Read What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein's Ideas, and Why They Matter by Jeffrey O. Bennett Online


It is common knowledge that if the Sun suddenly turned into a black hole, it would suck Earth and the rest of the planets into oblivion. Yet as bestselling author and astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett points out, black holes don't suck. With that simple idea in hand, Bennett begins an entertaining introduction to Einstein's theories, describing the amazing phenomena readers wIt is common knowledge that if the Sun suddenly turned into a black hole, it would suck Earth and the rest of the planets into oblivion. Yet as bestselling author and astrophysicist Jeffrey Bennett points out, black holes don't suck. With that simple idea in hand, Bennett begins an entertaining introduction to Einstein's theories, describing the amazing phenomena readers would actually experience if they took a trip through a black hole.The theory of relativity also gives us the cosmic speed limit of the speed of light, the mind-bending ideas of time dilation and curvature of spacetime, and what may be the most famous equation in history: e = mc2. Indeed, the theory of relativity shapes much of our modern understanding of the universe, and it is not "just a theory: " every major prediction of relativity has been tested to exquisite precision and its practical applications include the Global Positioning System (GPS). Bennett proves anyone can understand the basics of Einstein's ideas. His intuitive, nonmathematical approach gives a wide audience its first real taste of how relativity works and why it is so important not only to science but also to the way we view ourselves as human beings....

Title : What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein's Ideas, and Why They Matter
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ISBN : 9780231167260
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
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What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein's Ideas, and Why They Matter Reviews

  • Daniel Bastian
    2019-05-18 07:38

    "It's not your fault; rather, it is a result of the fact that we don't commonly experience the extreme conditions under which the true nature of time and space is most clearly revealed."Jeffrey Bennett's handy resource is probably the best primer on Einsteinian relativity on the market today. Far more lucid than your average physics textbook, Bennett runs through a slew of accessible thought experiments that are easy to commit to memory. While quick to emphasize that each of the ideas discussed has sound mathematical basis, there is almost no math in the book. Its focus is on the conceptual—how relativity works, how it is applied, and what Einstein's ideas can tell us about the nature of scientific inquiry.It is often said that the concepts of relativity upend our common sense in ways that make them difficult to grasp. But as Bennett points out, this might not be the best way to think about it. Our local experience of spacetime does not include traveling at speeds approaching the speed of light, orbiting in the vicinity of black holes, or compressing objects to infinite densities. How can we have "common" sense about things we don't commonly experience, Bennett asks? Instead, Einstein's ideas ask that we revise our everyday intuitions about spacetime in the same way that learning the Earth isn't flat occasioned us to revisit our intuitions about the meaning of 'up' and 'down'.Bennett shows readers how, armed with just two foundational principles—that physical laws (or patterns) are the same for everyone (what Hume called the "Principle of Uniformity of Nature") and that the speed of light is a universal constant—Einstein forever changed our understanding of the universe. Those principles ultimately fused the concepts of space and time such that we can no longer speak of certain phenomena in Newtonian terms—of spooky "action at a distance" between objects orbiting other objects. Einstein resolved this dilemma in 1916 by giving us a new view of gravity, otherwise known as the general theory of relativity. As Bennett writes:“Gravity arises from the curvature of spacetime, and the curvature of spacetime is shaped by the masses within it. The greater the mass, the more it curves spacetime around it. A small object orbiting a more massive object simply follows the straightest possible path that it can given the local structure of spacetime." (p. 112)There is nothing here that should make your head hurt, excepting perhaps any futile attempts to grapple with the interminable distance between the stars and what that means for our getting there. Early in the book he lays bare this reality while pondering the preposterous speeds at which light travels in a vacuum:"The fastest spacecraft we've ever built are traveling out into space at speeds of around 50,000 kilometers per hour, which is the same as about 14 kilometers per second. This is quite fast by human standards; in fact, it is about 100 times as fast as a "speeding bullet." However, it is less than 1/20,000 of the speed of light, which means that at this speed, it would take more than 20,000 years to go the distance that light travels in a single year." (pp. 9-10)Consider that Andromeda is our closest neighboring galaxy. It is 2.5 million light-years from Earth. Yeah. The math on that is not pretty for aspiring spacefarers.Throughout the book Bennett patiently debunks the 'just a theory' rhetoric often applied to not just Einstein's ideas but to various other cornerstones of the sciences. More than anything else, what sets science apart is its evidence-based approach to explaining the natural order of the universe. The corroboration of theories by way of experimentally verifiable predictions affords us deeper insight into the workings of physical reality. Far more than a 'theory' in any colloquial sense, the relativistic effects described by Einstein's equations have been multiply attested using everything from particle accelerators and nuclear power to mobile phones and GPS navigation and other common-use technologies. What began as fanciful speculation in the young Einstein's brain became the empirical bedrock of modern physics through repeated testing and validation. We cannot truly understand the universe without first understanding relativity, and we cannot truly understand the essence of science until we understand its commitment to evidence.Postscript: Double kudos to Bennett for using the proper terminology: 'general theory of relativity', as opposed to the 'theory of general relativity', the latter of which is not only a semantic contradiction but commonly found in popular press and even in some introductory texts.Note: This review is republished from my official website.

