IT'S ALL RELATIVE: Einstein's Theory of Relativity by Necia H. Apfel

IT'S ALL RELATIVE: Einstein's Theory of Relativity

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A dubious contribution to the recent, centennial rash of relativity fever. Apfel's book, despite its portentous claim that ""Exciting [scientific] adventures lie ahead"" and its plethora of exclamation points, tamely describes Einstein's work and offers no suggestion of the productive, expanding areas of scientific research that have resulted from that work. The presentation of the concept is appropriate for readers with almost no mathematical training, and occasionally there are novel and complete explanations of relativistic ideas and idiom. Frequently, however, readers will have to struggle with confused text and irrelevant accompanying illustrations. This is especially true of the explanation of the relativistic addition of velocities concept, which is confused by typographical errors as well. Apfel's use of the term ""theory of relativity"" is inconsistent: first it is used, correctly, as the name for the sum of the special and general theories of relativity. Subsequent use is restricted to the special theory, although this shift in usage is not explained. Generalizations that are found in many of the popular books on relativity are used to propel the text in a story-book manner; the treatment of the bending of light by a massive object misrepresents the beliefs of a few 19th-century physicists on this matter, thereby setting the stage for the ""young genius"" Einstein to propose, as a prediction of his general theory, an experiment to detect the deflection of starlight by the sun. Apfel's belief that Einstein's theory should be encountered early makes sense, but her own attempt to accomplish this difficult task won't swell the ranks of future physicists.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1981
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard