My First Book of Relativity
Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón and Eduard Altarriba
We had My First Book of Quantum Physics and now for a companion volume, its creators have turned their attention to another potentially complex science topic, that of relativity.
However, in the hands of this partnership, Einstein’s theory of relativity and other related aspects of connections between space and time are explained in such a way as to make them accessible to young readers. For, as it says on the back of this book, ‘it’s never too early to start exploring big ideas.’ So, how does one start?
The space-time theory, we read, can only be properly understood by first understanding what the two concepts mean in themselves; and then we’re in a position (like Einstein) to understand ‘the world through relativity’.
Time is succinctly explored – how it’s measured, by what means and the various units used.
movement and the vital importance of frames of reference are explained, the latter using the example of a moving train and then a person in space.
There are spreads on adding up speeds and the speed of light, leading into Einstein’s two theories, special relativity and general relativity (his theory about gravity).
I love the ‘thought experiments’ relating to time dilation and clocks; and the wonderful spread whereon ten year old Alice travels to our nearest star Proxima Centauri, leaving her same aged friend waiting for her on Earth and returning to find she’s still ten whereas he is now almost 19, put me in mind of T.S. Eliot’s famous lines from Burnt Norton ‘Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.’
If only physics had been made this fascinating back in the day when I was studying it at A-level (albeit only for a few weeks before deciding it wasn’t for me).
I’d not heard of muons before reading this book – a muon being an elementary particle of the electron family weighing around 200 times more than an electron, but again found the spread using a muon to check time dilation and length contraction totally engrossing.
The book concludes with how speed increases the mass of an object; the imaginings of the young Einstein (note the word imagined is used by the author, highlighting the crucial importance of the role of the imagination in scientific discovery) and a look at the mathematical equations Einstein used to describe his ideas of special relativity, the former taking mere weeks to find, whereas he took ten years to understand the ideas themselves.
The entire topic is mind-stretchingly incredible and brilliantly explained in this book, with the aid of Eduard Altarriba’s vibrant, graphics. Strongly recommended for budding scientists either for home reading or in school.