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fapling
 
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Book suggestion: Einstein / Relativity

Hey [M],

I'd like a solid book suggestion for an introduction to concepts of relativity. It'd be nice to understand some of the physics but as someone who did not study science in college I want something accessible enough. I'd like to get a good understanding of this stuff so I can eventually have a better grasp on quantum mechanics. I'm thinking of something like history of ideas but oriented towards science, so, history of science.

Thanks!
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Old 08-03-2011, 06:59 AM fapling is offline  
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ceejamon
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Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene.

It's basically exactly what you're looking for. It covers physics as it was understood by the ancients on through quantum mechanics and such, in a very readable manner. It's well-written and easy to understand without having the math/science background. But if you're interested in the mathy bits, it uses footnotes to reference the heavy stuff located in the back if you have the stomach for it.
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Old 08-03-2011, 07:19 AM ceejamon is offline  
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how about getting a solid understanding of classical physics first so you can truly appreciate what einstein is all about

you don't neccessarily need to learn formulae or solve problems (though this would be ideal of course) just the concepts:

http://www.amazon.com/Feynman-Lectur...2403395&sr=8-1

don't really know how technical this is but it's a start
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:30 PM Redrum is offline  
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Ceejamon thanks, that book looks exactly like what I wanted.

Redrum yesss, I've definitely heard the Feynman recommendation before, great idea!
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Old 08-03-2011, 05:12 PM fapling is offline  
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Here is my recommendation.

1). You CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT understand relativity OR quantum mechanics without understanding classical mechanics. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. However, modern comprehensive introductory physics books have gotten so absurdly good that it's completely possible to learn that stuff on your own. So:
2). http://www.amazon.com/University-Phy...2433947&sr=8-2
^ This is the latest edition => very expensive. Something like edition 10 or 11 will be > $100 cheaper. No practical difference. Get that.
3). After understanding classical physics - there are quite a few good introductory relativity books, but this one is kind of the standard in many programs:
http://www.amazon.com/Special-Relati...2434048&sr=8-1

Note, that many people could recommend you many different popular science books. All of those are STORIES ABOUT RELATIVITY. They are enjoyable, and they give you some terminology. But they will not bring you ONE NANOMETER CLOSER to UNDERSTANDING relativity. It is not possible to understand something that is a fairly minor adjustment to a bigger something that you do not understand. So start by understanding classical mechanics, wave phenomena, etc. Then you can learn relativity.

Oh, and - don't ever look for "relativity", only look for "special relativity". If it ONLY has the word "relativity" in the title, it is either a non-introductory text, or one of the stories about relativity, as opposed to relativity itself.

Feynman lectures can be used as a thorough introductory physics text as well - but, I would honestly say that more recent introductory physics texts are easier to learn from, even if not as comprehensive, or as vividly phrased.
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Old 08-03-2011, 11:05 PM teh_rapist is offline  
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WILLIAM NOT
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Originally Posted by teh_rapist View Post
...Oh, and - don't ever look for "relativity", only look for "special relativity". If it ONLY has the word "relativity" in the title, it is either a non-introductory text, or one of the stories about relativity, as opposed to relativity itself...
To clarify, there is special relativity and general relativity. Don't bother trying to learn about general relativity; you won't get there without a good deal of physics education.
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Old 08-03-2011, 11:33 PM WILLIAM NOT is offline  
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To clarify, there is special relativity and general relativity. Don't bother trying to learn about general relativity; you won't get there without a good deal of physics education.

yeah, basically this, but also - if a book, in its title, doesn't clarify that it's about special relativity, it's probably going to be a story about relativity instead, or a book about general relativity with like half a chapter about special relativity.
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Old 08-03-2011, 11:42 PM teh_rapist is offline  
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anything by brian greene, as mentioned, i've probably read. i have a few books by michio kaku but a lot of people consider him a douche. i recently finished 'not even wrong' which was wasn't bad.
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Old 08-04-2011, 10:05 AM thrawn is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teh_rapist View Post
Here is my recommendation.

1). You CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT understand relativity OR quantum mechanics without understanding classical mechanics. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE.

ExAcTlY.

Which is why I recommend Fabric of the Cosmos. It starts with classical mechanics and builds from there. The science geeks here will probably poo poo it as being dumbed down. They're right - you won't be able to do a single calculation or proof after reading it. But it's not exactly light reading, and if what you're after is a basic understanding of how the universe works, it's a great place to start. If you get interested in knowing more, you can branch out to content that's more technical.
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Old 08-04-2011, 11:53 AM ceejamon is offline  
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too many morons watching sensationalized history channel documentaries thinking they know how quantum physics work but they don't know the first thing about classical mechanics
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Old 08-04-2011, 06:20 PM Redrum is offline  
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Originally Posted by fapling View Post
Hey [M],

I'd like a solid book suggestion for an introduction to concepts of relativity. It'd be nice to understand some of the physics but as someone who did not study science in college I want something accessible enough. I'd like to get a good understanding of this stuff so I can eventually have a better grasp on quantum mechanics. I'm thinking of something like history of ideas but oriented towards science, so, history of science.

Thanks!

Just contemplate that maybe everything in the universe is quantum entangled to some extent with everything else in various degrees. Then general and special relativity are not needed. Even speed of light limit becomes intuitive under that premise.
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Old 08-06-2011, 12:10 AM TheMorlock is offline  
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Just contemplate that maybe everything in the universe is quantum entangled to some extent with everything else in various degrees. Then general and special relativity are not needed. Even speed of light limit becomes intuitive under that premise.

Oh cool, I don't need to read anything now!
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Old 08-06-2011, 09:59 AM fapling is offline  
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Oh cool, I don't need to read anything now!

It's just a thought I had a decade or so ago.

But that doesn't mean you dont need to read anything. It means you need to study Q.M.
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Old 08-06-2011, 01:53 PM TheMorlock is offline  
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I understand QM reasonably well and that doesn't seem like a particularly useful (or at least comprehensive) viewpoint to me...you need to use relativity to explain some quantum phenomena, like energy levels for really heavy atoms (relativistic effects on the electrons start becoming significant).
Old 08-06-2011, 02:34 PM Gibonius is offline  
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I understand QM reasonably well and that doesn't seem like a particularly useful (or at least comprehensive) viewpoint to me...you need to use relativity to explain some quantum phenomena, like energy levels for really heavy atoms (relativistic effects on the electrons start becoming significant).

Or any nuclear model.
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Old 08-06-2011, 03:04 PM teh_rapist is offline  
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