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Why Does E=mc2? (And Why Should We Care?) Paperback – July 13, 2010
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A collaboration between one of the youngest professors in the United Kingdom and a distinguished popular physicist, Why Does E=mc2? is one of the most exciting and accessible explanations of the theory of relativity.
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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!
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.
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.
His movies were The Wonders of the Solar System and The Wonders of the Universe. Fabulous!
He does a science-and-fun radio show / podcast called The Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC Radio 4).
He is the best rock-band player turned experimental high-energy physicist and explainer of science that there ever was. No wait, he's the only one there ever has been! Did I say that he is ridiculously cute? So was Carl, of course.
Read Cox. Listen to him. Watch him. You will not regret it.