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God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe

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Overview

Are we on the verge of solving the riddle of creation using Einstein's "greatest blunder"?

In a work that is at once lucid, exhilarating and profound, renowned mathematician Dr. Amir Aczel, critically acclaimed author of Fermat's Last Theorem, takes us into the heart of science's greatest mystery.

In January 1998, astronomers found evidence that the cosmos is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. The way we perceive the universe was changed ...

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Overview

Are we on the verge of solving the riddle of creation using Einstein's "greatest blunder"?

In a work that is at once lucid, exhilarating and profound, renowned mathematician Dr. Amir Aczel, critically acclaimed author of Fermat's Last Theorem, takes us into the heart of science's greatest mystery.

In January 1998, astronomers found evidence that the cosmos is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. The way we perceive the universe was changed forever. The most compelling theory cosmologists could find to explain this phenomenon was Einstein's cosmological constant, a theory he conceived--and rejected---over eighty years ago.

Drawing on newly discovered letters of Einstein--many translated here for the first time--years of research, and interviews with prominent mathematicians, cosmologists, physicists, and astronomers, Aczel takes us on a fascinating journey into "the strange geometry of space-time," and into the mind of a genius. Here the unthinkable becomes real: an infinite, ever-expanding, ever-accelerating universe whose only absolute is the speed of light.

Awesome in scope, thrilling in detail, God's Equation is storytelling at its finest.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Einstein's] field equation remains the closest thing we have to a divine blueprint for the universe....Aczel gives a very readable account of the science and the scientists involved."
-- Kirkus Reviews

"There is something startling on just about every page."
-- San Francisco Chronicle

"It is a wonderful time to glance back over Einstein's path in developing the field equation...fortunately, we have a fabulous guide in Amir D. Aczel."
-- Discover

Discover Magazine
At a time when so many popular physics books avoid equations and fudge mathematical explanations, Aczel wants to delve deep into the mathematics. He believes-as Einstein did-it is in fact the underlying mathematics that makes the universe elegant.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For decades, scientists have debated whether the universe will eventually collapse upon itself, will expand until it reaches an optimal size and remain steady, or will expand forever. To most everyone's surprise, studies of particular huge supernovae are providing evidence that the last possibility may be right and that billions of years from now the universe will be an unimaginably immense void of burned-out stars. The explanation for this may lie in the "cosmological constant," a part of Einstein's field equation for general relativity. Though Einstein described the constant as the greatest blunder of his career, many scientists now think that it could correctly represent some kind of "funny energy" pushing the universe apart. Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorem; Probability 1) contends that Einstein's equation for the cosmological constant is our best approximation of what he calls "God's equation": the ultimate summary of how the universe works. Though Aczel's analysis of Einstein's work requires familiarity with advanced mathematics, that analysis makes up only a minor portion of his book, and most readers will appreciate the author's inclusion of the great physicist's letters to astronomer Erwin Freundlich. Translated here for the first time, they give a glimpse of Einstein's ambition and of his occasional indifference toward collaborators who were no longer useful to him. Aczel's writing is marred by his proclivity to make hyperbolic statements ("Einstein became one of the greatest celebrities--possibly the greatest--the world has ever known"), and some of his historical observations are na ve. Those fascinated by Einstein will find much of interest here, but general readers hungry for information about recent developments in cosmology may want to consult more accessible authors, such as John Gribbin (The Case of the Missing Neutrinos). Figures not seen by PW. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this well-written book, Aczel Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem attempts to explain in lay terms the meaning and significance of Einstein's theory of relativity; to a large extent, he succeeds. He shows us how Einstein developed and modified the theory and how he interacted with others working in mathematics, physics, and astronomy. Aczel explains that Einstein proposed a mathematically elegant equation, based on physical, philosophical, and aesthetic considerations, whose solutions if found would describe the large-scale behavior of the universe. He then modified the equation by adding a cosmological constant, since his first solutions indicated that the universe must be expanding, and no physical evidence to that effect existed at the time. When it was later shown that the universe was indeed expanding, he removed the constant, calling it a mistake. Yet new evidence seems to show that even when he thought he was wrong, Einstein may have been right--the cosmological constant may be essential to our understanding of the universe. For public libraries.--Harold D. Shane, Baruch Coll., CUNY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Aczel () explains for lay readers the latest theory and findings that the universe is not only expanding, but expanding constantly faster. Then in order to account for the phenomenon, he resurrects a theory Einstein used, with the help of a cosmological constant, to show that the universe was static in size. Einstein discarded it as a huge blunder in the 1930s when Hubble showed that the universe does in fact expand. Aczel also offers new insight on Einstein's ambition, professional relationships, and thought processes based on newly discovered letters. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
In 1912, Albert Einstein wrote down an equation that describes the structure of the universe. But even he didn't recognize its full meaning. Aczel (Probability 1, 1998, etc.) has made a career of explaining the frontiers of mathematics. Here he tackles Einstein's field equation of general relativity not only in the context of modern physics, but in the history of mathematics. When Einstein began to incorporate gravity into his theories, he realized that it must have certain effects on light. In particular, light leaving a massive object would be red-shifted; its frequency would become longer, as if the object were moving away. Space was curved, and that curvature could be described in terms of non-Euclidean geometry—built on alterations of Euclid's fifth postulate, which after trying unsuccessfully to prove for two millennia, mathematicians decided to treat as an arbitrary and unprovable assumption. The curvature of space and its effect on light made possible experimental verifications of relativity: for example, the positions of stars seen near the sun in an eclipse should differ from their positions when the sun was in another part of the sky. In 1919, a British expedition led by Arthur Eddington measured those star positions and proved Einstein's theories correct. Meanwhile, Einstein had been exploring the cosmological implications of his theory, in particular the question of whether the universe expands, contracts, or remains the same size. Here, for the first time, he did not believe his own calculations and felt it necessary to add a "cosmological constant" to his field equation—a fudge factor he later described as his greatest blunder when astronomers demonstratedthat the universe was in fact expanding. More recent theorists suspect that the cosmological constant was needed, after all—but until another Einstein comes along, the field equation remains the closest thing we have to a divine blueprint for the universe. While the actual math is heavy going, Aczel gives a very readable account of the science and the scientists involved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385334853
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 816,120
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Amir D. Aczel is an internationally known mathematician. He lives in Waltham, MA.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Ch. 1 Exploding Stars 1
Ch. 2 Early Einstein 13
Ch. 3 Prague, 1911 27
Ch. 4 Euclid's Riddle 43
Ch. 5 Grossmann's Notebooks 61
Ch. 6 The Crimean Expedition 71
Ch. 7 Riemann's Metric 91
Ch. 8 Berlin 105
Ch. 9 Principe Island 121
Ch. 10 The Joint Meeting 139
Ch. 11 Cosmological Considerations 149
Ch. 12 The Expansion of Space 167
Ch. 13 The Nature of Matter 181
Ch. 14 The Geometry of the Universe 189
Ch. 15 Batavia, Illinois, May 4, 1998 197
Ch. 16 God's Equation 207
References 221
Index 225
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Quite Accessible Account of Relativity and Cosmology

