How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog

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Overview

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But what about relativity?

Physics professor Chad Orzel and his inquisitive canine companion, Emmy, tackle the concepts of general relativity in this irresistible introduction to Einstein’s physics. Through armchair—and sometimes passenger-seat—conversations with Emmy about the relative speeds of dog and cat motion or the logistics of squirrel-chasing, Orzel translates complex Einsteinian ideas—the slowing of time for a moving ...

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Overview

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But what about relativity?

Physics professor Chad Orzel and his inquisitive canine companion, Emmy, tackle the concepts of general relativity in this irresistible introduction to Einstein’s physics. Through armchair—and sometimes passenger-seat—conversations with Emmy about the relative speeds of dog and cat motion or the logistics of squirrel-chasing, Orzel translates complex Einsteinian ideas—the slowing of time for a moving observer, the shrinking of moving objects, the effects of gravity on light and time, black holes, the Big Bang, and of course, E=mc2—into examples simple enough for a dog to understand.
 
A lively romp through one of the great theories of modern physics, How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about space, time, and anything else you might have slept through in high school physics class.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Physics professor Orzel follows his How to Teach Physics to Your Dog with a compact and instructive walk through Einstein’s theory of relativity, using the same conceit of lecturing to his preternaturally intelligent and curious dog, Emma. Orzel enthusiastically tackles this elusive subject in chapters with titles like “Time Slows When You’re Chasing Bunnies” and “The Unified Theory of Critters.” The cuteness quotient is high, but the dialogues between author and dog are helpful in explaining the difficult and counterintuitive aspects of relativity. Whether Orzel is writing about the Michelson-Morley experiments, which challenged the previously held notion of universal time and prepared the world of physics for Einstein’s breakthrough, or Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2, the prose is breezy and straightforward, and the material well organized. But there is no getting around the subject matter’s difficulty, and while Orzel’s explanatory diagrams featuring the ever-present Emma help readers visualize the abstract theory, the concepts remain challenging. Relativity constantly amazes, and the glimpses of understanding provide rewarding and satisfying moments. B&w illus. Agent: Erin Hosier, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Steve Nadis, coauthor of The Shape of Inner Space
“Emmy may be one smart dog, but her owner also happens to be an uncommonly gifted communicator. Chad Orzel’s treatment of special and general relativity is comprehensive, informative, and amazingly accessible, yet it’s funny too. This is, by far, the most entertaining discussion of the subject that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.”

Frank Close, author of The Infinity Puzzle
“With Nero, the egocentric cat who believes it is the centre of the universe, and Emmy, the student dog whose questions and misunderstandings would drive any teacher to distraction, and whose interest in relativity is how E=mc^2 can turn squirrels into energy, Chad Orzel has created a delightful cast of characters to make his introduction to relativity relatively painless. A cleverly crafted and beautifully explained narrative that guides readers carefully into the depths of relativity. Whether you are a hare or a tortoise, or even a dog, you will enjoy this.”

Louisa Gilder, author of The Age of Entanglement
“For the price of a book, Orzel delivers the heady, joyful experience of taking a small college class with a brilliant and funny professor who really knows how to teach. A thoroughly winning romp through a rock-solid presentation of a beautiful subject.”
 
James Kakalios, Professor of Physics, University of Minnesota, and author of The Physics of Superheroes and The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics
“Move over, Krypto—there’s a new superdog in town! Chad Orzel’s dog Emmy, having mastered quantum physics, now helps us understand Einstein’s theories of relativity in a deep and accessible way. Get this dog a cape!”
 
Jennifer Ouellette, author of The Calculus Diaries
“Everyone’s favorite physics-loving canine is back, this time giving us a dog’s eye view of Einstein and relativity. Physics professor Chad Orzel leads Emmy (and us) through an engaging tour of light speed, time dilation, and amazing shrinking bunnies (length contraction)—not to mention what all this means for the search for the elusive ‘bacon boson.’”
 
Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here
“Dogs are a practical species. They aren’t interested in speculation and conjecture; they like food, walks, and proven physics like Einstein’s relativity. If you really want to further your dog’s education (and learn something yourself in the process), Chad Orzel’s book is the first place you should turn.”
 
Publishers Weekly
“[A] compact and instructive walk through Einstein’s theory of relativity. . . . [T]he prose is breezy and straightforward, and the material well organized. . . . Relativity constantly amazes, and the glimpses of understanding provide rewarding and satisfying moments.”
 