  • Josh Skinner
    2019-06-11 05:52

    Do you know everything about the Theory of Relativity? Then this book is not for you. However, if you are like me, and know little-to-nothing about Relativity but are highly intrigued by the topic, then this new book by Jeffrey Bennett may be just what you are looking for. Bennett takes the reader through the reality of the universe on a quest to understand why “black holes don’t suck”.Bennett’s tone makes the book approachable. He uses humor well and writes in a way that minimizes the daunting nature of this topic. He takes the average reader though a complex subject with ease and depth. Bennett’s use of thought experiments helps to make the topics discussed accessible but also is the one area that can get overwhelmingly complex at times. This is to be expected. Bennett, while writing at an introductory level, is covering a topic that is contrary to what is the common understanding of much of the universe. Needless to say, you can get quite lost in the consequences of these ideas. I saw comments about the mathematics in the book being complex but I couldn’t disagree more. Add to that the fact that all of the math used is supplemental to the text and you really don’t need any grip on mathematics to completely understand the points he makes throughout.Gravitational redshifting, time running slower in gravity, tidal forces, event horizons, singularity, Special Theory of Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, and on and on and on. This book covers much that is quite interesting. Why would it literally take forever to cross the event horizon? What do ocean tides have to do with entering a black hole? What is actually “relative” in the Theory of Relativity? How is acceleration related to gravity and what effect does this have on our understanding of space and time? I read mostly books from a Christian perspective so this might seem like a break from my normal routine of theology books. But it is not really. Too often Christians run away from the natural sciences because so many of the ideas seem to be competing or contrary to their own. This is sad. If the Bible is true, which it is, all truth is God’s truth. We should never be afraid to learn something new, even if it were to contradict something we have thought we understood. God is found in the truth and gaining a deeper understanding of His creation should only lead to greater praise and awe and worship. Bennett’s book led me to this and I am appreciative of that.After reading this book I am an expert on Relativity. Nah, just kidding. But I do have a firmer grasp of much and many more questions I want to learn about. You really cannot ask for more from an introductory text than that. Black holes don’t suck. Neither does this book. :-D It is actually quite good.***I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

  • Barb
    2019-05-27 08:56

    I really enjoyed this book, even the parts I didn’t understand until I had read it several times. That is not a reflection on the author’s writing ability, it is just that my knowledge of relativity is lacking. Some of the math parts, I confess, I just skipped over as there is no way I could understand it. However, if you are like me, and have little or no background in this area, this book is for you.The actual theory of relativity is not so hard to understand after the author explained it. But the part of the book I still have difficulty with is thinking of “time” as anything other than a man-made, measurement device. To say that space-time is another dimension, is hard for me grasp. If you say that space is another dimension, then I get it, but “time”? To me, time is artificial, not real, just a measurement of passing moments like a calendar measures passing days. Anyway, since I am not a scientist and have never been confused with one, I will have to take their word for it.If you are someone who is really interested in physics and finds the discussion of relativity, black holes, and these types of subjects elementary, then this book is definitely not for you. But if you are interested in these topics but don’t have any real depth of learning in the area, this is a good book to open your eyes to the quest for knowledge and understanding around these topics. Simply put, if you want to read a really good science book, you should give this one a try.I was provided a free copy of this book for review from Columbia University Press and Net Gallery. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

  • Ryan Frantz
    2019-05-18 08:39

    I really enjoyed this book. Even as an introductory text, I felt I learned a lot about special and general relativity. To be honest, I realized how much I didn't know about what I didn't know.This book has whetted my appetite to learn more about relativity, spacetime, and quantum mechanics.

