Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?) (Paperback)
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Short Description for Why Does E=mc2? An explanation of Einstein's equation that explores the principles of physics through everyday life. It considers the real meaning behind the iconic sequence of symbols that make up Einstein's most famous equation.
- Published: 04 March 2010
- Format: Paperback 256 pages
- ISBN 13: 9780306819117 ISBN 10: 0306819112
- Sales rank: 921
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Reviews for Why Does E=mc2?
This is a great book on the basic subjects of space and time in relativity, and how the revolutions in these concepts are central to current physics thought. It is told in a narrative style which is highly accessible, and enaging, to readers unfamiliar with the topic. The mathematics involved is complex, but is discussed in a very clear fashion, so even with minimal background, it's basically understandable. The book tackles some weighty issues, which certainly isn't unusual for a theoretical physics book, but one of the key features of this book is that the authors never lose sight of how important it is to confirm theory with experiment. Nor do they forget that the average reader doesn't care about esoteric concepts. They want to know why the theories are important in their lives. The physicists certainly address this concept. by aira bautista
- Top review
So that's what reality is like
I learnt a lot reading this, and I even think I understood some of it. The first part takes you through the historical background to Einstein's famous equation, starting with Galileo's discovery that all motion is motion relative to something else (there's no absolute motion), then to the even more startling discovery that there's no absolute time, either (no 'big clock in the sky'), and the replacement of separate space and time with 'spacetime'. Spacetime must be curved (because Euclidian geometry won't work) and everything moves at speed through it (when I'm sitting down - not moving in space relative to myself - in one second I've still gone distance 'c' in spacetime). The authors make these strange concepts seem much more credible than I could ever do, and even explain why the concepts are bizarre to us (our conventional ones have been ingrained by natural selection).
In the later part, the book looks at the implications of all this: how destroying mass creates a vast amount of energy (in an atom bomb, for instance), how stars burn and how E=mc2 explains other astronomical phenomena like white dwarves, neutron stars and black holes; what the scary-looking Standard Model equation means, and the world of very small elementary particles (which are, yikes, also waves), and how experiments are done nowadays at CERN and elsewhere to get them interacting.
Among all this a lot of background gets pretty seamlessly filled in about how science works ('concepts must be testable by experiment'); what equations are for (allow you to predict the result of an experiment without having to conduct it); the mystery of why maths is so good at describing underlying natural phenomena; the importance of causality; and how light itself isn't special (it's just that its photons have zero mass and therefore always go at the universal maximum speed through space).
For a reader like me (with long-ago O level Physics), it was fine - you have to know (or learn) that, for instance E=mc² can become m=E/c² but that's about it. The book also often tells you the same thing several times - but that's actually helpful, rather than annoying, in a complex subject like this. I've never read such a good popular-science book. by Jonathan Pseud