How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog
By Chad Orzel
|Value for money
|Did it do what it said on the box?
An excellent and very funny introduction to relativity
Professor Chad Orzel and his mad mutt Emmy are back, this time to explain the concepts of relativity. I enjoyed enormously the companion book on quantum physics last year, and was very much looking forward to seeing the other great area of modern physics receive the same treatment.
As before, Orzel sets out a clear account of the field, working in many cases from first principles, but continuously framed by very funny exchanges between him and his dog, who, like any of her kind, is constantly looking for ways to increase her food intake, and her success in hunting bunnies and squirrels.
The quantum physics volume introduced me to a lot of relatively new thinking and experimental evidence, and I was hoping for the same this time, but relativity is obviously a more mature field, and there was less that was new to me in this book. That said, the teaching of this field has obviously moved on since my student days, and I was surprised to find, for example, the concept of relativistic mass increase referred to as an “old” model, with the book focusing much more on momentum calculations. Similarly the basics of special relativity are presented using a range of geometrical models, with a heavy emphasis on the spacetime diagram, which is a different approach to some previous books I’ve read.
I had some complaints about the Kindle edition of the quantum physics volume separating diagrams and footnotes too far from the relevant text. On this occasion I received a physical copy of the book and was looking forward to that being less of an issue. The physical book layout is definitely better, but could still be improved, as diagrams are often a page or more away from the descriptive text.
However, that’s a minor niggle, and really my only one. If you want to learn more about relativity and also have a good laugh, this is a strong recommendation.