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The Curious History of Relativity: How Einstein's Theory of Gravity Was Lost and Found Again

Popular Science

By: Jean Eisenstaedt

384 pages, illus

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Oct 2006 | #162973 | ISBN: 0691118655
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NHBS Price: £29.99 $39/€34 approx

About this book

Black holes may obliterate most things that come near them, but they saved the theory of general relativity. Einstein's theory was quickly accepted as the true theory of gravity after its publication in 1915, but soon took a back seat in physics to quantum mechanics and languished for decades on the blackboards of mathematicians. Not until the existence of black holes by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose in the 1960s, after Einstein's death, was the theory revived.

Almost one hundred years after general relativity replaced Newton's theory of gravitation, The Curious History of Relativity tells the story of both events surrounding general relativity and the techniques employed by Einstein and the relativists to construct, develop, and understand his almost impenetrable theory.

This book is a treasure from a world expert. It offers a deeper understanding of Einstein's theory and, above all, it is an inspiring account of his unique scientific style. -- Simon Mitton Times Higher Education Supplement In this English translation, Eisenstaedt ... reviews how Einstein developed the theory that would supplant Newton's principles of gravity. The author reviews the period from the 1920s to the 1950s, during which Einstein confronted his critics. Finally, Eisenstaedt ponders what will become of general relativity as today's physicists search for a unifying theory of the quantum and gravitational domains. Science News Praise for the original, French edition: "With its limpid prose, this book reads like a novel... It is a treasure for all those who seek to understand Einstein's theory. Ciel & Espace What makes his book stand out among the legion of other titles on Einstein and relativity is the historical context into which Eisenstaedt places his scientific discussion. Library Journal Praise for the original, French edition: "Eisenstaedt's book ... takes us into the universe of an exceptional theory, and offers an irresistible chance to delve into the mind of one of the most brilliant scientists of the twentieth century. Bulletin critique du livre en francais Praise for the original, French edition: "Virtually free of mathematical formulas, this book offers accessible reading ... to all amateur scientists who are by definition curious spirits... A big 'thank you' to Jean Eisenstaedt for this excellent work! L'Astronomie Praise for the original, French edition: "An accessible and precisely written book for all non-mathematicians who wish to comprehend the complexities raised by the theory of relativity. Alderan A faithful history of Einstein's astonishing theory of gravitation based on curvature of the four-dimensional space-time in which we live, created when no observed datum pointed in that direction... For professionals in other fields, energetic readers, and college-level students. Choice


Foreword vii INTRODUCTION: A Difficult Theory 1 CHAPTER ONE: The Speed of Light and Classical Physics 4 CHAPTER TWO: Light and the Structure of Space-Time 24 CHAPTER THREE: Toward a New Theory of Gravitation 58 CHAPTER FOUR: Einstein's Principles 76 CHAPTER FIVE: The Birth of General Relativity 103 CHAPTER SIX: General Relativity: A Physical Geometry 138 CHAPTER SEVEN: Relativity Verified: Mercury's Anomaly 149 CHAPTER EIGHT: Relativity Verified: The Deflection of Light Rays 167 CHAPTER NINE: Relativity Verified: The Line Shift 196 CHAPTER TEN: The Crossing of the Desert 213 CHAPTER ELEVEN: An Unpopular Theory 244 CHAPTER TWELVE: The Rejection of Black Holes 255 CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Paths in Schwarzschild's Space-Time 284 CHAPTER FOURTEEN: No Ordinary Stars 310 CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Gravitation, Astrophysics, and Cosmology 325 AFTERWORD: The Paths of General Relativity 346 Bibliography 349 Name Index 361

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Jean Eisenstaedt is Senior Researcher at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) attached to the Paris Observatory. The widely praised French edition of "The Curious History of Relativity" was published as "Einstein et la relativite generale". Eisenstaedt's most recent book is "Avant Einstein. Relativite, lumiere, gravitation" (Before Einstein: Relativity, Light, Gravitation).

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