This book is organized along a path of increasing difficulty. It begins with this intriguing detective story in the first five chapters, which anyone can enjoy for the suspense and mystery.
In chapters 6-17, the book proceeds, starting with very elementary use of beginning algebra concepts, bringing in more mathematical and increasingly abstract formulations only as needed, so that each reader can stay with it to the highest level of understanding that his or her training allows them to attain.
The first five chapters deal with the ideas that caused such profound difficulty for both theoretical and experimental physicists in what was otherwise a triumphant era for physics.
The conundrum arose out of a fabulously elegant theory of Clerk Maxwell, a theory of electric and magnetic fields, which had as a seemingly unavoidable consequence a distressing contradiction of a 300year old principle without which ordinary life would be most difficult.
It is a story of ideas and of people. Einstein's role in it is remarkable for the quality of insight that permitted him to resolve this conundrum.
Here is how chapter 1 begins:
"Einstein's Theory of Relativity was born in 1905 out of the realization that three of the very most basic of the known physical principles couldn't all be true. A fundamental incompatibility among the three became apparent.
"It was a who-done-it with three suspects, each a formidable pillar of unassailable respectability. The conundrum was so perplexing that some of the best detectives in the scientific world were kept chasing clues for more than two decades.
"Seen as a tale of mystery, this story has a familiar twist: The detectives have two prime suspects, and the reader sees the spotlight move back and forth between the two, while the guilty party moves among the crowds so inconspicuously, and so totally above reproach and beyond suspicion that even the reader is surprised at how it all turns out.
"Only this is real life, not fiction."on to Chapters 6-14 The Phenomena of Relativity
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