Relativity, The Special and the General Theory
by Albert Einstein (1920), with an introduction by Niger Calder (2006)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Science fiction is based in science possibility, and some scientists have tried to help the general population, students, and the interested science hobbyist to understand their investigations, their findings, and their dreams for the future. Albert Einstein was such a scientist, demonstrating also that a sense of imagination, a childlike sense of wonder, and a sense of humor are important to the field of scientific enquiry.
Relativity, The Special and the General Theory By Albert Einstein, with a 2006 introduction by Niger Calder is a fascinating and compact book that packs a lot of understandable information about physics in its short volume. Einstein wrote it in efforts to help the general population understand his concepts of time and space as put forward in his general and special theories of relativity. After having read the original Einstein works, a reading of this piece acts as a thorough summary and an outline to the educated public for Einstein’s discovery and understanding of the relationship between and among light, time, and dimensional realities. Together with the introduction, this book demonstrates that imagination is required to begin to pull back the cover on and finally understand pieces of the unknown, and imagination can seem like magic when some truth is found from its application.
A basic education in mathematics and science is helpful in understanding this Penguin Classics edition and the introduction by Niger Calder is interesting to read and digest. Even those who know nothing of physics will find some bits of it intriguing, with diagrams and explanations that are easy to follow. The appendices to the book include “Simple Derivations of the Lorentz Transformation”, which would be a good aid to any high school or college student taking introductory physics courses. The next appendix is “Minkowski’s Four-Dimensional Space (“World”) and is an interesting, helpful further simplification to Lorentz. The third appendix contains “The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity” that straightforwardly explains light deflection, displacement of spectral lines, and the effect of movement(s) on time. Calder’s introduction paves a solid path toward reading the text and the appendices wrap it up nicely. After reading this book originally published in 1920, it is interesting to read Flatland by Edwin Abbott in 1880, Burger’s 1983 Sphereland, and the 1940 short story by Robert A. Heinlein entitled “And He Built a Crooked House” (also known as “The Tesseract”). Taken together, it is exciting that these four books and a story begin to show us how imagination and science fiction are becoming scientific fact and modern invention.