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Einstein's Enigma or Black Holes in My Bubble Bath / Edition 1

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Overview

"The bubbles were swirling all around me massaging my body ... As I luxuriated in this fantastic bubble bath, my eyes grew heavy and I drifted into a supremely blissful slumber." So begins Alfie's encounter with a remarkable and revelatory bathtub purchased from a mysterious neighbour named Al. Einstein's Enigma or Black Holes in My Bubble Bath tells the story of gravitation theory from the early historic origins to the latest developments in astrophysics, focusing on Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity and black-hole physics. Through engaging conversations and napkin-scribbled diagrams come tumbling the rudiments of relativity, spacetime and much of modern physics, narrated with high didactic and literary talent, and each embedded in casual lessons given by a worldly astrophysicist to his friend Alfie, a freelance organiser of proposals. Join the intellectual fun and exalt in the frothy ideas while vicariously taking relaxing baths in this magical bathtub.

Prof. C.V. Vishveshwara is a renowned theoretical physicist, who participated in the golden age of black-hole physics, making pioneering contributions. Also an enthusiastic teacher and planetarium director, he has written several popular-level articles, scripts for planetarium shows and produced documentary movies on science.

From Pre-Publication Reviews

"Beautifully written and thoroughly entertaining, Vishveshwara's "Einstein's Enigma" provides an authoritative but distinctly original approach to an explanation of basics and subtleties of Einstein's general relativity and of the astrophysics of black holes. I warmly recommend it to beginner and expert alike."

Prof. Roger Penrose, author of Shadows of the Mind and The Road to Reality

"The main dish in this feast is a clear and sound presentation of the science underlying black holes from a distinguished scientist who has been contributing to their study since before they were named. Furthermore this science is presented in a sauce of philosophy, history, literature, gastronomy and imagination from an entertaining personality who needs several alter egos to show all the different ways he can think about his subject. Among the cartoons and drawings are the few lines of optional mathematics which are included for those who like that approach."

Prof. Charles W. Misner, co-author of Gravitation by Misner, Thorne and Wheeler

"The unusual format and whimsical style of "Einstein's Enigma" should not obscure the fact that this is a serious book, which aims to get across the essentials of the theory of general relativity and some related topics to a readership which is not assumed to be fluent in advanced mathematics.
I believe the author, who has a long experience in presenting this kind of material to non-specialist audiences, has succeeded in the task he has set himself; the book will amply repay sustained and diligent reading by even a totally unmathematical reader."

Prof. Anthony J. Leggett, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From pre-publication reviews:

"Beautifully written and thoroughly entertaining, Vishveshwara's "Einstein's Enigma" provides an authoritative but distinctly original approach to an explanation of basics and subtleties of Einstein's general relativity and of the astrophysics of black holes. I warmly recommend it to beginner and expert alike."

Prof. Roger Penrose, Author of Shadows of the Mind and The Road to Reality

"The main dish in this feast is a clear and sound presentation of the science underlying black holes from a distinguished scientist who has been contributing to their study since before they were named. Furthermore this science is presented in a sauce of philosophy, history, literature, gastronomy and imagination from an entertaining personality who needs several alter egos to show all the different ways he can think about his subject. Among the cartoons and drawings are the few lines of optional mathematics which are included for those who like that approach."

Prof. Charles W. Misner, Co-author of Gravitation by Misner, Thorne and Wheeler

"The unusual format and whimsical style of "Einstein's Enigma" should not obscure the fact that this is a serious book,which aims to get across the essentials of the theory of general relativity and some related topics to a readership which is not assumed to be fluent in advanced mathematics.
I believe the author, who has a long experience in presenting this kind of material to non-specialist audiences, has succeeded in the task he has set himself; the book will amply repay sustained and diligent reading by even a totally unmathematical reader."

Prof. Anthony J. Leggett, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2003

From the reviews:

"The only thing this intoxicating is Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories."

Dr. Richard Isaacson, former Program Director for Gravitational Physics, Physics Division, National Science Foundation, USA.

"...an innovative way of trying to explain some of the most complicated concepts in physics to beginners and it contains one of the best accounts I've ever read of the (almost Damscene) conversion of a newcomer to the pleasure of a night's observing. As Nietzsche said: 'What would be the joy of a star but for those who behold it?'"

