Monday, January 27, 2014

What is relativity?

What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein's Ideas, and Why They MatterWhat Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein's Ideas, and Why They Matter by Jeffrey Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you know everything about the Theory of Relativity?  Then this book is not for you.  However, if you are like me, and know little-to-nothing about Relativity but are highly intrigued by the topic, then this new book by Jeffrey Bennett may be just what you are looking for.  Bennett takes the reader through the reality of the universe on a quest to understand why “black holes don’t suck”.

Bennett’s tone makes the book approachable.  He uses humor well and writes in a way that minimizes the daunting nature of this topic.  He takes the average reader though a complex subject with ease and depth.  Bennett’s use of thought experiments helps to make the topics discussed accessible but also is the one area that can get overwhelmingly complex at times.  This is to be expected.  Bennett, while writing at an introductory level, is covering a topic that is contrary to what is the common understanding of much of the universe.  Needless to say, you can get quite lost in the consequences of these ideas.

I saw comments about the mathematics in the book being complex but I couldn’t disagree more.  Add to that the fact that all of the math used is supplemental to the text and you really don’t need any grip on mathematics to completely understand the points he makes throughout.

Gravitational redshifting, time running slower in gravity, tidal forces, event horizons, singularity, Special Theory of Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, and on and on and on.  This book covers much that is quite interesting.  Why would it literally take forever to cross the event horizon?  What do ocean tides have to do with entering a black hole?  What is actually “relative” in the Theory of Relativity?  How is acceleration related to gravity and what effect does this have on our understanding of space and time?

I read mostly books from a Christian perspective so this might seem like a break from my normal routine of theology books.  But it is not really.  Too often Christians run away from the natural sciences because so many of the ideas seem to be competing or contrary to their own.  This is sad.  If the Bible is true, which it is, all truth is God’s truth.  We should never be afraid to learn something new, even if it were to contradict something we have thought we understood.   God is found in the truth and gaining a deeper understanding of His creation should only lead to greater praise and awe and worship.  Bennett’s book led me to this and I am appreciative of that.

After reading this book I am an expert on Relativity. Nah, just kidding.  But I do have a firmer grasp of much and many more questions I want to learn about.  You really cannot ask for more from an introductory text than that.  Black holes don’t suck.  Neither does this book. :-D  It is actually quite good.

***I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.