Einstein's Cosmos (Great Discoveries Series)

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A dazzling tour of the universe as Einstein saw it.

How did Albert Einstein come up with the theories that changed the way we look at the world? By thinking in pictures. Michio Kaku leading theoretical physicist (a cofounder of string theory) and best-selling science storyteller shows how Einstein used seemingly simple images to lead a revolution in science. Daydreaming about racing a beam of light led to the special theory of relativity and ...

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Overview

A dazzling tour of the universe as Einstein saw it.

How did Albert Einstein come up with the theories that changed the way we look at the world? By thinking in pictures. Michio Kaku leading theoretical physicist (a cofounder of string theory) and best-selling science storyteller shows how Einstein used seemingly simple images to lead a revolution in science. Daydreaming about racing a beam of light led to the special theory of relativity and the equation E = mc². Thinking about a man falling led to the general theory of relativity giving us black holes and the Big Bang. Einstein's failure to come up with a theory that would unify relativity and quantum mechanics stemmed from his lacking an apt image. Even in failure, however, Einstein's late insights have led to new avenues of research as well as to the revitalization of the quest for a "Theory of Everything." With originality and expertise, Kaku uncovers the surprising beauty that lies at the heart of Einstein's cosmos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This latest entry in the Great Discoveries series (edited by Jesse Cohen and complements another, more focused study that's appearing this season, Edmund Blair Bolles's Einstein Defiant (Forecasts, Feb. 23), which takes a detailed look at Einstein's role in the development of quantum physics. Kaku, host of the nationally broadcast radio program Explorations, presents a well-sketched-out yet concise account of Einstein's life. Kaku excels, as did his subject, in drawing word pictures that illustrate in everyday language complicated subjects like the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, and special and general relativity. The public and the press were always drawn to Einstein because he presented his theories in language that the average person could understand. Even when writing for his colleagues, as Kaku points out, he strove for simplicity of expression: his equation describing the structure of the universe is only an inch long. For a half-century after Einstein's death, the standard account was that he had frittered away the last years of his career trying to find a unified field theory, hanging on like a drowning man to the bark of determinism while the Copenhagen school sailed off in many directions by applying probabilistic methods to the inner workings of the atom. In his final chapter, Kaku shows that in fact Einstein's activities in his final years anticipated recent advances such as detecting gravitational waves, "supersymmetry" and even the attempt to reconcile science with religion. This accessible biography is recommended to readers eager, but never quite able, to understand what this relativity business is all about. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Theoretical physicist Kaku (Visions, 1997, etc.) looks at the preeminent scientific genius of the 20th century. The author divides Einstein's career into three sections. The first spans his childhood and education, concluding with the formulation of Special Relativity in one of five papers the 26-year-old published in his "miracle year," 1905. (The other four were just as stunning, offering physical proof of the existence of atoms and laying the foundations of quantum theory.) Kaku (Physics/CUNY) briefly addresses such questions as the contributions to these discoveries made by Einstein's first wife, Mileva, and the fate of their daughter Liserl. The second section covers the period when Einstein worked on the theory of General Relativity. During those years he moved to Germany, expressed pacifist sympathies during WWI, and established himself as the world's leading man of science. As a consequence of these activities, he also began to attract the attention of anti-Semites who eventually found a powerful voice in Nazism. The third period, beginning in 1925, saw Einstein at work on the never-to-be-completed Unified Field Theory, an attempt to reconcile relativity with the discoveries of quantum theory. Many of his fellow scientists at this point believed he had fallen out of touch with the frontiers of physics, represented by the quantum theory he himself had helped launch. Kaku argues that despite Einstein's well-known criticisms of quantum theory, his quest was not to refute it but to integrate it into a larger picture that would include relativity. The fact that many current physicists are attempting a similar integration supports Kaku's contention, backed by substantial evidence, thatEinstein's thought was ahead of his time to the very end of his life. A good nontechnical introduction to Einstein's work and a nice addition to Norton's Great Discoveries series.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393051650
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/19/2004
  • Series: Great Discoveries
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michio Kaku, Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City University of New York, is the author of Hyperspace, Visions, and Beyond Einstein. He hosts Explorations, a nationally broadcast radio show. He lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Preface: A New Look at the Legacy of Albert Einstein 11
Acknowledgments 17
Pt. I First Picture: Racing a Light Beam
Ch. 1 Physics before Einstein 21
Ch. 2 The Early Years 33
Ch. 3 Special Relativity and the "Miracle Year" 59
Pt. II Second Picture: Warped Space-Time
Ch. 4 General Relativity and "the Happiest Thought of My Life" 91
Ch. 5 The New Copernicus 113
Ch. 6 The Big Bang and Black Holes 131
Pt. III The Unfinished Picture: The Unified Field Theory
Ch. 7 Unification and the Quantum Challenge 147
Ch. 8 War, Peace, and E = mc[superscript 2] 177
Ch. 9 Einstein's Prophetic Legacy 201
Notes 235
Bibliography 249
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