messin’ with relativity.

Cover of Dr. Goldsmith's book, Dead Famous: Albert Einstein and His Inflatable Universe

I just finished reading this cute kiddie book by Dr. Mike Goldsmith. As you can see, it’s about the great scientist, Albert Einstein. Well, okay, it’s not really what you’d call ‘kiddie’. This book touches Einstein’s life: from his birth to his struggle on his theories. And, it explains his theories in a way that even a non-science/physics person like me would understand. Or at least get an inkling of what this great mind was talking about.

Before I proceed, I’d like to say that I haven’t read Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman because 1.) I don’t have a copy and 2.) I don’t have the money to buy one. So please don’t get judgy on me reading a ‘kiddie’ book. But if you are so kind as to give me a copy, I’d be really glad to accept that. Hooray.

Back to business. The book, which we’ll call DF (Dead Famous) for convenience’s sake, tackles Einstein’s life and his major theories using humor, illustrations and simple, down-to-earth, funny examples. By humorous illustrations, I mean something like this:

I'm not that much of a photographer. That's the best I could do with a digital cam. OTL (p. 65)

Isn’t that cute? It makes understanding his theories a lot easier. For example, the illustration above was used for the explanation of one of the important points in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity: moving things shrink. Amazing, eh? Ha, I thought so, too. And yes, there two types of Relativity — Special and General. The Special Theory of Relativity deals with things moving smoothly in a straight line (like the train example above) while the General Theory of Relativity deals with any sort of movement, be it wobbling, curving or spinning. They are, however, both grounded by the same principle: There is no such thing as absolute motion. There is only relative motion.

Now, what on Earth is that supposed to mean? Well, precisely that. For example, you’re walking in the park one beautiful Sunday morning. You can’t really say that you are moving. You can only say you’re moving relative to that bench you just passed, for example. Something like that. There’s only relative motion. Like how the Earth moves relative to the Sun. And the Sun moves relative to the galaxy, etc., etc.

DF’s brief account of Einstein’s life was also really informative. Although if it were a real serious book, it would’ve been more dramatic. But I can do without the drama; the theories were already hard to digest by themselves. What drama, you ask? Well, for example, his famous equation E=mc 2 (the energy of an object is equal to its mass times the square of the speed of light), ushers the invention of the atomic bomb. The situation was like this: during 1939, the Americans thought that the Germans were planning to build an A-bomb (it was the time of the Nazis, I think?) since they prevented the Czechs from selling uranium to Russia. A lot of things happened — the Americans finished making their bomb — but, bottom line is, there was really no atomic threat from Germany at all. Scientists feared that after all the money spent on that bomb, the Americans would use it. And they did. They were at still at war with Japan during that time, thus the infamous Hiroshima-Nagasaki atomic bombing incident. Now, imagine the emotional trauma that would’ve brought. True, Einstein didn’t really have any direct connection to the making of the A-bomb but the science was his. It was his science that went to the wrong hands and brought about the deaths of millions of people.

DF’s 192 pages of Einstein’s life and physics (yep, physics, yo!) was a read that I definitely enjoyed. What’s good about this book is that it’s not boring, despite the fact that it’s discussing cold, hard, space-time physics (oh! Space-time! Totally forgot to explain that, drat). The illustrations/comics were a great help and they were really funny. If you want a taste of some Albert Einstein physics, give this book a try. Sure, there’s Lightman’s but I haven’t read it, so… Plus, there are no equations. Promise. Well, maybe two or three but you’ll live. You’ll never look at motion and the Universe the same way again.

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fanaddict22

A shy and quiet person who loves anime, books and Japanese food.

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