Why Does E=mc2?: (And Why Should We Care?)

Why Does E=mc2?: (And Why Should We Care?)

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by Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw

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The most accessible, entertaining, and enlightening explanation of the best-known physics equation in the world, as rendered by two of today’s leading scientists.

Professor Brian Cox and Professor Jeff Forshaw go on a journey to the frontier of 21st century science to consider the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up

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The most accessible, entertaining, and enlightening explanation of the best-known physics equation in the world, as rendered by two of today’s leading scientists.

Professor Brian Cox and Professor Jeff Forshaw go on a journey to the frontier of 21st century science to consider the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up Einstein’s most famous equation, E=mc2. Breaking down the symbols themselves, they pose a series of questions: What is energy? What is mass? What has the speed of light got to do with energy and mass? In answering these questions, they take us to the site of one of the largest scientific experiments ever conducted. Lying beneath the city of Geneva, straddling the Franco-Swiss boarder, is a 27 km particle accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider. Using this gigantic machine—which can recreate conditions in the early Universe fractions of a second after the Big Bang—Cox and Forshaw will describe the current theory behind the origin of mass.

Alongside questions of energy and mass, they will consider the third, and perhaps, most intriguing element of the equation: 'c' - or the speed of light. Why is it that the speed of light is the exchange rate? Answering this question is at the heart of the investigation as the authors demonstrate how, in order to truly understand why E=mc2, we first must understand why we must move forward in time and not backwards and how objects in our 3-dimensional world actually move in 4-dimensional space-time. In other words, how the very fabric of our world is constructed. A collaboration between two of the youngest professors in the UK, Why Does E=mc2? promises to be one of the most exciting and accessible explanations of the theory of relativity in recent years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
British theoretical physicists Cox and Forshaw offer lay readers a fascinating account of modern scientists' view of the world, and how it got that way. Without using complicated mathematics, Cox and Forshaw show how the search for "mathematical consistency" can guide scientists in finding the "laws that describe physical reality." The authors provide the historical context that set the stage for Einstein's discovery, providing an easy-to-grasp explanation of counterintuitive experimental evidence, demonstrating how the speed of light acts as a "cosmic speed limit," the exception that proves the rule of relativity. The authors also clearly explain the tide shift that Einstein caused, transforming scientists' understanding of the world-"common-sense notions regarding space and time are dashed and replaced by something entirely new, unexpected, and elegant." Though the basics are covered in detail, there's plenty here for science buffs to ponder.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

Blogcritics.org, 8/22/10
“Cox and Forshaw make a good point in stating that space, time, and even nature are contained within the equation…Although the theory might be tricky, the authors show they understand readers are not on their level. By going one step at a time, the buildup ensures each chuck is absorbed slowly rather than all at once.”

Booktrade.info, 8/24/10
“This book takes the world’s most famous equation apart and puts it back together again in a way that is lively and understandable.  We were delighted to find our knowledge of equations—long forgotten since leaving school for some of us—reinvigorated and felt ourselves rediscovering our enjoyment of mathematics.”

Choice, September 2010
“Thorough, engaging.”

New Scientist, 8/28/10
“Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw tackle the most famous equation of all time in a remarkable comprehensible way…The pair make some surprising points that I haven’t seen expressed in quite the same way…Well worth a read.”
January, 8/16/10
“Particle physics professor Brian Cox and professor of theoretical physics, Jeff Forshaw are clearly trained to have the answers. But here's something that training as a physicist simply can not teach: they deliver their message not only clearly, but with a deep and resonant humor.”

“[Cox and Forshaw are] good communicators overall (they find understandable ways of explaining most concepts) and they have important things to say…What’s important about this book is not that it says something new about science. It’s that it gives a primer for understanding how a certain type of scientist sees the universe.”

New York Journal of Books
“[An] easy-to-read little book…[Cox and Forshaw] very cleverly introduce all the ideas we will need to get to the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2. What is more, they focus on the most puzzling part: the question of what c, the speed of light, is doing in there…Their arguments are so presented so clearly…It is to their credit that they do not always hide the complexity nor the long history of ideas behind relativity…It is also to their credit that they make the case, as Feynman and others have done before them, that, at some level, the weirdness of the universe just has to be accepted…Will help school science teachers as much as it will their students.”

The Guardian, 10/18/10
“The reader is in supremely capable hands with Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw…For anyone afraid of technicalities, Cox and Forshaw lead the reader by the hand through the complexity, adding in rest stops of wit and real-world examples. Even the hardest bits feel like being taken on an army assault course by the two friendliest drill sergeants in the world. You may have to read some bits twice but, boy, will you feel better for it once the insights become clear. In the process of exposing the science, the authors do a good job of showing how the hard end of research works: abandon all assumptions and re-build everything from scratch.”

Daily Telegraph, 10/19/10
“[A] brilliant exposition of Einstein’s famous equation… [Gives] a fresh understanding of Einstein’s genius. A truly impressive achievement.”

