Introducing Einstein's Relativity: A Deeper Understanding

Most kids dream that one day they will discover they have developed a superpower, but life never stops reminding them that they are just regular humans. Among the more intellectually curious of us, this book might come closest to actually fulfilling that dream, by providing a way to understand some of the most challenging theories and results in physics: black holes, gravitational waves and cosmology.

In the words of the Nobel laureate mathematical physicist Roger Penrose in the book's foreword, the path in this book is a “gentle, but comprehensive route” to understanding Einstein’s theories and their most modern extensions and applications. It is an updated and expanded version of a textbook, clearly well regarded by students from long ago.

Starting as notes to an undergraduate course in the mid-1970s, the book still provides students with a basic understanding, but now it also goes up to levels of interest to graduate students. The authors flag so-called Level 2 sections, which are more challenging, but they do an outstanding job of taking students step by step throughout the book. 

What is striking even at first glance is how friendly the book looks, especially given the potentially daunting topic. There are multiple diagrams, pages have lots of white space for notes, and the math somehow looks manageable (especially when taken step by step). Each chapter has exercises scaffolding up to the challenge level, as well as solutions at the end of the book. There is even an introductory section addressing in an avuncular tone the student who might be studying primarily from the book, with two more specific sections with separate advice for the better-prepared and for the less-prepared student.

Of course, there is a list of selected bibliographic sources, as well as a comprehensive index. All in all, this book is probably already required reading as a textbook for physics students, but it would be a mental joyride for the lay reader interested in summiting some of the peaks of intellectual challenge in understanding the mysteries of the universe.

Review by Bogdan Hoanca, University of Alaska Anchorage, USA.

The opinions expressed in the book review section are those of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or its publisher, Optica (formerly OSA).


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