    Aczel starts with Einstein's biography and presents his personality as background to the development of his ideas and his relationships that facilitated their development culminating in cosmology. This is a wonderful historical summary. The intricacies of the math and physics are kept to a respectable, accessible, yet meaningful minimum, so those less comfortable with these need not cringe. The personalities and significance of the developments are brought to life. Quite enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted February 8, 2010

    Theorizing then and now

    Albert Einstein can be regarded as the smartest and most influential man in modern science. He led the scientists of his time in theorizing and writing equations to help determine the limits space and time. He wanted to find a field theory that could explain the smallest subatomic particles and our cosmos, a theory that was relevant in all physical things. He called this equation, which could in theory explain everything in our universe, God's Equation.
    In God's Equation, Amir Aczel goes through Einstein's theories and tells of the relevance today, and how modern scientists use Einstein's work to supplement there own. Amir also explains almost the entire history of modern physics, including astrology, cosmology, and the overall nature of the universe.
    While learning about relativity and the cosmos is usually extremely confusing, Amir Aczel does an amazing job of thoroughly explaining the equations and diagrams that are presented. What he does a better job of though, is explaining the history of the last 100 years of scientific discovery that supplement the reader in understanding how scientists discovered the theories that are talked about. Lastly, I felt that Amir did a wonderful job of blending all together into a work that everyone from a high schooler to a physics professor could understand. While I am a modern physics student, I was surprised to see how thoroughly each individual theorem and scientist was examined and explained. The main reason I enjoyed this book was because it was an extremely concise overview of some of the most thoughtful and even mind-boggling theories in the science world explained in an easy to understand way.
    I can't say there we're many things I did not like about the book, but I can say that relativity and the cosmos cannot be fully understood without any help. The mathematics are there, but they are not fully incorporated into each individual discovery/theorem that is discussed. This is understandable though, because higher level mathematics is not exactly prime reading material. Besides that the one key dislike of this book I had was its choppy reading. The chapters did not flow very will, so the reader has to put the pieces together themselves. Other than that I have no complaints.
    While most people tend to shy away from science books because of there sometimes confusing nature, i see no reason that anyone interested in Einstein or any kind of physical science would not read this book. It gets to the point, and makes complicated theories and equations much easier to understand. Even beginners to science and cosmology can learn valuable things from this book because it is well written for any education level. Overall, people who want a better understanding of Einstein's theories and the last 100 years of science should read this book.
    While I have not thoroughly indulged myself in the works of Amir Aczel, I would recommend his book Fermat's last theorem to anyone who enjoyed God's Equation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2004

    Good read - light on the math

    This book describes the history behind Einstein's equations on relativity. However, the mathematical explanations are on the light side - some are not explained well and some are not explained at all. Read it for the history - not to gain an understanding of the math behind the equation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2001

    A better understanding of our universe offered

    Amir Aczel does a most fascinating job of incorporating science's history with a time table of those predisposed to prove and well as dispel so many of Albert Einstein's theories which since their publication have been proven true. Amazing to see how this brilliant mans thoughts and hypothesis in a low tech age still hold so true today in the 21st century and bring forth so much greater an understanding of our ever-expanding universe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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