Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Einstein's relativity in metaphor and mathematics by Enders A. Robinson

Apologies for the long hibernation.  I was getting a paper ready to submit and pushed just about everything else off to the side.  Hopefully, I'll get to write here more frequently as time progresses.  Today, if you're looking for a book on special relativity and you'd like to know more about Gudermannians, then Dr. Robinson's book just might be the one for you.

If you're a Landau and Lifshitz fan like me, it will take you awhile to get used to the style of this book. However, once I got my head wrapped around Dr. Robinson's metaphorical style, I really enjoyed his explanations of special relativity. There are no universes cluttered with rigid rods and ideal clocks at every coordinate point! In one chapter the author manages to introduce the hyperbolic nature of space time, Lorentz contraction, and Larmor time dilation all using the metaphor of ants living on a rope hung over a heater with laser holographic communication devices. The example comes off amazingly simply, but still manages to be entertainingly absurd.
The only two downsides are that the book is very, very linear. By the end of the ant chapter the author still hadn't fessed up that the chapter was about anything other than ants. Also, he makes some allusions that are historically inaccurate. In one chapter, Gudermann's space time is referred to. While this makes sense mathematically, and is a cool moniker for the concept, Gudermann died before Minkowski coined the phrase space time.

What about Dr. Robinson himself you ask?  He's also a very interesting guy who appears to have made it big in oil exploration!

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