Kirkus Reviews “Unlike quantum physics, which remains bizarre even to experts, much of relativity makes sense. Thus, Einstein’s special relativity merely states that the laws of physics and the speed of light are identical for all observers in smooth motion. This sounds trivial but leads to weird if delightfully comprehensible phenomena, provided someone like Orzel delivers a clear explanation of why.”

Science News
A clever introduction to the often intimidating concepts of special and general relativity, couched as a series of conversations between the author and his dog, Emmy.  It may sound like a strange setup, but the somewhat kooky concept works well for explaining a field of physics that can sound, well, kooky to the uninitiated. . . . While keeping the math to a minimum, Orzel provides a clear and thorough primer. It might take some practice to start equating subatomic particles to running bunnies, but the reader will find that puzzling through the details is worth the effort.”

Booklist
“With canine humor and math- or physics-related jokes, Orzel keeps readers interested, while teaching the elements of physics that we promptly forgot after we took the test.”
 

Library Journal
“Readers who enjoy Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, or Neil deGrasse Tyson will love this book. Full of quotes, math jokes, and silly canines, the book strives to make its audience amazed by, not frightened of, physics. With exuberant Emmy at the lead, readers can’t help but be dragged (willingly!) toward a better understanding of special and general relativity.”
 
WashingtonPost
“Rather than barking or growling, Emmy leavens the mood with requests for walks; and when the academics get heavy, she interjects to beg for clarification. Obviously, real-life dogs will not walk away from the book with a grasp of the universe’s mechanics, but the human sort of non-scientist can get some benefit.”
 
Nature Physics “[E]ngaging and readable for a general audience. . . . I suggest people who baulk at the idea of a talking dog but are nevertheless interested in the broad sweep of one of the two great theories of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries should give this book a chance. After all, every dog has its day.”

BBC Focus
“Amusing and engaging. . . . It’s informal and has a lightness of touch that can be reassuring when trying to get your head around some big concepts.”

New York Times “Witty and clear-thinking. . . . Professor Orzel, who teaches physics at Union College and runs the blog Uncertain Principles, is turning his own dog, Emmy, into something of a franchise….succinct and entertaining …. bravo to both man and dog.”

Library Journal
Eavesdrop on Orzel (How To Teach Physics to Your Dog) as he uses tennis balls, squirrels, and other canine interests to give his pooch a course in relativity. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 2/17/12)
Kirkus Reviews
Another quirky science primer from the author How to Teach Physics to Your Dog (2009). Traditional popular-science books often feature a teacher answering a child's naïve but astute questions. Orzel's (Physics/Union Coll.) talking dog is original without being an improvement. Unlike quantum physics, which remains bizarre even to experts, much of relativity makes sense. Thus, Einstein's special relativity merely states that the laws of physics and the speed of light are identical for all observers in smooth motion. This sounds trivial but leads to weird if delightfully comprehensible phenomena, provided someone like Orzel delivers a clear explanation of why, for example, a stationary observer sees clocks running slower (and so time passing slower) on a moving body. The faster it moves, the slower the clock. Clock and time stop cold at the speed of light, but only the outside observer sees this. Anyone on the moving object sees time passing normally. Having covered other experimentally proven space-time oddities (moving bodies also shrink), Orzel moves on to gravity, the province of general relativity--no less strange but understandable in his expert hands. Under Newton's gravity, objects attracted each other magically across empty space. Einstein provided an explanation; massive bodies warp nearby space, so moving bodies follow the shortest path. Relativity is comprehensible but not simple; comic books have claimed to teach it, but readers discover that cheerful cartoons or animal humor don't eliminate the requirement of reading, perhaps rereading, and reflecting. Those willing to skim the cute teacher-dog exchanges will find themselves in the hands of a skilled educator.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465023318
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 384,672
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Chad Orzel

Chad Orzel received his BA in physics from Williams College, his Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Maryland, and his postdoctorate from Yale University. He maintains a regular blog, Uncertain Principles, and is author of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. He is currently a professor at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He lives near campus with his wife, their daughter, and, of course, Emmy.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2014

    I like the title of the book very much. Dogs are obviously much

    I like the title of the book very much. Dogs are obviously much better subjects to teach relativity and quantum physics. Considering their loyalty towards their masters, we can expect that dogs faithfully ‘follow’ whatever their masters ‘teach’ them and so better ‘understand’ the above fictitious theories. Probably the other species to which relativity and quantum theories can be taught is sheep because sheep are known to blindly follow.
    That is the case with any fictitious or unreal theory; take for example the marvellous costume of the nude Emperor. Unless one follows blindly what the magical weavers teach and ignore one’s own wisdom, one can’t appreciate the marvellous costume of the nude Emperor.
    Good work Chad Orlez!

    drgsrinivas

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