Relativity Visualized, by Lewis Carroll Epstein

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Relativity Visualized, by Lewis Carroll Epstein

Relativity Visualized, by Lewis Carroll Epstein

Relativity Visualized, by Lewis Carroll Epstein

Free Ebook Relativity Visualized, by Lewis Carroll Epstein

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Relativity Visualized, by Lewis Carroll Epstein

Perfect for those interested in physics but who are not physicists or mathematicians, this book makes relativity so simple that a child can understand it. By replacing equations with diagrams, the book allows non-specialist readers to fully understand the concepts in relativity without the slow, painful progress so often associated with a complicated scientific subject. It allows readers not only to know how relativity works, but also to intuitively understand it.

  • Sales Rank: #361806 in Books
  • Published on: 1985
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: .76″ h x 6.02″ w x 9.02″ l, .81 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 206 pages

Most helpful customer reviews

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
Relatively Intuitive
By Thomas Wikman
In my opinion the theories of relativity are among the most interesting intellectual achievements in human history. They revolutionized physics and changed the way we think about physics, space, time, mass, energy, electromagnetism and essentially everything in nature. Despite that fact, the theories of relativity are deterministic and possible to visualize, and unlike Quantum Physics they are not statistical in nature and they don’t have a big issue with interpretation.

I’ve been interested in this topic ever since I came across it as a high school student. Therefore I did not learn a lot about relativity from this book. I was more interested in the approach to explaining it, and I think his approach is a very good one.

I’ve found that an explanation for relativity that lacks rigor and quantitative reasoning creates misconceptions. The reader may end up thinking he understands it when he doesn’t. I’ve also found that books that focus on deriving complex equations were not only unattainable to the layman but sometimes left the mathematically inclined student with a poor understanding of relativity as well. Lewis Carroll Epstein’s book “Relativity Visualized” seems to succeed in making relativity accessible to both the layman and those who are mathematically inclined. He explains the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity using graphs, visual constructs, and logical puzzles that the reader solves for himself. In a sense he allows the reader to develop the theories of relativity on his own. He avoids equations and formulas but the reader will still discover more exactly what is going on.

One thing that really impressed me with this book is its special focus on the difference between what you see/experience and what you measure. As an example, take two lights that flash at the same time (in your reference frame). They could appear to flash at different times if the distance between them is large. So you will see them flash at different times. However, if you time the light flashes and take the distance into account you can measure that they flashed at the same time (non-relativistic situation). In relativity the differences you measure between frames do not only arise from the distance the light travels or from Doppler Effects but also from the relativity of time and space as well, and Epstein explains the details without confusing the reader. He focuses a lot on simultaneity/non-simultaneity right from the very beginning, and in my opinion understanding relativistic non-simultaneity is crucial to understanding what is going on.

The book also discusses the General Theory of Relativity. The General Theory of Relativity is often seen as completely off limits to the layman. It is typically explained using complex tensor calculus, differential geometry, and topology, or alternatively in a non-technical vague way that leaves the reader clueless. General Relativity was born out of an enigma. Special relativity had shown that energy and mass are the same things, so light has mass. A light beam traveling through a gravitational field must thus bend. However, that means that the side of the light closer to the mass will travel a shorter distance. From known properties of light (always a transverse/orthogonal wave) this means that the side of the light beam closer to the mass moves slower than the outer rim which would violate the constancy of the speed of light in vacuum. To solve this enigma Einstein had to introduce a time warp in gravitational fields. Later he discovered that this time warp would cause objects to fall towards the masses that caused the time warp and the practical effect of this turned out to be essentially identical to Newton’s theory of gravity and thus the mysterious force of gravity could be removed. Einstein also discovered that there is a warp effect on space which is negligible unless the speed of the objects is large (similar to magnetism for electric forces). The book helps you visualize all of this without using complex math.

