as a good starting point for learning about relativity.
Dr. Bojan Tunguz
There are numerous very helpful illustrations, a few equations, and a little simple math.
Peter J.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When "Time" magazine chose Albert Einstein as the person of the century for the 20th century it was due to his incredible intellectual achievements. Among those, two stand as particularly remarkable, becoming forever uniquely associated with their inventor, in minds of general public and professional scientists alike. These are the special and general theories of relativity. Their reputation is fully deserved. The two theories of relativity forever changed the way that we look at the space, time and matter. They touch upon our deepest understanding of physical reality and their core principles have stood the test of time, a remarkable achievement after a century full of usurpations of some of our most cherished notions.

The special and general relativity also have a reputation of being incredibly complex and hard to understand. In the case of special relativity this has primarily to do with the non-intuitive way that the world of four dimensions appears to us. In the case of general relativity, however, the complexity is substantially increased by the use of very advanced mathematical structures that it requires. And yet, all of the mathematical and conceptual implications of relativity stem from a few very simple ideas: the relativity of all reference frames, the constancy of the speed of light, and the equivalence of acceleration and gravitational field. It is a remarkable achievement of Russell Stannard's book to explain so much with just a very basic application of those principles. This makes it possible for a general reader to appreciate these beautiful theories without having to get bogged down in heavy mathematics. All examples in the book are intuitive and accessible. The illustrations are clear and serve to reinforce the main points in the text.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is only 109-pages long, with a small 4x6 inch text area, yet it manages to pack quite a bit into such a small package. In my opinion it provides a very good introduction to Special and General Relativity with a bit on the cosmological implications of these theories. There are numerous very helpful illustrations, a few equations, and a little simple math. I would have liked to have had a bit more in the way of explanations of some of the ideas that are presented, but that would have been beyond the goal of the books in the "Very Short Introduction" series that have been prepared by Oxford University Press.

I would recommend this book to someone who wants a very brief introduction. It is however a bit more complex than Martin Gardner's classic "Relativity Simply Explained", but much more accessible than many other "Introductory Relativity" books. I have read many of these book and I still found that this book clarified several things for me.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By taogoat on December 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently read a handful of books on relativity, and I rank them as follows:

Highly recommended introductory works:
* Relativity Simply Explained by Martin Gardner -- best introductory book.
* The Elegant Universe (chapters 2 & 3) by Brian Greene -- extremely lucid, but not as in-depth as Gardner's book -- possibly the best if you want a shorter introduction.
* Einstein by Walter Isaacson, chapter 6 (special relativity) & chapter 9 (general relativity) -- not just a great biography, also a very lucid explanation of Einstein's ideas.
* The Fabric of the Cosmos (chapters 2 & 3) by Brian Greene -- a discussion of general relativity & the nature of spacetime.

Further reading:
* Inside Relativity by Mook & Vargish -- great introduction to Newton, along with great sections on what high-speed objects look like and a great section on how Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism relate to relativity.
* Relativity Visualized by Lewis Carroll Epstein -- a good additional book to read, if you want to delve more into truly understanding how it works. Not recommended as an introduction.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on October 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many years ago, Stannard was a tutor on my physics course and gave lectures on Special Relativity. He was very good, with an obvious love of his subject and a genuine desire to communicate the ideas to others.

It's quite surprising how many physicists never go beyond the Special theory to get a firm grasp of the General theory. Stannard is a notable exception.

Returning to the subject many years later, I naturally chose a book by him. And in any case, I'm gradually working my way through the entire VSI series.

I really do think that this is the best book with which to start if you want to tackle Relativity, and an excellent refresher if you have already studied the subject. It clarified many things for me and introduced a few completely new ideas.

The math is fairly simple, certainly nothing beyond high school level, although the square root symbol written as a V had me puzzled for a moment.

The Amazon product description says the book has 144 pages. In fact it's 114, about par for this series.

Also, the Look Inside feature here will reveal some typos, like the '3/5 = 0.67' error on page 7, pointed out by another reviewer. In the copy I bought (from Amazon) these errors are corrected.
[PeterReeve]
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