  • Bill Seaward
    2019-05-29 03:55

    Bennett's four hour overview was very intuitive and enlightening. His descriptions were clear and understandable, and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a simplified view of General and Special Relativity.

  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    2019-06-15 05:51

    This is a primer on the basic ideas of relativity. It includes great, illustrative cartoons and very little math. The author addresses many of the misconceptions people might have about concepts related to relativity because of pop culture and introduces some surprising ways relativity affects our daily lives.Even though relativity is a topic I’ve been interested in since high school, I learned fascinating new facts from this book. The author made incredibly complex and counterintuitive concepts simple. He started with facts that made sense to me and built on them to make the odder results of relativity make sense too. I liked that he revisited the same thought experiments over and over. This made me comfortable with the ideas and helped me learn.I liked that the author talked about the implications of relativity for our daily lives. He made a pretty convincing argument for why we should all care about the concepts he teaches here. I also loved that he taught the scientific method as he went. I think this is a book that would be perfect for introductory physics classes. It’s easy to follow and could inspire students to become interested in the topic.This review first published on Doing Dewey.

  • Linnea
    2019-05-18 06:44

    Grundläggande och pedagogisk. Har dock en känsla av att den förenklar så pass mycket att man går miste om en stor del information om orsak och verkan.

  • Troy Sievertsen
    2019-05-27 09:57

    What is Relativity? by Jeffrey Bennett is a nonfiction book that describes Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in a simple way. It goes over the main ideas of relativity and uses thought experiments to help readers understand them.The main ideas of the book are that the laws of nature are the same for everyone, the speed of light is the same for everyone, and that space and time can be different depending on the situation, but spacetime is the same for everyone. So, nature acts the same for everyone, and the speed of light is always the same in a perfect vacuum from any viewpoint. Also, it describes in the book that time can be dilated and different depending on velocity and gravity, but spacetime is the same, in brief summary, because even if you reach high speeds in space, the geometry of space is different than the geometry we are used to on Earth because spacetime is bent from masses in what we call gravity. This means that when you accelerate fast enough, you aren't going in a straight line, so space and time change but spacetime doesn't. The author goes over the ideas that are important in the Theory of Relativity. He explains the idea of redshift, which says that to an outside observer light would change colors along the spectrum until it turned red and then disappeared if it were to fall into a strong gravitational field. The reasoning would be that greater gravity causes time to go slower, even though people in the field of gravity themselves would feel like time is going at a normal rate. The author also describes that if you were to travel at high enough speeds, you could make a journey in 5 years across space, but come back to Earth in a time 50 years later. This is because your time would be running slower than time on Earth at such high speeds.People that would be interested in this are those that can understand complex ideas and those who genuinely love science as I do. This book would interest those people as it helps to redefine our common sense by changing their ideas of things like space, gravity, and time. There was nothing to dislike about the book in my opinion, but many things to learn and enjoy.

  • Tristram Spitsnaugle
    2019-05-21 03:57

    I have to give it to him, this is incredible. I read this book because I received “A Brief History of Time” for Christmas and quickly realized that I would need a little background in science and physics before I attempted that read. That’s where this book came in. People have attempted to explain relativity to me before. All I knew is that it allows for time travel and has to do with gravity and black holes. This book took me infinitely deeper than that. Although I do have some questions that I’m currently working on solving, I do believe there is not a better book available that better explains the theory of relativity and the importance it plays in both our daily lives and for science as a whole.I would recommend this book to anyone who is trying to find an answer to the daunting question “just what is relativity?” Don’t let the reputation of the complexity of the theory of relativity get to you. With this book in hand, anyone can understand relativity, or at least give you a strong enough base of information to continue reading or researching whatever else you choose that may have been impacted by Einstein’s greatest find.

  • Manuel Antão
    2019-05-25 06:03

    "What is Relativity?" or "How Modern Physics showed that Black Holes Don't Suck" by Jeffrey BennettIt’s confirmed. Black holes don’t suck…I always say that TV is the devil's and god's work at the same time. On the plus-side, the TV has probably provided the biggest push toward making science books more appealing, at least to the eye. It has created a graphic-oriented society, and the persons of today have never known any other kind. All books deserve good graphics, but science books perhaps have the greatest need to make a good first impression, to say, "Look at me".You can read the rest of this review on my blog.

