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Special Relativity: For the Enthusiastic Beginner Paperback – January 20, 2017
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About the Author
David Morin is a Lecturer and the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Physics Department at Harvard University. He received his A.B. in mathematics from Brown University and his Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics from Harvard University. He is the author of five books, including Introduction to Classical Mechanics (Cambridge University Press, 2008), Electricity and Magnetism (Cambridge University Press, co-author, 2013), and Probability: For the Enthusiastic Beginner (2016). When not writing textbooks, thinking of physics limericks, or conjuring up new problems whose answers involve e or the golden ratio, he can be found running along the Charles River or hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Resources for his books, along with other educational material, can be found on his Harvard webpage.
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Top customer reviews
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What is in the book –
1) Chapter 1 - Kinematics, Part 1. This chapter covers the basics of Relativity – the Loss of Simultaneity, Time Dilation, Length Contraction and Velocity addition. This chapter, which comprises about a quarter of the book, is the most physical in the treatment of Relativity. It also discusses a bit of the historical development of the subject of Relativity. It is an excellent primer for the beginner.
2) Chapter 2 - Kinematics Part 2 – This is a much more advanced approach to the subjects covered in Chapter 1. It derives and uses the Lorentz Transformations and Minkowski Diagrams. It is a much more advanced and difficult treatment than that of Chapter 1 and would appeal to more advanced students.
3) Chapter 3 - Dynamics – This chapter covers Energy and Momentum and the interaction between particles. While some of this is also covered basic texts, the approach here and the numerous solved problems should be of interest to advanced beginners and for those seeking insights into problem solving.
4) Chapter 4 - 4-Vectors. This is a highly mathematical chapter, suitable for the most advanced beginners and beyond.
5) Chapter 5 – General Relativity. This is a very short introduction to the subject of General Relativity, focusing on the Equivalence Principle. It gives a feeling of what General Relativity is all about, without going into any of the complex mathematics that is required for a more in depth treatment. As such is it very good for the beginner.
The book also contains 8 appendices, covering such topics as additional derivations of some equations covered in the text, problem solving strategies and the Taylor series. Like the rest of the book, these appendices are focused on the student and are meant to improve his or hers problem solving capabilities.
In particular, I like that the author provides explanations against common pitfalls in understanding. The explanation that magnetism results from SR of the electric field was mindblowing and that was just in the first section! Would definitely recommend this to someone looking to understand SR, or would like to stretch their minds to understand how first-principles thinking of a strange postulate (speed of light is constant in all reference frames) can provide completely un-intuitive results that, despite "common sense", have been verified by experiment over and over.
For self-study, I would suggest reading through the explanations once and then struggling with the problems as soon as you can, going back to the explanations as reference. And of course, only read the solutions until you have struggled hard with the problem (preferably only when you are 99% sure you are right!)
Earlier this week I started using this Special Relativity book by this Harvard professor and it's awesome!! It has A LOT of worked out problems. In fact the explanations are so clear that it has now replaced my textbook for the course. Two of my friends started using it yesterday before our Pset was due and they love it. For fun I just read a bit from the 4-vector chapter at the end and I think I understand :) This book is awesome. Thank you, you're a life saver!!!