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Relativity: The Special and the General Theory [Paperback]

Albert Einstein
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 2010
2010 Reprint of 1920 First English Edition. First English translation of Einstein's theory of relativity. In this work Einstein intended, as far as possible, to give an exact insight into the theory of Relativity to those readers who, from a general and scientific philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical apparatus of theoretical physics. The theory of relativity enriched physics and astronomy during the 20th century. When first published, relativity superseded a 200-year-old theory of mechanics elucidated by Isaac Newton. It changed perceptions. For example, it overturned the concept of motion from Newton's day, into all motion is relative. Time was no longer uniform and absolute, as related to everyday experience. Furthermore, no longer could physics be understood as space by itself, and time by itself. Instead, an added dimension had to be taken into account with curved space-time. Time now depended on velocity, and contraction became a fundamental consequence at appropriate speeds.

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How better to learn the Special Theory of Relativity and the General Theory of Relativity than directly from their creator, Albert Einstein himself? In Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Einstein describes the theories that made him famous, illuminating his case with numerous examples and a smattering of math (nothing more complex than high-school algebra). Einstein's book is not casual reading, but for those who appreciate his work without diving into the arcana of theoretical physics, Relativity will prove a stimulating read. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


'He was unfathomably profound - the genius among geniuses who discovered, merely by thinking about it, that the universe was not as it seemed.' - Time

'Much of the book is a delight.' - Stephen Battersby, New Scientist

'[Einstein] is a far better populariser of science than Stephen Hawking ... you'll feel as though you have a ringside seat at a revolution in human understanding.' - Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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In your schooldays most of you who read this book made acquaintance with the noble building of Euclid's geometry, and you remember-perhaps with more respect than love-the magnificent structure, on the lofty staircase of which you were chased about for uncounted hours by conscientious teachers. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I hate to be the only one to not give the book "5 stars", but this is simply not the best book to buy if you want to learn the theory of relativity. The book is certainly worthwhile if you want something simply because it was written by Einstein, but God bless him, the old guy just couldn't put the idea accross as well as many modern authors. Maybe something is just lost in the translation, I don't know...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
There is no doubt that Albert Einstein has been one of the most brilliant minds of the past century. His major contribution to science was the special and the general theory of relativity, which gave a new dimension to that we call today "Modern Physics". Many people feel frustrated because when they try to understand relativity, they find some authors that expound in their books a complex arrangement of equations referring to the mathematical part of the theory, namely, the books are accessible for people with certain levels of knowledge (that is the case of engineers, physicists, mathematicians, among others). Nevertheless, perceiving and anticipating this situation, Albert Einstein wrote this book (more than fifty years ago) whit the purpose of exposing the special and the general theory of relativity in such a way that anyone can understand it. I this sense, I think, Einstein succeeded because despite the shortness of the book, the same covers the most important aspects of relativity in a clear and concise form. Moreover, the book has appendixes where the author makes reference to some interesting subjects like the problem of space and relativity, the experimental confirmation of the theory, to name a few. If you have decided to learn something about relativity, and you do not have vast knowledge in physics and mathematics, I sincerely recommend you this book. On the other hand, if you were a reader looking for more technical information (mathematical foundation of general relativity), I would choose the book "Gravitation" written by Misner, Wheeler y Thorne. This text represents an encyclopedia about general relativity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is truly a scientific gem. Not only did the brilliant Einstein envision the theory of relativity, but he also felt compelled to inform non-scientists by writing this "less" technical explanation of his theory. The book's section on Special Relativity is not too difficult to grasp. However, having some basic understanding of algebra and classical mechanics is helpful. On the other hand, the section on General Relativity is quite profound, requiring the reader to imagine new concepts of space and time that are alien to one's sense of reality. Indeed, I had to read this section several times and I'm still not sure if I completely understand it. However, this is more of a function of my imagination skills rather than Einstein's literary abilities. For he uses an abundance of familiar terms and analogies to simplify the understanding of some of the more "unusual" implications of General Relativity. I would not recommend this book to someone averse to technical subjects. However, I do recommend it to those wishing to learn the basics of relativity theory.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not Just science Nov. 29 2003
I won't lie to you, the theory of relativity is not simple. The special relativty is easily understood, yet it is a topic covered in university as an speciality in majors more involved with physics, and general relativity is coverd in masters. Both topics can be quite esoteric, and the mathematical explanation for the relativistic deformation of the time-space due to speed uses Fourier's transforms, so most people will have to just have faith in what Einstein is trying to explain. However, he does simplify the subject enough, so anyone with a basis of physics could grasp some of the most important ideas behind his theory.
Furthermore, this book is important in the fact that by proving that relativity was a real fact in physics, the shape of the world in the twentieth century took a great change. I believe that without Einstein's work, the nihilism porfethized by Nietzsche, toghether with the despotic regimes that the will of power would create guided by deviations of the "übermensch" might not have com in such strenght as it did.
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In Relativity, Einstein trys to bring his theory of relativity to the masses. When the special and general theorys of relativity were concieved of by Einstein, they revolutionized our perception of space and time. This revolution was so complete that many of the most significant physicists of the time believed that it was nonsense. When Einstein won the Nobel prize for his work on the photoelectric effect, his certificate unequivocally stated that the award was NOT given for his theory of relativity. For much of his life, even Einstein was unwilling to accept some of the predictions of his own work such as black holes.
This is all very good, interesting science and history which should be read and understood by everyone. The problem is, though, that Einstein was not a particularly good writer. Einstein is too brilliant for his own good and it shows through frequently in this attempt to stoop to our level. His explanations are usually hard to follow and unintuitive(and I study physics even!). This book exists on an uncomfortable middle ground between rigor and easy reading.
If you would like to read this book simply because of its (and its author's) historical significance then I couldn't discourage that. If you know little physics and want to try to understand relativity, however, read Kip Thorne's Black Holes and Time Warps or the first few chapters of Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great advance in the field of Science
I will begin with saying that this book deserves its spot on the list of top 25 science books of all time. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Arnold Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Relativity: The Special and the General Theory
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein

2010 Reprint of 1920 First English Edition. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Sean
5.0 out of 5 stars very well presented
einsteins presents his theory very well. Easy to understand with many "ah-has!" in it. Not a very big book. Worth the read.
Published 17 months ago by Todd Fedorak
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact read.
This book quickly gets to the issue of why there even needs to be a theory of special relativity. It clearly explains what postulates are unwavering and why and then proceeds to... Read more
Published on April 10 2012 by G. McConnell
3.0 out of 5 stars His best was yet to come!
This book is not an easy read. It is not his best attempt at explaining his theories of special and general relativity. Read more
Published on Jan. 17 2011 by Bookynerd
1.0 out of 5 stars Classic book; horrible print.
My 1 star is for this particular printing of the book, and has nothing to do with Einstein's book, which is fantastic. Read more
Published on July 8 2009 by Sam Lowry
4.0 out of 5 stars Addressing Some Misconceptions
Much has been said about Einstein's poor ability to write, namely with respect to this particular book. Read more
Published on March 10 2008 by Walty Rainham
4.0 out of 5 stars Straight from the horse's mouth
What better person to here about relativity than Einstein himself? This is a great book for anyone interested in relativity. Read more
Published on June 9 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Requires a Mature Reader
I've used this book with my high school students - very slow going. You can definitely understand the issues involved in relativity, even as a layman, from reading this book, but... Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2004 by Christian Moulton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
How better to learn and appreciate Einsteins theory's of relativity than from his own words. I read this book senior year of Highschool and found it quite engaging. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2003
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