Posted on Saturday, March 15, 2014
By Kadri

How Einstein Created Relativity out of Physics and Astronomy by David Topper

Rating: 10/10

Albert Einstein's Special and General theory of relativity changed the way physicists look at the world. Thinking of how the speed of light is a constant and the same for all observers in different reference frames or how mass can be turned into energy has also changed the world for the general public with some of the real-world applications that use the theories, the Global Positioning System for instance or the very real nuclear bombs the possibility of which is revealed by the world-famous equation showing the equivalence of mass and energy.

Although Einstein’s special relativity is taught at undergraduate level to physics students and general relativity mostly to graduate students or advanced undergraduates, it's usual to study the mathematical way of presenting the theories and how to apply it. The history would normally be presented in a rather concise way and not going too deep into history, rather only looking at Albert Einstein's contemporaries and how his theories were proved by observations, the Mach principle, Lorentz transformations and Michelson-Morley experiment to find out whether or not there is an ether being some of the keywords.

David Topper's "How Einstein Created Relativity out of Physics and Astronomy" presents both of the theories in an easily understandable and accessible way not requiring previous knowledge or familiarity with higher mathematics or tensor calculus. Naturally one can also read about the classics- riding on a beam of light, the twin paradox etc. The physical implications such as time dilation and an expanding universe resulting from the theories are presented in all their glory.

So you can get more insight also into the work of Edwin Hubble for instance - his work with cepheid variable stars and how he discovered that the Universe is expanding.

In addition to the classical popular way of writing about relativity, the book gives an in-depth overview of the physics and astronomy that came before Einstein and what followed. The reader can easily grasp why and how the theories were put into use and the long and varied history of ideas about relativity make it simple to realise that Einstein's research didn't happen in a vacuum, rather it had connections even to the work of Isaac Newton in 17th century Great Britain and to Galileo Galilei in Italy.

In case of Galileo we can read about his experiments with falling bodies, which naturally already show there's a connection with Einstein's thought experiments with free fall.

So one gets parts of the history of physics in this connected way from 17th century to the twentieth century, making quick stops also in Einstein's adversity to accept quantum mechanics and his final quest for the Unified Field Theory.

The historical perspective this book gives in addition to the importance of Relativity in modern cosmology, space science and technology makes it a perfect companion to a university level course in Special or General relativity, but also for general astronomy courses. This is what makes it a necessary read, as it gives the complete historical background together with realtivity's importance in modern science.

I found the structure of the book very helpful, as it presents Einstein's ideas in a chronological order with the history relating to the ideas together with it as well as modern physics in the same part of the book, also the chapters titled "Is the Theory True Today?" make for excellent conclusions.

I would definitely recommend reading it to those interested in any of the general themes of the book: relativity, history of physics and astronomy and Albert Einstein. This book is certainly worth reading, not just once, but many times.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Skywatch    News    Pictures    Videos    Events    Northern Lights    NASA    ESA    ISS    Jupiter    Curiosity    Mars    Moon    Lyrids    Super Moon    Venus Transit    Book Review    Games   
Upcoming Events
Submit your Photos
Have you taken interesting photo of the night sky and would like to share it with us?
Send in your photos to below email, with as much details possible relating to the photo. has created this privacy statement in order to demonstrate our firm commitment to privacy.

Information we collect:
We may log IP addresses and/or drop cookies to prevent abuse of our website and/or to enhance services.

Third Party Advertising:
Ads appearing on this website, are delivered to you by Google Adsense and other third-party advertising companies.

Information about your visit to this site, such as number of times you have viewed an ad (but not your name, address, or other personal information), is used to serve ads to you on this site. These third parties and or may be placing and reading cookies on your browser to collect information, in the course of ads being served.

You may manage your cookies via your web browser and if you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, please click here

Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on your site.

Google's use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to your users based on their visit to your sites and other sites on the Internet.

Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the Google ad and content network privacy policy.

Advertisers and Third Party Cookies :
In the course of serving advertisements to this site, our third-party ad server, Google Adsense, intergi, or individual advertisers may place or recognize a unique cookie on your browser. Cookies received with banner ads are collected by our ad company, and we do not have access to this information.

External Links: contains links to other sites. is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Web sites.