Relativity for the Questioning Mind

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Overview

To those of us who are not mathematicians or physicists, Einstein’s theory of relativity often seems incomprehensible, exotic, and of little real-world use. None of this is true. Daniel F. Styer’s introduction to the topic not only shows us why these beliefs are mistaken but also shines a bright light on the subject so that any curious-minded person with an understanding of algebra and geometry can both grasp and apply the theory.

Styer starts off slowly and proceeds carefully, explaining the concepts undergirding relativity in language comprehensible to nonscientists yet precise and accurate enough to satisfy the most demanding professional. He demonstrates how the theory applies to various real-life situations with easy equations and simple, clear diagrams. Styer's classroom-tested method of conveying the core ideas of relativity—the relationship among and between time, space, and motion and the behavior of light—encourages questions and shows the way to finding the answers. Each of the book’s four parts builds on the sections that come before, leading the reader by turn through an overview of foundational ideas such as frames of reference, revelatory examples of time dilation and its attendant principles, an example-based exploration of relativity, and explanations of how and why gravity and spacetime are linked. By demonstrating relativity with practical applications, Styer teaches us to truly understand and appreciate its importance, beauty, and usefulness.

Featuring worked and end-of-chapter problems and illustrated, nontechnical explanations of core concepts, while dotted throughout with questions and answers, puzzles, and paradoxes, Relativity for the Questioning Mind is an enjoyable-to-read, complete, concise introduction to one of the most important scientific theories yet discovered. The appendixes provide helpful hints, basic answers to the sample problems, and materials to stimulate further exploration.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Popular Science - Daniel Styler

Informative, challenging, and fun at the same time.

Popular Science
Informative, challenging, and fun at the same time.

— Daniel Styler

Choice

Styer has written a thoughtful, well-structured introduction to the ideas of the special and general theories of relativity that should be accessible and engaging to any general reader.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801897603
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/19/2011
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel F. Styer is the John and Marianne Schiffer Professor of Physics at Oberlin College and the author of The Strange World of Quantum Mechanics.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Invitation xi

Part I Moving

1 The Paradox of the Mirror 3

2 Space, Time, and Motion 10

3 The Strange Behavior of Light 17

Part II Uncovering Relativity

4 Time Dilation 27

5 The Great Race 40

6 Length Contraction 47

7 Clock Synchronization 51

Part III Exploring Relativity

8 The Case of the Hungry Traveler 63

9 He Says, She Says 75

10 Speed Limits 88

11 Speed Addition 99

12 Rigidity, Straightness, and Strength 107

13 The Twin Paradox 114

14 The Pole in the Barn 123

15 Voyage to Spica 131

16 Free-for-All 136

Part IV Starting and Stopping

17 General Relativity 145

18 A Pair of Clocks Starts Moving 155

19 Black Holes 158

20 The Vista Open to Us 166

Appendixes

A For the Cognoscenti 171

B Hints 175

C Skeleton Answers 177

D Ready Reference 180

Index 183

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