It's About Time: Understanding Einstein's Relativity

It's About Time: Understanding Einstein's Relativity

Paperback

By (author) N. David Mermin

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Paperback | 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 154mm x 232mm x 18mm | 299g
  • Publication date: 6 July 2009
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691141274
  • ISBN 13: 9780691141275
  • Illustrations note: 13 halftones. 43 line illus. 1 table.
  • Sales rank: 212,639

Product description

In "It's About Time", N. David Mermin asserts that relativity ought to be an important part of everyone's education - after all, it is largely about time, a subject with which all are familiar. The book reveals that some of our most intuitive notions about time are shockingly wrong, and that the real nature of time discovered by Einstein can be rigorously explained without advanced mathematics. This readable exposition of the nature of time as addressed in Einstein's theory of relativity is accessible to anyone who remembers a little high school algebra and elementary plane geometry. The book evolved as Mermin taught the subject to diverse groups of undergraduates at Cornell University, none of them science majors, over three and a half decades. Mermin's approach is imaginative, yet accurate and complete. Clear, lively, and informal, the book will appeal to intellectually curious readers of all kinds, including even professional physicists, who will be intrigued by its highly original approach.

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Author information

N. David Mermin is a theoretical physicist who has worked in solid state physics, low temperature physics, statistical physics, crystallography, and foundations of quantum mechanics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and won the first Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical society for "his remarkable clarity and wit as a lecturer to nonspecialists on difficult subjects." His books include "Solid State Physics, Boojums All the Way Through", and "Space and Time in Special Relativity".

Review quote

"Mermin's premise is that everyone should know about relativity in order to understand the real nature of time... What is remarkable in his approach is his reliance on developing the reader's skills to analyze events in more than one frame of reference. This is the key to understanding relativity: being able to translate with ease from one frame of reference (a moving train) to another (a station)."--Simon Mitton, Times Higher Education Supplement "This is a book full of insight with an engaging style. I recommend it to anyone who has to teach the subject to either [non scientists or undergraduate and graduate students]: it's a brilliant basis for a set of lecture notes."--Derek Raine, Nature "In this highly readable book, Mermin argues that a working knowledge of relativity requires no more than basic algebra and geometry. He makes a valid point. Special relativity is more fundamental, up-to-date and accurate than Newtonian physics, and Einstein's presence in the classroom may inspire the most uninterested student."--Amanda Gefter, New Scientist "It's About Time is a book that should join the very best systematic popular expositions of science written in the last 50 years."--Peter L. Galison, American Scientist "There's a profound difference between knowing about something, and knowing it, and Mermin succeeds at instilling the latter."--Gilbert Taylor, Booklist "Mermin has taught relativity for 40 years and has clearly thought about the best way to teach the subject. It's About Time offers a serious, yet accessible approach to relativity."--Kara shane Colley, MAA Reviews "What makes the book as a whole so enjoyable to read is the steady pace at which the subject unfolds. The author spends as much time on each idea as he considers necessary... Nowhere is the book too intense, and the learning curve for readers has a fairly constant slope... David Mermin [is] a master teacher at work--and instructors will almost certainly include some of the ideas in their own teaching."--Nigel Dowrick, Physics Today "Requiring nothing more than a basic understanding of algebra, [this book] provides the clearest and most insightful treatment of special relativity I've ever encountered... It's About Time brings the practice and foundation of physics together through the question of time."--Arkady Plotnitsky, Foundations of Physics "The reader will find some of the best non-technical description of the special theory of relativity ever written."--Jaume J. Carot, Mathematical Reviews "An excellent book on Einstein's special theory of relativity... I clearly see the strength of this book in lucid, self-contained, lively, down-to-earth, and meticulous presentation... I have no hesitation in saying that this is the best book on the special theory of relativity at a semi-popular level I have ever read."--K. S. Birbhadra, The Observatory

Back cover copy

"David Mermin's new book is a gem. Requiring nothing more than a basic understanding of algebra, it provides the clearest and most insightful treatment of special relativity I've ever encountered. Students new to special relativity should learn it from this text; those already familiar with the subject should read this book to enhance their understanding and (of equal importance) to experience the craft of a master teacher."--Brian Greene, Columbia University"This book includes material that is intellectually innovative and comes as a surprise even to specialists in the field. Its uniqueness, its insights, and its wonderful style will likely make it a classic."--Richard Price, University of Utah"Well-written, chatty and engaging, this book will be accessible to scientists and non-scientists alike."--Robert Geroch, University of Chicago"The reader who works through this book carefully will have quite a good understanding of what special relativity is all about. It offers a fresh approach to the subject."--Michael Strauss, Princeton University

Table of contents

Preface: Why Another Relativity Book ix Note to Readers xiv Chapter One: The Principle of Relativity 1 Chapter Two: Combining (Small)Velocities 14 Chapter Three: The Speed of Light 19 Chapter Four: Combining (Any)Velocities 28 Chapter Five: Simultaneous Events;Synchronized Clocks 45 Chapter Six: Moving Clocks Run Slowly;Moving Sticks Shrink 58 Chapter Seven: Looking At a Moving Clock 73 Chapter Eight: The Interval between Events 79 Chapter Nine: Trains of Rockets 89 Chapter Ten: Space-Time Geometry 102 Chapter Eleven: E =M2 144 Chapter Twelve: A Bit about General Relativity 171 Chapter Thirteen: What Makes It Happen? 179 Index 187