The Independent,

“Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw take Einstein's description of the relationship between energy and matter, pull it apart and put it together again, with some detours into space and time along the way. Not an easy read, but not an easy subject.”

Nature, 10/28/10
“Provide[s] an accessible explanation of Einstein’s iconic equation.”

Cape Times (South Africa),11/5/10
“Fans of the physical sciences will undoubtedly enjoy this read…The true success of Why Does E=mc2? lies in Cox and Forshaw having made the most esoteric of ideas…accessible to the layman…The pair manage to hold their readers' hands as they skip through the figures and facts—without patronizing them—to create a logical map between theory and consequence.”

Midwest Book Review, December 2010
“An easy survey of science for non-scientists.”

London Times (UK), 1/6/11
Name one of the “Top 10 Science Books of 2010.”
The Scotsman (Scotland), 12/11/10
Named one of the “Top Reads of 2010.”


The Bookseller, UK, 3/25/11
“[Cox] will join an elite group of just eight authors who’ve penned a science book that has sold in six figures.”

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Product Details

Da Capo Press
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Hachette Digital, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Brian Cox is a professor of particle physicist and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. He divides his time between Manchester in the UK and the CERN laboratory in Geneva, where he heads an international project to upgrade the giant ATLAS and CMS detectors at the Large Hadron Collider. He has received many awards for his work promoting science, including being elected an International Fellow of the Explorers Club in 2002, an organization whose members include Neil Armstrong and Chuck Yeager. He is also a popular presenter on TV and radio, with credits which including a six-part series on Einstein for BBC Radio 4, 3 BBC Horizon programs on Gravity, Time and Nuclear Fusion, and a BBC4 documentary about the LHC at CERN, “The Big Bang Machine”. He was the Science Advisor on Danny Boyle's movie, the science-fiction thriller Sunshine. Brian also has an unorthodox background in the music business, having toured the world with various bands and played keyboard with D:REAM, who had several UK Top 10 hits including Things Can Only Get Better (re-released & used as Tony Blair's election anthem back in 1997.

Jeff Forshaw is professor of theoretical physics at the University of Manchester, specializing in the physics of elementary particles. He was awarded the Institute of Physics Maxwell Medal in 1999 for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics. He graduated from Oxford University and gained a PhD from Manchester University. From 1992-1995 he worked in Professor Frank Close's group at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory before returning to Manchester in 1995. Jeff is an enthusiastic lecturer and currently teaches Einstein's Theory of Relativity to first year undergraduates. He has co-writing an undergraduate textbook on relativity for Wiley and he is the author of an advanced level monograph on particle physics for Cambridge University Press.

Cox and Forshaw began collaborating on scientific papers in 1998, and have published on topics ranging from Pomerons to Higgs Bosons. Their most successful paper to date deals with physics at the Large Hadron Collider in the absence of a Higgs particle.

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Why Does E=Mc2? 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They did an exceptional job of presenting this complex topic in down to earth language that explained it far better than any of my physics courses in college.
Ladydog More than 1 year ago
Either the equations are messed up or the symbols don't translate correctly in the electronic version. The authors say they are going to explain relativity using math no more complex than the pythagorean theorum and then claim it isn't a book about "maths" when they produce a result without explaining how they got there. At a minimum there should be an appendix showing the calculation. But that isn't the worst part. The authors add symbols without telling you what they are or where they came from. So, on p. 38, the square root of 1/ (c squared - ^ squared) becomes 1/ square root c squared ^ v squared. Huh? Where did v come from? Is it a variable, an operator, what? We don't know because the authors don't say. We know it doesn't mean velocity, because that's what ^ is defined as. Confusing enough, but then further down the same page, the square root c squared ^ v squared becomes ^squared/ c squared, again with no explanation. Thanks for the "maths" lesson guys.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, i DO care, but ppl are saying 'pray for all the lost souls'. Dont get me wrong, i totaly agree, but then OTHER ppl are saying 'shame to the bombers!' And 'i hope the bombers go to h**l!' But please do this: pray for the people of Boston as WELL as the ppl who set off te bombs. U need to forgive them because of the terrible things they did. They were probably innocent alchoholics or something who need to be forgiven. God always forgivs everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My aunt uncle and cousins live in boston. Luckily they werent there. People died for no reason AT ALL!~Neon Flash
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I care A LOT, but as I've said a lot, it's not gun control we need, it's gun owner control. And we don't know if it was North Korea. And peopoe from all over the world come to the Boston marothon, so it's hard to tell who's responsible. I'm wearing purple today, beause I care. The best thing we can do is pray. Prayer is a strong thing. ~In God, ~Your fellow American
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I care because two other tragic things happened this week. There was a shooting in Watertown, MA and some people shot down two MIT police officers. Also, some of my aunts friends and some of my dads collegues were at the finish lie and got hurt. I care because ive been mourning since New Years Eve about death. If you heard about the Watertown and MIT incidents put this symbol somewhere in your post: $. ~Rainbow Dash, Rainbowpaw, and Mintpaw /)(\
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