Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Einstein and the Special Theory of Relativity

Author :    Ajoy Ghatak
Published: 2010
Publisher: Viva Books
Paperback: 170 Pages
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Modern physics especially the Theory of Relativity  had  fascinated me in my high school, though I did not really understand it very well. And for quite some time I had been on  a lookout for an interesting and well written  book which could help me understand it without trivializing the subject too much . And this book by Prof. Ajoy Ghatak, of IIT Delhi, perfectly fitted my need.
Interestingly this book starts with a  summary chapter which explains in 10 pages the  concept of  Special Theory of Relativity (completely equation free !) with simple examples. For a layperson this is more than enough. And if one cannot grasp what is said in this chapter, one need not proceed further ! But having a Ph.D in Engineering which  made me capable to stomach a reasonable dose of mathematical equations  I dared to venture forward.
The main book consists of four chapters.
In the first chapter author has given a brief life sketch of Einstein and briefly discussed his numerous contributions. This is quite an interesting chapter which also gives some insights into the personal life of Einstein , how he collaborated with other scientists, the story and controversies surrounding his Nobel Prize.
Chapter two discusses the first principles of  relativity - Constant Speed of Light, Time Dilation and Length Contraction , supported by interesting narrations of Mu-Meson experiment, Michelson Morely experiment.
and the the Twin Paradox .
In chapter three the author derives Einstein's world famous equation E = mc**2 in a fairly easy to understand manner.
Derivations of Lorentz transformation equations are provided in chapter four.  In my opinion this chapter though dealing with a very important topic was rather unnecessary in the book of this kind. It sort of breaks the whole flow of the book and conveys a sense of abrupt ending to the book. Besides there is nothing in this chapter which adds to the understanding of the concepts so well explained in the previous chapter.
The book has lots of examples, illustrations, problems and references which will vet one's appetite to know more about the subject of Relativity.
A very interesting book for those interested in Physics and comfortable with moderate amount of Mathematics. It is somewhere between an academic tome and a popular science book.

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