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A Relatively Painless Guide to Special Relativity

Serious and accessible—finally the special relativity course book that both physics majors and lifelong learners deserve.
Special relativity challenges one’s physical intuition of space, time, matter, and energy in a way that few other topics in physics do. Yet the subject is often treated as an extra in undergraduate courses—something to be picked up in a few random lectures and presented as a combination of geometric and logical puzzles (seemingly with the premise of getting the novice student to concede that Einstein was a genius and that the universe is weird). But special relativity is absolutely fundamental to modern physics. It is the canvas on which electromagnetism, particle physics, field theory, and ultimately general relativity are based. For physics students, developing a relativistic intuition isn’t just a luxury: it’s a requirement.
Physicist and popular author Dave Goldberg provides a rigorous but conversational introduction to fill this void in spacetime education. Employing the standard calculus a sophomore or junior university student in science, engineering, or computer science will have encountered, Goldberg connects relativity to a student’s work ahead, acquainting them with topics like tensors, the development of new physical theories, and how relativity directly relates to other disciplines. But more than this, Goldberg welcomes lifelong learners who may have encountered special relativity in popular accounts, but are seeking a mathematical challenge to understand an elegant physical theory.

192 pages | 92 halftones, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9

Mathematics and Statistics

Physical Sciences: Theoretical Physics


“Introducing students in small, careful steps toward an understanding of the notation and physics behind special relativity has not been undertaken at this level since the text by Taylor and Wheeler from thirty years ago. Goldberg’s approach of encouraging the reader to see the simplicity behind the seemingly complex is welcome.”

Christopher G. Tully, author of "Elementary Particle Physics in a Nutshell"

“This engaging book will shape the education of a generation of physicists and astrophysicists. It defines the conceptual and mathematical stage—spacetime—on which physics is performed. From contemporary notation in the early chapters to sophisticated applications in the late chapters, Goldberg's book will not only propel students to more advanced classes, it will ease their entry into research.”

Daniel Fabrycky, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago

“Goldberg slings the reader straight in at the deep end . . . but with enough masterly wit to keep you afloat.”

Nature, on "The Universe in the Rearview Mirror"

“Reading this book is like taking a class with the most awesome science professor ever.”

Annalee Newitz, founding editor of io9, on "The Universe in the Rearview Mirror"

“Most physics books can’t really be described as ‘rollicking,’ but most physics books aren't written by Dave Goldberg.”

Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech, author of "The Particle at the End of the Universe," on "The Universe in the Rearview Mirror"

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