Lewis Carroll Epstein’s book contains unique pedagogic approaches, novel geometric representations of relativity, as well as engaging questions and answers. For this reason the book is fiercely protected by copy right law. On the negative side, his writing style is somewhat rigid and old fashioned, the drawings and the graphics are sometimes of low quality, and the book might be quite a bit of work for the layman reader, so it requires that you are really interested. However, overall this is a very rigorous, detailed, correct, and yet fairly entertaining book that I highly recommend.

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful.
Not Enough Stars for This One
By M. J. Staley
In attempting to learn Einstein’s theories of relativity (both special and general) I’ve accumulated pounds of books and DVD’s, and no kidding, this is the best one yet. Not only is this book better than all of the others combined, but it’s really all you need. As the title implies, the author uses primarily a visual approach to explain these theories.

Most of the book deals with special relativity (linear-moving frames of reference with no forces at all acting on them), and I already had a pretty good handle on that. My motive in buying this book was that it also deals with general relativity (gravity) and none – absolutely none – of my other books or DVD’s covered that in any detail whatsoever.

Now, just because this book seems (to me) to be complete and understandable, this does not mean it’s an easy ride – Mr. Epstein is excellent trail guide, but the trail is rough. There are equations, which means you’ll have to remember your high school algebra-I, but the equations are not all that bad. If my 66-year-old brain, over a half-century removed from high school, can make sense of these equations, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

More importantly, many things that you have found intuitive and common-sense to this point are going to be significantly challenged as speeds become relativistic (i.e. a significant percentage of the speed of light). Don’t be surprised if you have to re-read chapters until you get the picture. Relativity is not intuitive and takes a lot of getting used to, but it’s achievable.

In the arena of general relativity, this book really shines. Explaining general relativity on a two-dimensional page is next to impossible, so the author gives you some home experiments (paper, pen and scissors) where you can demonstrate the principles to yourself. The author’s explanations of this not-at-all-easy subject borders on genius. On your first read, you may bypass the experiments, but I’ll bet you get to them eventually. These experiments and explations are so clear, a high school senior could use them to build a legitimate science-fair project.

As I went through the book, I checked to see if a) the author covered all the ground that my other media did and if b) he added to my knowledge. The author passed with flying colors for special relativity, and for general relativity this author provided almost ALL my knowledge.

But there’s bad news. This book is no longer in print, and as of the time of this posting, not an awful lot of used copies are being offered. If you want to learn the concepts of relativity, or know someone who does, I’d get a copy fast, because I don’t think many owners of this book are going to be parting with it. In my case, this book will become part of my estate.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful.
The principle of relativity
By Dawson C. Smith
The special theory of relativity was published in 1905, the general theory in 1915, though you wouldn’t know it from the general ignorance of their most basic statements. Relativity Visualized is my favorite introduction to the subject, in a field crowded with good work, including what was written by Einstein.

If you would like to know why time passes more slowly for a moving object, you need only consult the light-clock diagram in Chapter 4. This illustration alone is worth the price of the book.

Why can we not travel faster than light? You’ll find the answer in Chapter 5: “The reason you can’t go faster than the speed of light is that you can’t go slower. There is only one speed. Everything, including you, is always moving at the speed of light. How can you be moving if you are at rest in a chair? You are moving through time.” An object moving through space must divert some of the speed it should be using for traveling through time. At the speed of light, there is no speed left for traveling through time. Photons do not age.

Those who want a little mathematics with their exposition might try Spacetime Physics, by Taylor and Wheeler. I prefer the first edition to the current one; the hardcover is nice, but the paperback edition with the maroon cover has the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

If you want a look at Einstein’s papers, they’re available in a paperback called The Principle of Relativity (Dover Books), a useful guide to which may be found in Annus Mirabilis: 1905, Albert Einstein, and the Theory of Relativity, by John Gribbin, or Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness, by John Rigden. In closing, I will mention The Einstein Theory of Relativity: A Trip to the Fourth Dimension, by Lillian Lieber.

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