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Einstein's Mirror Hardcover – September 13, 1997
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From Kirkus Reviews
Einstein's theory of general relativity has had, as the authors of this layperson's guide to the theory note in something of an understatement, ``a profound impact on our modern view of the universe.'' Hey (Electronics/Univ. of Southampton, England) and Walters (Adult Continuing Education/Univ. of Wales, Swansea) go on to offer an admirably lucid, nontechnical, and impressively argued explanation of both what the theory means and how, since Einstein first formulated it, experiments have repeatedly proven him correct. They also trace its applications in the practice of science (including everything from the invention of the atomic bomb to less warlike uses, such as satellite navigation systems), and include a chapter on the way in which the theory of relativity has influenced modern science fiction. Handsomely illustrated, written with such sterling clarity that any reader can grasp the arguments, and thorough in its coverage, Einstein's Mirror is a model of science writing for a lay audience. (94 color plates, 156 halftones, 54 line diagrams, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
'Einstein's Mirror is the companion volume to Hey and Walter's The Quantum Universe, which highlights quantum theory, that other great revolution in 20th-century physics. The new volume uses the same highly successful recipe, blending solid explanation, historical colour and copious illustrations into a highly attractive package.' Marcus Chown, New Scientist
'... will be high on the reading lists of university and advanced high-school students and general readers with an interest in science ... an excellent introduction to the implications and applications of relativity.' Frank Close, Nature
'Your reviewer gained much pleasure from this book and anticipates that students also will enjoy it. Its entertaining outline of recent developments might well encourage younger readers to pursue Modern Physics at a higher level. It is hence very highly recommended.' Ron Cox, SSR
'The book is well illustrated with portraits, rarely seen photographs, historical engravings, informative diagrams and humorous cartoons, a few in colour. Readership will undoubtedly extend from the general reader to the science undergraduate, and will be welcomed by those interested in the history of science. Einstein's Mirror is unreservedly recommended, especially to secondary schools and public libraries.' Irish Astronomical Journal
' ... an extremely pleasant surprise ... its rare to find such a well written book, and I heartily recommend this to anyone who has had a passing interest (or even a whole career!) in relativity'. Astronomy Now
Top customer reviews
1) A Revolution in Time
2) The nature of light
3) Light and Time
4) The ultimate speed
6) Matter and anti-matter
7) Little Boy and Fat Man: relatively in action
8) Down to earth
9) Warped space
10) The Big Bang, black holes and unified fields
11) Afterward: Relativity and science fiction
This work presents Einstein's theory using history. Shows why a new theory was needed. This is a great help. Relativity is so odd, so contrary to experience, therefore knowing the problems relativity solved, aids understanding.
Preface explains: "Many analyses have attempted to capture the essence of the 'scientific method'. . . . In the history of relativity there are several interesting 'case studies' that resulted in the eventual abandoning of a supposedly scientific theory. The story of the 'luminiferous aether', and Einstein's realization that physics was much simpler without it, is central to the theory of special relativity." (xi)
This work shows that there is no 'scientific method'. "Moreover, as recounted in some of the anecdotes in this book, a combination of luck and 'physical intuition' has often played a seemingly vital role in major physics discoveries." (xi)
Chapter One presents Einstein's life and introduces modern uses of relativity. Photographs, of people, newspaper articles, laboratories, etc., make for facinating reading. This is done throughout the book. A real highlight!
Chapter Two begins with Einstein's comment: "The factor that finally succeeded, after long hesitation, to bring physicists slowly around to give up the faith in the possibility that all physics could be founded upon Newton's mechanics, was the electrodynamics of Faraday and Maxwell." (23) This chapter gives an outstanding explanation of why science changed from Newton's mechanics to Maxwell's fields.
Brief review of Faraday's work. This self-taught workman is "one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. . . . Faraday belonged to a strict religious sect and declined all public honors and wealth. . . . He was approached by the British government during the Crimean war concerning the possibility of making poison gas. He answered that it was possible, but that he would have nothing to do with it." (27)
Faraday's example of real Christian devotion. Goes on to explain Maxwell, Hertz, Marconi and the call from the Titanic. All in just a few pages!