  • Lee Belbin
    2019-06-01 03:59

    While I have read dozens of books on physics and cosmology, I thought it would be good to see how well Bennett covered relativity. He did a fabulous job, hence 4-stars. Pretty much anyone with an interest in what is out there in the universe would enjoy this book. His teaching experience has honed an approach that is simple and effective in getting your head around some of the physics that are not apparent in the eveyday life of 99.99% of us. If you REALLY get it, it is literally awesome, scary, mind-blowing and humbling. Lessons all.

  • Steve
    2019-06-06 11:53

    Learned a ton from this book. I now see why general and special relativity are so important to things like GPS (time dilation) and why we can see multiple images of celestial bodies (gravitational lensing). This should be taught at the high school level because our common sense is actually a liability to our knowledge of how things work deeper in the universe.

  • Matt Gever
    2019-06-13 05:49

    Good background reading for novices like me who want to know more about Einstein and what relativity is.

  • Sophie
    2019-05-22 09:50

    It’s not you, book, it’s me. (I should start out by saying that I’ve had a very long history of not liking physics, which is kind of ironic since I have an engineering background.) But really, if I were a normal non-physics-hating person, I would’ve really liked What Is Relativity? for Bennett’s ability to explain abstract concepts in a fun and simple way. I loved the first half of this book, but by the end, the physics concepts and the repetitiveness of the thought experiments overpowered Bennett’s humorous narrative, and I was unable to enjoy the book in its entirety. I would still recommend it though, especially for people who are curious about the concepts of relativity and don’t know where to start.IntroductionYou’ve probably heard of terms like “relativity”, “black holes”, and “light years” at some point in your life, but do you really know what they mean? Bennett, a science educator with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, takes you on a trip to the nearest black hole while providing a plethora of thought experiments to explain Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity, as well as the implications of relativity.DiscussionA book that starts out by guiding you through the process of building a spacecraft to visit a black hole is a book done right. (If you’ve played Spore, you’d be super excited for this part of the book!) Bennett’s thought experiments are entertaining and engaging, and really made physics fun and understandable. These thought experiments involve colleagues falling into black holes, racing against light (and losing by just a little!), Star Trek and Star Wars references, and many other memorable situations. Bennett’s narrative is full of dry humor, and if I had a high school physics teacher like him, I think I would’ve enjoyed physics more. Right before aiming directly at a black hole by accident, he says this:After traveling 250 trillion kilometers from Earth, you’d have to be the unluckiest person in history to be aimed directly at the black hole by accident.However, the thought experiments did get repetitive and tiring after a while. Maybe the physics just got a bit too much for me, or maybe I got space-sick, but reading about Jeff (Bennett) and Al (Einstein) being up in space for a long time ended up making me dizzy and nauseous.On a different note, the diagrams included in What Is Relativity? are very cute and informative. Bennett should start writing textbooks (oh wait, he has!) because, really, these figures and his explanations made me understand gravitational redshift and the equivalence principle, which is no mean feat. I can’t say that I still remember what they mean, but hey, I did in the moment. Other interesting facts I do remember from this book are that black holes don’t suck, time runs slower in stronger gravity, and Einstein started his career by imagining himself riding on a beam of light.Another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed are the analogies. Take Bennett’s raisin cake analogy for the expansion of the universe, for example:If you lived in a raisin inside an expanding raisin cake, you would observe all other raisins to be moving away from you, with more distant raisins moving faster. In the same way, the fact that we observe more distant galaxies to be moving away from us at higher speeds implies that we live in an expanding universe.So there’s definitely a lot of good stuff in this book. Unfortunately, I could only love half of the book before my physics-hating tendencies kicked in. There are concepts that I still couldn’t understand after reading through a thought experiment multiple times, and there are parts I skimmed through.ConclusionThis is a book I really, really wish I could’ve liked more. I think What Is Relativity? would be a great book for people who have had no physics background (or aren’t completely ruined for physics because they had a bad high school physics teacher) or for people who want to learn more about relativity in an interesting way. Bennett’s humorous narrative, entertaining examples, and clear figures make physics seem fun and interesting, and this is a great example of effective science communication.Paper Breathers (Book Reviews & Discussions)

