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Why Does E=mc2?: (And Why Should We Care?) [Kindle Edition]

Brian Cox , Jeff Forshaw
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The most accessible, entertaining, and enlightening explanation of the best-known physics equation in the world, as rendered by two of today’s leading scientists.

Professor Brian Cox and Professor Jeff Forshaw go on a journey to the frontier of 21st century science to consider the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2. Breaking down the symbols themselves, they pose a series of questions: What is energy? What is mass? What has the speed of light got to do with energy and mass? In answering these questions, they take us to the site of one of the largest scientific experiments ever conducted. Lying beneath the city of Geneva, straddling the Franco-Swiss boarder, is a 27 km particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider. Using this gigantic machine—which can recreate conditions in the early Universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang—Cox and Forshaw will describe the current theory behind the origin of mass.

Alongside questions of energy and mass, they will consider the third, and perhaps, most intriguing element of the equation: 'c' - or the speed of light. Why is it that the speed of light is the exchange rate? Answering this question is at the heart of the investigation as the authors demonstrate how, in order to truly understand why E=mc2, we first must understand why we must move forward in time and not backwards and how objects in our 3-dimensional world actually move in 4-dimensional space-time. In other words, how the very fabric of our world is constructed. A collaboration between two of the youngest professors in the UK, Why Does E=mc2? promises to be one of the most exciting and accessible explanations of the theory of relativity in recent years.
 



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
The most accessible, entertaining, and enlightening explanation of the best-known physics equation in the world, as rendered by two of today’s leading scientists. Professor Brian Cox and Professor Jeff Forshaw go on a journey to the frontier of 21st century science to consider the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2. Breaking down the symbols themselves, they pose a series of questions: What is energy? What is mass? What has the speed of light got to do with energy and mass? In answering these questions, they take us to the site of one of the largest scientific experiments ever conducted. Lying beneath the city of Geneva, straddling the Franco-Swiss boarder, is a 27 km particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider. Using this gigantic machine—which can recreate conditions in the early Universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang—Cox and Forshaw will describe the current theory behind the origin of mass.

From Publishers Weekly

British theoretical physicists Cox and Forshaw offer lay readers a fascinating account of modern scientists' view of the world, and how it got that way. Without using complicated mathematics, Cox and Forshaw show how the search for "mathematical consistency" can guide scientists in finding the "laws that describe physical reality." The authors provide the historical context that set the stage for Einstein's discovery, providing an easy-to-grasp explanation of counterintuitive experimental evidence, demonstrating how the speed of light acts as a "cosmic speed limit," the exception that proves the rule of relativity. The authors also clearly explain the tide shift that Einstein caused, transforming scientists' understanding of the world-"common-sense notions regarding space and time are dashed and replaced by something entirely new, unexpected, and elegant." Though the basics are covered in detail, there's plenty here for science buffs to ponder.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 543 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (July 14, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TJLF7W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,825 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and beautiful August 23, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's a great feeling to come back tired from work and pick up such a book. After all, like most people I rarely have time to ponder seriously about the universe and the meaning of time and space.I am a high school French teacher so my training in science is rather limited. But after a few hours spent thinking about time,space, distance, energy and matter with Cox and Forshaw,I felt enlightened and rejuvenated! It really read like a thriller, whenever I put the book down I could not stop thinking about it and at dinner I could not shut up about it. The more my friends asked me questions about what I read the more I felt like going back and re-reading until I could explain it in my own words. Now that I am done with it, it's haunting me, driving home or playing with my cat; it keeps me thinking...
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Cox and Forshaw have presented a streamlined, focused popular science book aimed at teaching relatively new physics readers the basics and history of the famous equation in the title. While experienced physics readers will not likely learn new information, the book offers an approachable description of relativity, how we know it works, and why it is important in the modern world and beyond.

While I personally didn't gain much new from this book (as a reasonably experienced non-professional physics reader), I believe newer readers could be in for a treat. I'd certainly recommend starting a discovery of relativity with this book if the concept seems difficult. The authors take time to explain various points, and offer solid presentations and reasonable analogies to aid in the explanation. Combined with a singularly-focused subject, the book is an excellent starting point for curious, intelligent readers wishing to know more details about E=mc2. Four stars.
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71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Einstein's famous formula made understandable August 14, 2009
Format:Hardcover
I read Professors Cox & Forshaw's new book on Einstein's E = mc2 in one day: I couldn't put it down. I have tried for years to get a handle on the equation and how to think about spacetime, have read many books for the lay public (I am a psychiatry professor, so I am a layman when it comes to physics) -- and this new book is the only one that I could grasp and that really made sense. It's a great tribute to the authors and a great service to the public.
Michael H Stone, MD
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75 of 88 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing Simplifications January 16, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The authors do a good job of describing the role on invariants in physics, and for that I am grateful.

However the way the choose to simplify the math and science created more confusion for me than light.

Their decision to not state the underlying formulas directly but instead to explain them in words required the authors to spread the formulas out over page after page making them unnecessarily difficult to follow. You cannot go back and review an equation because you can't find in buried in the text.

Page 22 is a good example of unnecessary explanation. It requires the entire page to laboriously explain that x, y,and z are variables. (Do the authors really believe someone would buy a book with the title E=mc^2 if they did not understand the concept of a variable??)

Minor point are belabored while major shifts are completely unexplained. For example, on page 80, the authors explain invariants in terms of the radius of a circle, all points on the circumference are equal (invariant) distance from the center. They explain that when this model is applied to space-time, it violates Cause and Effect. The explanation is enlightening; so far, so good. To fix the problem with cause and effect, the authors take a next step that is bizarre and unexplained. They change the Pythagorean formula to create a hyperbola and never explain how this new model of S/T maintains the invariance that was so obvious in the last model (the circle). Several commentators have noted this particular problem with book.

Another example from page 131-3 is even more bizarre. After demonstrating that (gamma)MC (the scaling factor of S/T time) is conserved, they then state the (gamma)MC^2 is also conserved (Ok, I will take your word on that ...).
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent ride... November 2, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My husband is a math guy and has read books about relativity for fun. I'm not so keen on math myself, but have a master's degree in organic chemistry (I can do math, sure, I just don't do it for fun). I bought this book so that we would have something to read together - I keep buying him books as gifts, and they often collect dust.

It turned out to be a great idea. We have often forgone watching TV in order to read more about E = mc2. We read, stop, discuss, and try to wrap our brains around the ideas. I think I have come to understand more of the underlying ideas briefly presented in my physics classes, and in an environment of no stress and no time limit! I am not in a position to critique the physics itself, but I have found no errors or issues that suggest a problem.

However, as much as the author's try to make the subject accessible, I am fairly certain my non-math and science family members would have been lost after the first few chapters. Without some experience in thinking in equations, it's just hard to wrap your brain around the ideas.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with at least a basic math or science background who is interested in understanding something fundamental that hardly ever gets explained outside of an upper level physics course, or someone without a math or science background who is interested in really stretching their brain.
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Help with spacetime topic in "Why Does E=mc"...
Presumably the authors could have plugged in some examples to show why the positive sign results in a circle and the negative sign results in a parabola, but they didn't. Therefore some of us are left to just accept what they claim and move on. Wish I could answer your question but I can't. ... Read More
Dec 8, 2010 by Jack |  See all 3 posts
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