The balance of this writing just gets better! Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Curies, Bohr, Dirac, Fermi, Feynman, Gauss, Hilbert, etc., etc., are all here.
One more example is discovering the Big Bang. Step by step explaination,from initial doubts to firm conclusion. Humor plays a nice part in this book. They use nurmerous quotations like this: "... the loss of the steady state theory has been a cause of great sadness. The steady state theory has a sweep and beauty that for some unaccountable reason the architect of the universe appears to have overlooked. The universe in fact is a botched job." (220)
Wow! Fix it now!
The last chapter is about science fiction. I did not know that Kepler is the father of science fiction, with his story about traveling to the moon! The authors do their usual excellent job and cover Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Clarke, etc.. Connect Star Wars, Star Trek, E.T., Dr. Who, and others.
Includes a three page chronology of physics, a nine page glossary, nine pages of references, a name index and a subject index.
This book is a large size, printed on glossy paper with photographs or drawings on every page. Wonderfully written and a pleasure to hold in your hand. The drawings and photographs alone are worth having this book!
I have read many books on these subjects. This is the best!
The authors divided this book into 11 chapters and inform us in the Preface they deliberately used a minimal amount of mathematics and are concerned with providing the reader information on both special and general relativity, and inform us that special relativity only predicts deviations from Newton's laws when speeds approach the speed of light (300 million meters/sec.) and demonstrates "time dilation".
We learn young Einstein "puzzled over consequences of travelling at the speed of light" at the age of 16...including what you'd seen in a mirror travelling at the speed of light, hence title of this book. This typified Einstein's method of experimentation, "thought experiments" (Ger. "dedanken experiment"). So, special relativity is really the concern of light's velocity affected by the motion of the observer. "The speed of light is unaltered by either the motion of the sender or of the observer," the "moving clocks run slower than stationary clocks", and "time is slowed down by gravity". A chapter is devoted to determinations of the speed of light, the most lucid being made by Danish astronomer, Ole Roemer in 1676, as measuring the duration of Jupiter's Io eclipse 6 months apart, whilst at both the closest & farthest distance from earth showing 16 minutes travel time (Earth's orbital distance), and finally the Dutch physicist Christian Huygens analysis of that data to disclose 200 million metres/second (1678) and more current values yielded 300,000 km/sec. Chapter 4 discusses "faster than light speeds" (superluminal), pulsars and quasars, and `tachyon" particles. Real or speculative: you decide & read on.
Chapter 5 is labeled E = mc ^2. You might ask yourself why is velocity of light squared? Chapter 6 discusses antimatter and matter - matters understood more readily by Richard Feynman and Paul Dirac, and Chapter 7 "Little Boy (Uranium) and Fat Man (Plutonium)", the two (nuclear bombs deployed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945). Recall Szilard had persuaded Einstein to inform President Roosevelt in as far back as 1939 of nuclear bomb creations; the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos Lab then became real and history.
Chapter 8 and 9 deal with the weight of light and warped space, an interesting read, and the Chapter 10 discusses "The Big Bang" and "Black Holes". Chapter 11 embraces "Science Fiction" and relativity matters.
Overall, a good read with simplified math equations for those so inclined or possessed. One outstanding feature I loved in this text was the large number of photographs of these physicists, their discussions with one another revealing intimate agreements and disagreement on matters we likely or only rarely concern ourselves with.
In numbers: 291 pages, eleven chapters, one appendix,
a glossary and, more important, hundreds of pictures with small
comments that sometimes are biographies. This makes it "greater in quantity or quality than the average of its kind or class".
But be sure, it is not a book
only for those wanting to learn relativity and, also, it is not an
Einstein's biography: it complements both with a lot of general
information. The final chapter, "Relativity and science fiction",
though not very complete, gives to the book a special taste.
In brief: it makes a good companion to Kip Thorne's "Black holes
and time warps" (cited in the book as a suggestion
for further reading) and a very good (light, as it should be)
introduction to Einstein's life and work and its influence
in our culture.