David Reid, BBC Sky at Night, April 2007

"Vishveshwara’s is among the more successful presentations of a most sophisticated, important, and beautiful theory of 20th-century physics—Einstein’s general relativity and its most fascinating corollary, the existence of black holes. … A book to inform, enrich, and entertain every science-educated reader. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through professionals." (V. V. Raman, CHOICE, Vol. 44 (11), July, 2007)

"The author is a major specialist in the field of relatvity, astrophysics and gravitation, and is currently working in Bangalore, India. ... According to me, this book deserves a very large audience: it is very different from all the popular science books written on the subject and as such will be appreciated even by the non-physicists. The physicists will probably learn new things, while the specialists in astrophysics and gravitation will certainly enjoy this new and fresh insight in their field." (Fabrice Louche, Physicalia Magazine, Vol. 29 (4), 2007)

"The author blends fiction, fantasy, physics and philosophy to tell the story of gravitation theory...and the astrophysics of black holes. He not only succeeds at doing this; he entertains readers with delightful digressions and illustrates key concepts with wonderful cartoons, some purportedly scribbled on paper napkins..." (Michelle Press, Scientific American, January 2008)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783540331995
  • Publisher: Springer Berlin Heidelberg
  • Publication date: 11/14/2006
  • Edition description: 2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 9.21 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Specializing in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Vishveshwara has worked extensively on the theory of black holes, making major contributions to this exciting field of research since its very beginning. For instance, he was one of the first ones to analyse the structure of black holes employing spacetime symmetries thereby demonstrating the existence of the ergosphere. He proved the stability of the non-rotating Schwarzschild black hole, a crucial factor that ensures its continued existence after formation. Further, he discovered the quasinormal modes of black holes. These modes of black hole vibrations would be one of the main targets of observation when the gravitational wave detectors, being set up all over the world, become functional. In recent years, he has been investigating black holes in cosmological backgrounds, an important aspect of black hole physics that has hardly been explored. Vishveshwara has also made significant contributions to other areas of general relativity such as the exact solutions of Einstein’s field equations, gravitational collapse, compact stellar objects, inertial forces, and spacetime perturbations.

Vishveshwara received his AM degree from Columbia University and PhD from the University of Maryland, and subsequently served on the faculties of New York University, Boston University, and University of Pittsburgh. After his return to his hometown of Bangalore, India, he has been a senior professor at the Raman research Institute and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. Vishveshwara has also held the position of Visiting Professor at several universities including University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, Boston University, University of London, and Universidad del Pais Vasco.

In addition to authoring a number of technical papers, Vishveshwara has co-edited ten volumes on relativity, astrophysics and cosmology that have been brought out by leading publishers such as Cambridge University Press and Kluwer Academic Publishers. He has contributed articles to these volumes and illustrated two of the volumes with his cartoons, which have been highly appreciated. Further, he has written a number of popular articles on various topics in science. As founder-director of the Planetarium in Bangalore, he has written the scripts of several planetarium programmes and directed them. These have proved to be exceedingly popular because of the simple and attractive manner in which difficult concepts have been presented. Vishveshwara has also produced two short science films.

For a more detailed profile of Vishveshwara and further account of his contributions, see Black Holes, Gravitational Radiation and the Universe: Essays in Honour of C.V.Vishveshwara, Bala R. Iyer and Biplab Bhawal eds, Kluwer Academic Publishers (1999).

Popular Science Contributions:

1."Geometry and the Universe" in Cosmic Perspecives, eds. SK Biswas, DCV Mallik, and CV Vishveshwara, Cambridge University Press(1989).

This volume contains articles by eminent people like Sir Joseph Needham, Hanbury-Brown, Brandon Carter, Fred Hoyle etc. It got excellent reviews including my article.

2."After the Fall: From Adam and Eve to Apples and Elevators", Gravitation and Relativity: At the Turn of the Millenium - Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation(1998).

This is the expanded and illustrated version of the after dinner talk I gave at the conference. Prof CJS Clarke of Southampton University wrote in his review of the volume that 'Vishveshwara's article alone makes the book worth buying.'

3."Leaves from an Unwritten Diary. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar - Reminiscences and Reflections"

It was published by Current Science, Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, India, which has circulation in both UK and USA. It is on their website which can be found throgh Google. Again, the article was highly acclaimed.

4."New Cosmos" and "Cosmic Perspectives". Two articles commissioned by Gran Enciclopedia del Mundo, Spain. Translated into Spanish from original English text.