  • Mark Flowers
    2019-06-04 06:56

    A couple years ago, when I reviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles, Angela mentioned that Tyson had been picked to host a sequel to Carl Sagan’s famous “Cosmos” miniseries. That sequel, “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is now being aired to great acclaim (and some controversy, among creationists)–the 8th of 13 episodes will air on Sunday.So now seems like a perfect time to dip into some great science writing. Jeffrey Bennett’s What is Relativity? is certainly one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read this year: a fast-paced, highly readable account of one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time.The basic principle on which Relativity stands is simple, if incredibly counter intuitive: the speed of light is always constant. This means that even for someone traveling at very close to the speed of light, light will still travel away from them as quickly as if they were stationary. Add in a couple of thought experiments and an explanation of black holes, and you can sum up the theory fairly quickly–as deGrasse did in the March 30 episode of “Cosmos.” But as Bennett shows, even his 200 page book barely scratches the surface of the deeply complex implications of the theory.Fortunately, we have Bennett to explain these implications, and he does so with great vigor. I remember being utterly amazed when I first learned as a teenager about the famous “twin paradox”–two twins, one traveling near the speed of light, the other remaining on earth, upon being reunited will be vastly different ages (it’s still amazing to me). Indeed, this is exactly the kind of mind-blowing thought that makes science fun and interesting for many children and teens.Want to get a preview of Bennett’s easy explanations without reading the whole book? Take a look at the wonderful Q and A on his website.BENNETT, Jeffrey. What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter. 224p. illus. index. Columbia Univ. Mar. 2014. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780231167260; lib. ed. ISBN 9780231537032.Starting and ending with a guided tour of a black hole, Bennett’s prose lives up to the subtitle of his book, offering readers not only an intuitive, but a highly entertaining and accessible account of Einstein’s theories of relativity. Relativity itself rests on two rather simple principles–that the laws of physics apply to everything equally, and that light is observed traveling at the same speed by everyone. Since the first one had been fully accepted since the time of Isaac Newton, Bennett explains, if we can understand how and why the speed of light always remains constant, we can understand all the seeming paradoxes of relativity, such as the famous dilation of time—the fact that time moves more slowly as objects approach the speed of light. The “intuitive” part of Bennett’s account is his copious use of thought experiments, an appropriate enough approach, since that is how Einstein developed the theories in the first place. And the accessibility of the book stems from Bennett’s aversion to using math—E=mc2 and v=d/t are the only equations that crop up—and Bennett is careful to explain all the elements of these equations each time he uses them. This eminently readable book could easily have been marketed to teens as it addresses a topic about which many of them want to know more, without using math or terminology out of their reach.—Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy Library, Vallejo, CA

  • Susanne Doorn
    2019-06-11 03:33

    Read the full review at book is easy to read. There are no hard mathematical equations in it.It has a lot of nice thought experiments in them that you might want to try yourself.I was immediately taken by the chance to interpret my understanding of the theory of relativity to apply it to human nature. We live in nature, and obey the laws of nature. It would be very obvious that our psyches are effected by those laws in a way that mirrors those laws.Sometimes I found it hard to keep my attention focused on the thought experiments and I just wanted to read the explanation(s).There are some very appealing comparisons with science fiction literature that make the book fun to read.This book has brought me some creative ideas about a general theory about the human mind, I am sure it will do the same for you.There is just one downside. It trashed my wild fantasies about wormholes as portals into other dimensions. That can not happen because mathematics suggests that if wormholes should exist they would be too unstable to allow you to travel through them…

  • Mac
    2019-05-23 11:45

    In my ongoing quest to understand relativity, it was recently time for me to read yet another book on the subject so I turned to Jeffrey Bennett's What Is Relativity? Do I now understand? Not completely, but much better than before. Is this a good book? Absolutely.What Is Relativity? is extremely well written. The concepts are clearly explained, and there is frequent movement back and forth between abstract ideas and concrete examples. The overall structure of the book is well organized and logical, and throughout, Bennet includes regular summaries as bridges among complicated thoughts.And special mention should go to Bennett's illustrations (some are in collaboration with others). Though the drawings are just slightly more than stick figures, the illustrations are very helpful in dramatizing concepts in the text. What's more, the drawings are closely tied to those concepts with textual cross references and a brief explanation under each illustration. Taken together, the book is a visual learner's dream.Is the book a delight to read? Yes, from a learning standpoint, but (even though extremely clear) the book includes many challenging counter-intuitive ideas that make for difficult reading. What Is Relativity? is not a joy, but it's well worth the effort if you want to learn about relativity. As for me, on this subject, I know a lot more than I did before, thanks to Jeffrey Bennett.

