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Why Does E=mc2? (And Why Should We Care?) Hardcover – July 14, 2009
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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.
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“Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw have summoned up the audacity to write a book on relativity for lay people. Although this has been attempted before, it has rarely been done so well…Cox and Forshaw know their stuff…[They make] the science sound fresh and fun…The book quickly and painlessly explains why E=mc2…This book is a wonderful introduction into the wild world of stretchy time, warped space and unbelievable energies…Give this book a shot.”
MSNBC.com’s Cosmic Log blog, 11/24/09
“The restart of the world’s biggest particle smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, should spark interest in recently published books that delve into the big picture surrounding subatomic physics, such as Why Does E=mc2?”
Tucson Citizen, 3/17/10
“A book written by two physicists is enough to give any critic pause. I approached it with much apprehension but quickly discovered that not only is the bulk of the book accessible, it is actually a perfect blend of science and universal truths…By explaining the theories behind such massive projects as the atomic bomb and nuclear power, Cox and Forshaw build a convincing case that this simple equation contains the very backbone of nature and that by recognizing it for what it us, we can challenge and change many of our perspectives of space and time.”
London Sunday Telegraph, 3/14/10
“[The book] explain[s] some of physics’ most fiendish concepts—like the nature of space and the origin of mass—in sparkling prose.”
Choice magazine, January 2010
“A popular account of the intellectual interplay between elementary particle physics, relativity theory, and cosmology…It does a very nice job of explaining the counterintuitive aspects of spacetime and the relationship between time, space, energy, and mass…Readers of this book will be better prepared to understand the news coming out of CERN…Recommended.”
Manchester Evening News, 3/6/10
“Delivering cutting edge 21st century physics in a digestible form and publicizing science is [Cox’s] stock-in trade and he can do it as easily in book form. Along with co-author and fellow Manchester University professor Jeff Forshaw, the enthusiastic ‘rock star physicist’ and former member of D:Ream tackles Einstein’s most famous equation and brings the subject to life. It’s a book that will primarily appeal to anyone with an existing interest in science, but if you’ve ever wanted to understand the basic principles of energy, mass and light there’s no better place to learn.”
Metapsychology Online Reviews, 3/7/10
“The authors manage effectively both to explain why E=mc2 and to convince us that we ought to care…Cox and Forshaw do remarkably well to keep the reader engaged through their discussion of some particularly difficult mathematical concepts…The authors demonstrate, with clarity and ease, how Einstein’s theory of special relativity is important in all aspects of our lives, from our own existence to the workings of everyday objects…An entertaining and enlightening read.”
Magill Book Review, October 2009
“Using minimal mathematics, the authors present an intriguing, accessible description of Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, how space-time relationships work, and why it is important in the modern world…Teaches readers who are not familiar with physics some complicated topics in a rather simple, straightforward, entertaining manner…Rewards of increased knowledge and insights as to how the universe works will be reaped from this book for all those who have any interest in physics and its many applications to everyday life.”
Charleston Post and Courier SC, 10/11
“A fun romp with science...The often amusing lecture by British physicists Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw is written in plain language and full of fun examples.”
Science News, 10/24/09
“By exploring each part of Albert Einstein’s famous equation, two physicists ultimately explain the theory of relativity.”
Discover magazine’s Bad Astronomy blog
Top customer reviews
I think on the whole the attempted simplifications work well and I was a great way to approach the subjects from a more personable point of view. It does jump a little and feels like it ties itself in knots at times... but welcome to the world of physics where even concepts of simplicity can be complex to understand. It's purely a field of interest for me, and just one facet of understanding the world around us. The math is minimal, so don't panic.
It can't explain how Nicholas Cage actually made a Ghost Rider sequel - some things in the universe are even beyond the greatest minds understanding.
First, I'm not sure what they expected to read or learn beyond what their boundless minds already know.
Lastly, I'll let the words of Einstein himself resonate~
"If you cannot explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
Well played Mr. Einstein, well played indeed.
Cox and Forshaw did a nice job.
by Brian Cox is easily the best book I've ever read about special and general relativity targeted at the general reader. Cox takes the reader deeply into the theory. He painlessly introduces the reader to the basics of the mathematics needed to understand some of the more beautiful aspects of both theories and he does so more skillfully than any other writer on the subject - including Einstein himself. This is a must read for anyone who wants to be more scientifically literate.
If you could handle geometry in school, none of the topics will be over your head.
1. Einstein and his colleagues deduced the nature of the universe by using simple mathematic formulas. For example, the elemental Pythagorean Theorem of geometry is used to calculate the slowing down of time as objects approach light speed. The authors point out that the most complex phenomena in the universe, from subatomic particle interactions to cosmic forces of time and space, follow the elegant rules of mathematics. Nobody knows why the seemingly infinite universe should follow these wonderfully simply rules, but it does!
2. That space and time are components of an integrated whole called spacetime. I had heard the cliché that "time is the fourth dimension" but did not understand it intellectually. This book explains how space and time are integral parts of each other. All matter moves at exactly the same speed through spacetime. If the velocity of an object through space increases, its velocity through time decreases such that the combined movement through space and time is always constant.
3. The nature of "C" has been somewhat obscured by calling it the "speed of light." "C" is the maximum attainable speed of EVERYTHING through the SPATIAL DIMENSION OF SPACETIME. A photon travelling at "C" is going at maximum velocity through space and at zero velocity through time. An object at rest travels at zero velocity through space and maximum velocity through TIME. That is why times passes fastest for objects at rest and slowest for those at light speed.
4. "C" is THE constant of the universe. Everything else is malleable. Time and space and matter and energy must shrink or expand in changing circumstances, but "C" never does. If one were to approach the speed of light the distance between the stars would shrink such that one could travel to the end of the universe in one lifetime. Fifteen billion years would have passed to people standing relatively still on earth, but for the astronaut travelling near light-speed perhaps only 20 years have passed (the 20 years is allowing time to accelerate and decelerate from rest to lightspeed and back). In a relativistic universe space shrinks into nothingness when "C" is reached. This explains why nothing can exceed the speed the light. A photon travels a dimensionless universe in a timeless instant. This also explains why travel BACKWARD through time is not possible.
5. Toward the end of the book the authors give the equation that explains every subatomic particle and every force in the known universe. It's a difficult equation comprehensible only to physicists, but still, knowing that you can express the entire nature of the universe in a few lines of mathematics is mind-bending!
If a layperson wants to comprehend the nature of the universe by reading one book, this is it!