5.Articles under the heading 'Out of Focus' - light-hearted short essays on different subjects.

The author contributes a poem on relativity for the Einstein Experiment pursued by Lettre International of Berlin.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Bathtub The Prologue. Alfonso L Sabio, the protagonist, or Alfie for short, introduces himself. Alfie meets Professor George Gallagher, the theoretical astrophysicist, at their favourite haunt, Bruno's Italian restaurant. They plan to have discussions on black holes. On his way home, Alfie acquires his magical bathtub and the special bubble bath mix from a mysterious store. He has his first experience of the fantasy inducing bubbles that suspiciously resemble evaporating black holes.

Chapter 2. The Stellar BED Bruno's Italian restaurant. George explains stellar evolution leading to the end products - the white dwarfs, the neutron stars and the black hole. The acronym BED stands for Birth - Existence - Death.

Chapter 3. The Casanova Connection Fantasy induced by the bubble bath. Casanova appears and explains why he has been chosen to be Alfie's escort. He gives a guided tour of some of the constellations and takes Alfie on a trip through space and time. They visit Yang Wei-te, the Chinese astronomer who observed and recorded the supernova of 1054 AD as well as Tycho Brahe and Kepler. The fantasy ends with the battle between Orion and Scorpio.

Chapter 4. Footprints of the Giants A park in the university. Alfie and George discuss science before Newton as represented by the ideas and work of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo.

Chapter 5. Cosmic Framework Newton's theory of gravitation and several phenomena that are explained within that framework, in particular those that would be of relevance to the general theory of relativity and black hole physics.

Chapter 6. Moving Experience Bruno's restaurant. George surveys the ideas that led to Einstein’s special theory of relativity and the consequences of the theory.

Chapter 7. Fabric of Spacetime Minkowski’s concept of spacetime is described. This sets the stage for the development of the general theory of relativity.

Chapter 8. Grappling with Gravity Discussion continues. Einstein’s remarkable odyssey from special relativity to the general theory of relativity is traced.

Chapter 9. Beetles on a Branch The main tenets of general relativity are described highlighting the revolutionary idea of identifying spacetime curvature with gravitation. Implications of the theory are discussed with special reference to gravitational waves and black holes.

Chapter 10. Tub Talk Bubble bath. Einstein's life in Princeton is chronicled by one who knew him closely in his Mercer Street home. Einstein's ideas are presented essentially through his own quotations.

Chapter 11. The First Solution and the Last Statement George's office in the university. Discussions focus on the discovery and the general properties of the non-rotating Schwarzschild exterior spacetime

Chapter 12. Sphere of Darkness Properties of the non-rotating Schwarzschild black hole are discussed in detail. An important aspect elucidated in depth is the characterization of the black hole itself, in particular the exact reason for its one-way membrane property, which is hardly ever explained properly. Some of the common misconceptions about black holes are also dispelled.

Chapter 13. The Voracious Whirlpool George's office. The rotating Kerr black hole. Novel features engendered by rotation such as the existence of the ergosphere and the possibility of extraction of energy are highlighted. Flow of matter leading to the formation of accretion disks is described.

Chapter 14. Dynamics of the Unique Uniqueness of black holes is discussed. George's three graduate students join in for a lively discussion of black hole thermodynamics and black hole evaporation.

Chapter 15. A Date with Dante A virtual reality trip to the strange world of black holes induced by looking at MC Escher’s lithograph titled Relativity. After experiencing a modern version of George Gamow’s special relativistic train station, we move on to more literary fields. Characters encountered here include those created by Lewis Carroll, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and finally Dante Alleghieri.

Chapter 16. The Imprints of the Invisible A visit to the university observatory. Astronomer Michael Brown explains how black holes are detected - both the stellar mass black holes in binaries and super-massive ones at galactic centres. George describes how gravitational waves would be able to furnish direct information on the characteristics of a black hole.

Chapter 17. The Celestial Swan Song The tragic story of Cygnus the Swan. The constellation is host to the first black hole candidate to be observed.

Chapter 18. Cibo per la mente A small gathering at Bruno's restaurant. Informal chat over dinner about diverse topics related to black holes. Cibo per la mente, food for thought.

Chapter 19. Curtain Call Characters that have appeared in earlier fantasies return to take leave – hopefully for the time being.

Chapter 20. Foundations of Fact and Fantasy A brief account of the literature on which the facts and the fantasies have been based.

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