  • Debbie
    2019-06-09 09:42

    Received via NetGalley and Columbia University Press for an completely unbiased review.Jeffrey Bennett is no Brian Greene, but then again his own method of explaining basic physic principals seems to weave its way into its own set of followers. What is Relativity? Special Relativity? Why is it important for scientists that Einstein created Relativity, and what can it be used for? These are a few of the questions that Mr Bennett covers in his brief book of a mere 192 pages. This concise book includes some images of fundamental principles (how the universe is shaped, or how we perceive the universe), and has limited explanations of each diagram. It would be fantastic if Bennett extrapolated in common terms on certain ideas (the creation of binary stars, for instance) because unless the reader has read a few other physics books, or taken classes in physics, they would probably have found it confusing. The discussion of specific measurements surrounding the gravity and pressure specific types of stars can maintain before falling in on themselves seemed a bit more complicated than necessary, if at all necessary.I would have liked to see more emphasis on why black holes were so very important to the Relativity discussion. Although Bennett does prove his thesis that Relativity is indeed important to every day life, and the exploration/understanding of outer space, he fails to truly integrate his black hole discussions into the broader picture. If any future edits of this book are done, it would be beneficial to more clearly connect black holes to the thesis before continuing on with the structures and natures of the universe. I would suggest this book to any physics or space junkie who doesn't want to wade through Einstein's own books, and wants a concise and direct introduction of all things Relative.

  • Dereck Sherrer
    2019-06-06 07:59

    An light intro to relativity but there certainly are better ones out there that I would recommend instead. This one really glosses over some important topics, like the absolute speed of light in different reference frames.

  • Destiny Dawn Long
    2019-05-20 05:57

    I received an advanced review copy of this title from the publisher, through NetGalley.For a long time I've wanted to learn about relativity. When I took an astrophysics class in university, it was discussed a little bit--but was mostly glossed over in favor of topics considered more essential. So, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review this title from Columbia University Press. Bennett takes a topic that is considered by many to be too advanced to understand--and makes it accessible to any student of science (or science enthusiast). It has been a number of years since I took any science courses, but I had no problem following along with Bennett's explanations and examples. He chooses exercises of the imagination that are engaging, interesting, and enlightening. I really enjoyed the writing style of the book. It's almost conversational, not at all dry in the way that many science texts are. The conversational tone also makes it feel as though Bennett is engaging you as a peer, rather than talking down to you. This is the sort of book I would have loved to have assigned in a science course. I felt like I was able to gather and retain a lot more information from it than I have from traditional text books.

  • Donald Mosier
    2019-06-10 04:49

    This book offers a very clear, non-mathematical explanation of both special and general relativity. I really, really wanted to give it more than three stars. I suspect that anyone who had not read a lot about this topic already would give it four or even five stars. For those people, I would highly recommend this book. They would learn a lot about the topic. Unfortunately, there were many of those almost right but not totally correct statements, probably stated that way to not overly annoy those seeing the information for the first time, that I found terribly irritating. There were many, many, instances where he said that "space was warped" or that "the warping of space" caused this or that. Those statements are not really wrong, but neither were they really right. In almost every case it should have read "space-time" rather than "space." Is that a subtle difference? Yes it is. But I found it annoying to the point of offensiveness. Does that make me an obnoxious reviewer? Probably. But that's the way it is.

  • Jennifer Boyce
    2019-05-18 04:58

    I do not recommend that you read this book unless you have a pretty solid understanding of mathematics and physics principles. There were numerous parts throughout the book where I got somewhat confused because I couldn't keep up with the authors math/reasoning.There was a lot of math in this book. Instead of just writing out what you'd do, or giving a rough idea of the equations used to come up with justification, the author writes out and solves the exact equation. This bogged down the book for me somewhat, as it's hard for me to follow math problems in the middle of a book.The writing in this book was alright. The author does a nice job of giving a lot of examples to demonstrate the concepts he brings up. Some of the examples are a little humorous, which aids in the understanding of the concepts being demonstrated.Overall, this book is definitely geared towards the reader with a strong background in physics who is looking for an overview of relativity. I would not recommend this book for the general reader, although the writing really wasn't that bad.

