- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 26, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691141274
- ISBN-13: 978-0691141275
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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It's About Time: Understanding Einstein's Relativity
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According to an old publishing saw, every equation included in a book decreases its sales. This one attempts to defy convention. The product of Mermin's career teaching the subject to nonscience majors, its audience will be readers who are aware that near the speed of light, dimensions shrink, time slows, and mass increases infinitely but who may not know why. Assuring them that only high school-level algebra and geometry are required, Mermin begins gently with verbal descriptions of a frame of reference. The equations debut with his discussion of moving frames of reference, which at the speeds of our everyday world are easy to digest. The difficult, counterintuitive part is grasping the implications for moving frames of the absolute constancy of the speed of light. Nobody did until Einstein's 1905 paper, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies." Mermin's dozens of diagrams illustrate the chain of reasoning that arrives at Einstein's startling discovery that mass is equivalent to energy. There's a profound difference between knowing about something, and knowing it, and Mermin succeeds at instilling the latter. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Mermin's premise is that everyone should know about relativity in order to understand the real nature of time. . . . What is remarkable in his approach is his reliance on developing the reader's skills to analyze events in more than one frame of reference. This is the key to understanding relativity: being able to translate with ease from one frame of reference (a moving train) to another (a station)."--Simon Mitton, Times Higher Education Supplement
"This is a book full of insight with an engaging style. I recommend it to anyone who has to teach the subject to either [non scientists or undergraduate and graduate students]: it's a brilliant basis for a set of lecture notes."--Derek Raine, Nature
"It's About Time is a book that should join the very best systematic popular expositions of science written in the last 50 years."--Peter L. Galison, American Scientist
"In this highly readable book, Mermin argues that a working knowledge of relativity requires no more than basic algebra and geometry. He makes a valid point. Special relativity is more fundamental, up-to-date and accurate than Newtonian physics, and Einstein's presence in the classroom may inspire the most uninterested student."--Amanda Gefter, New Scientist
"There's a profound difference between knowing about something, and knowing it, and Mermin succeeds at instilling the latter."--Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"Mermin has taught relativity for 40 years and has clearly thought about the best way to teach the subject. It's About Time offers a serious, yet accessible approach to relativity."--Kara shane Colley, MAA Reviews
"What makes the book as a whole so enjoyable to read is the steady pace at which the subject unfolds. The author spends as much time on each idea as he considers necessary. . . . Nowhere is the book too intense, and the learning curve for readers has a fairly constant slope. . . . David Mermin [is] a master teacher at work--and instructors will almost certainly include some of the ideas in their own teaching."--Nigel Dowrick, Physics Today
"Requiring nothing more than a basic understanding of algebra, [this book] provides the clearest and most insightful treatment of special relativity I've ever encountered. . . . It's About Time brings the practice and foundation of physics together through the question of time."--Arkady Plotnitsky, Foundations of Physics
"The reader will find some of the best non-technical description of the special theory of relativity ever written."--Jaume J. Carot, Mathematical Reviews
"An excellent book on Einstein's special theory of relativity. . . . I clearly see the strength of this book in lucid, self-contained, lively, down-to-earth, and meticulous presentation. . . . I have no hesitation in saying that this is the best book on the special theory of relativity at a semi-popular level I have ever read."--K. S. Birbhadra, The Observatory
Top customer reviews
My PhD work in physics and astronomy began more than 40 years ago, and I recently decided to "relearn" relativity from the very beginning... something that other almost-retirees can appreciate. (It's a corollary of "Youth is wasted on the young": ... So is relativity!!) Starting with time-worn texts I already own, I soon realized that they (and more recent ones as well) were NOT addressing the most common nagging questions satisfactorily. I could appreciate the postulates and their background, and reproduce all the derivations in detail, but they all seemed to lurch at the most inopportune moment, when genuine insight might have been anticipated.
My self-imposed goal had been to cultivate a level of intuition that I knew was possible but had always been elusive. The miracle, of course, is that SR *does* allow for intuition, just as I suspected; setting the stage for that intuition is precisely where Mermin excels beyond measure. The derivation of relativistic velocity addition in Chapter 4 WITHOUT invoking clocks and meter sticks simply must be seen ... and savored ... to be believed. Mermin deserves a Nobel Prize in pedagogy.
With all due respect to you-know-who, there are many moments in this book that out-Feynman Feynman by effortlessly conveying deep and broad insight ... while fully enabling the reader to carry that ball alone. Stunning.
In the space of one week, Mermin's book has become one of my most prized of a lifetime. Now I remember why I first fell in love with physics. Ninety-nine stars for this one.
This is not some incomplete, watered down, or popularized version of Special Relativity. It's the real thing. It's all there. Nonetheless, most people will want to read other books after this one. Probably Woodhouse's is the best starting place among the mathematically based texts. Rindler's book is the absolute complete compendium on special relativity. It is a great book and written by a world class scholar. French's book is very good, even though it isn't brand new. Of them all, Rindler is the most encyclopaedic. Woodhouse gives the best clear path to the full theory of general relativity.
In my opinion, this book is entirely successful and would give a high school student a full understanding of this important area, and it does so without unnecessary complication. It makes the study as simple as possible, but not simpler.