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A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion: The Essential Scientific Works of Albert Einstein Hardcover – November 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's hard to imagine a better guide to the work of Albert Einstein than Hawking, one of the world's most renowned physicists and popular science writers, whose own A Brief History of Time has sold over nine million copies. Though there are plenty of popular books about Einstein's theories, Hawking is right when he insists that the "most lucid, not to mention entertaining proponent of Einstein's ideas has always been Einstein himself." Even those with a minimal background in math and science will come away with a keen understanding of the towering genius and his transformative work on the nature of space, time and light. Included are Einstein's seminal papers on special and general relativity, and his 1916 Relativity, the Special and General Theory, which explains the theory in simple, straightforward terms accessible to any high-school graduate with a knowledge of basic algebra. Einstein's pioneering work in modern quantum theory, from his 1905 discovery of photons to his later, critical opinions of the generally accepted quantum theory (in excerpts from his 1950 book Out of My Later Years), is also considered. Hawking adds a brief but effective introduction to each section, making this gem of a collection really shine.
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"Science Books & Films," June 2008"Hawking's book is stimulating and provides the reader with motivation for studying physics and engaging the universe."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press; 1St Edition edition (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762430036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762430031
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The most highly celebrated and recognized scientist alive today, Stephen Hawking has assembled, in this volume, highlights of Einstein's groundbreaking scientific works, such as his Special Theory of Relativity (1905) and his General Theory of Relativity (1915).

Also included are Einstein's thoughtful views on politics, religion, the history and development of physics, and the interplay between science and the world.

In a chapter titled "Selections from Out of My Later Years," Hawking discusses Einstein's reservations concerning quantum mechanics: "Einstein pointed out that if we were able to investigate microscopic phenomena on the smallest scales, we would be able to find deterministic relations." In other words, Einstein had serious doubts about the validity of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and rejected the fundamentally probabilistic nature of reality espoused by those who held to the workings of chance and randomness at the quantum (microscopic) level. "God does not play dice with the universe," he famously opined; "God is subtle but he is not malicious." He held adamantly (some would say stubbornly) to his belief that physical reality is, at bottom, deterministic.

Hawking gives brief introductions to each of Einstein's papers, thereby providing helpful historical and scientific perspectives.

Einstein once said, "Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." Yeah, right! Einstein is much too modest.

In a sense, however, Einstein is correct. Although this volume is replete with mathematical equations, one can read between the lines and gain an improved understanding of his revolutionary theories of spacetime and gravitation.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on October 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
A very sobering and demystifying look at Einstein's contributions to the development of the Special and the General Theories of Relativity, his work on Cosmology (and his greatest mistake in positing the Cosmic constant), his unsuccessful quest for a "Final Theory of Everything," as well as his thoughts on politics, philosophy, history and religion. The substance of this collection of Einstein's papers we have seen before but not the lore and the deep understanding of Einstein the man and his technique as scientist, as it is so artfully annotated and portrayed by the holder of the Lucasian Chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, the renown Stephen Hawkings.

What Hawkings give us that is new here is a clearer understanding of where Einstein's true genius lay: It was it seems in understanding the full import and the subtleties of the theories that went on before him, both experimentally and mathematically, and then accepting and utilizing them all to the max; without, hesitation, doubt or reservations. With the single exception of the Quantum theory where he uttered the now famous sentence that "God Does not Play Dice with the universe," Einstein was confident in his approach even when he was not confident in his ability to carry his projects through to their conclusions. In short, Einstein believed deeply in the proven (and only in the proven) science of his day. For instance, he never believed in the "luminiferous ether," nor was he deterred by the profound implications of the constancy of light: that the rest of the universe of science would have to be rearranged to accommodate this new profound fundamental and underlying truth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By taogoat on October 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're looking for a good introduction to Einstein's discoveries, this is not it. I recommend Relativity Simply Explained, The Elegant Universe (chapters 2 & 3), and Einstein: His Life and Universe as great introductions to his life and work.

If you want the essential scientific works of Einstein all in one beautiful book, this is it.

Granted, this is a *selection* from his writings, so you could have a more complete collection by buying his other books individually. But at more than 450 pages, this is a generous collection. And if Hawking thinks these are the essential works, I'm inclined to believe him. It's a mixed bag of popular writings, scientific autobiography, lectures, essays, and original papers.

The contents are as follows, each with a brief introduction by Hawking:

1. Selections from The Principle of Relativity - 7 original papers by Einstein from 1905-1919, including the original papers proposing the theory of relativity and E=mc2.

2. Relativity: The Special and General Theory - the complete contents, with the exception of Appendix V.

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