  • Philip
    2019-05-31 05:45

    The book is full of tiny nuances that delighted this practicing physicist/teacher. So many irritating but standard aspects of others' attempts are quietly and elegantly corrected in Bennett's book. And I kept finding great new gems:* page 29 "asking how you can go faster than light is somewhat like asking how you can walk north from the North Pole." Perfect. It's not an exact analogy, but it's indeed "somewhat" similar to this conceptual thing that anyone can understand.* same page: Pausing to help us understand that superluminal recession of distant galaxies is not a contradiction of the theory is so important, and totally overlooked by other popular authors.Finally, unlike timid professor types, Bennett does not shrink from a very moving and personal Epilog. Yes, of course. Why did I never say any of that to my students?

  • Michael
    2019-06-12 11:50

    This was a good book for those who want to dip their toes into the pool of physics and the theories of Albert Einstein. He does a admirable job breaking down complex physics topics into digestible bits which you can wrap your head around. It is a quick read and broken up well enough that you do not need to read it all the way through. You can take breaks and pick the book up after a couple days and carry right on throughThe only issue I had with the book is the fact that it sometimes breezed over certain topics ad though I should already be aware of them. Being that I never took a physics class in my life I would have appreciated a little background and context. I however do realize that I am in the minority and the vast majority of people would love this book and understand it's concepts better than I.

  • Argum
    2019-06-10 06:44

    I received a copy of this book from Goodreads FirstReads program. Jeffrey Bennett did an excellent job explaining this subject, but also making me feel like I should care. I knew basically nothing about relativity other than it existed, Einstein did it, and that it seemed hard. I did not realize at all how much it explains including gravity and space. This book was really easy to read, entertaining thought experiments with a sense of humor kept my attention throughout. The pictures and diagrams were useful and easy to comprehend. I know that another review mentions a lot of equations but I recall one and it was in a footnote. I recommend this to anyone regardless of background with an interest in relativity.

  • Carlos
    2019-06-02 05:34

    I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.The book is written at such a level that a person with some technical background or without it can grasp the main ideas. I have some technical background (very basic though); and I found the book easy to read, understand the main concepts even though following every single idea is difficult but because of the topic and not the author. The best of the book is the discussion of the implications of the general relativity theory. The author discusses so many different and important ideas (Big Bang, Universe Expansion, formations of Black Holes, Stars live cycle, ...) is such an elegant, simple and easy to follow writing that I was surprised I was able to understand the main concepts behind all of them.

  • Nikki
    2019-05-23 07:35

    It's difficult for me to review a nonfiction book. The elements that make me love or hate a fiction book just aren't here. It wasn't exactly a riveting page-turner, but the author did present the information in a way that would appeal to science-minded high schoolers and maybe a few middle grade readers with astrophysicist dreams. I didn't love the book (probably because I am not just wild over the theory of special relativity) and it did crush all the things I thought I knew about the universe via science fiction but I will recommend it to students who are on the quest for an informational text.

  • Marie
    2019-06-16 09:51

    Although the author states this book is good for middle school and above, I believe the middle school student should be an advanced one. The concepts in it are understandable, but more difficult to get out of a book than if talked about with students. I also learned some things like astronauts in orbit are weightless not because they are outside the large pull of gravity but because they are in constant free fall. Also, when looking at images of space, some of the galaxies are represented twice because of their light bending around other massive objects. These things make sense, I just never pondered them. I enjoyed the chance to learn something new!

  • Jim
    2019-05-26 11:59

    A profound book I wish I had available years ago when in college. The author gives a clear and precise to matters of science which we see and experience every moment of life but fail to observe due to the simple reason the outcome is existence itself and we absorb it as we do that of being.He discusses how a GPS is and what makes it do what it does, he details Einstein's theory of relativity, he engages in a comprehensive dialogue of gravity and its' complexities. If you enjoy science, or even science fiction for that matter as real science is the basis of science fiction, you will enjoy this book. In any event read it, you will learn things you never expected to learn.

  • Sagar Jethani
    2019-06-02 08:55

    Jeffrey Bennett has produced what is probably the most readable, intelligible explanation of relativity yet published. My family surprised me with this book for Father's Day, knowing I would love pondering the mind-blowing concepts of Einstein's theories. Bennett has a gift for taking what may be the most widely misunderstood theory in modern science and bringing it within the realm of the lay reader. The implications of relativity are truly bizarre from our medium-sized, medium-moving experience as human beings, and I find myself constantly thinking about just how strange the universe truly is.A jewel of a book.