Confidential to physics teachers and professors
Many books appear every few years on Relativity. Here is a discussion of how "A serious but not ponderous book about Relativity" differs from the run-of-the-mill.
Of the overall qualities, there is universal acclaim for the writing -- not only the style, but the organization. This is an outcome of the 15 year process of developing the presentation with constant feedback from students and others that the author has talked with.
Hundreds of conversations with persons similar to the likely readers of this book have provided the clues to what the thinking person tends to misunderstand. The confusion of lookback time with relativity is a universal -- not only among readers, but also among authors of books on Relativity, who rarely clarify the distinction, and who sometimes hopelessly add to the reader's confusion (A glaring example is Princeton University Press' Relativity book by Mook and Vargish.) Lookback time is dealt with head on early in "A serious but not ponderous book about Relativity."
Reciprocity questions, both in regard to time and length effects are dealt with, the first in context of Proper Time, the second in its appropriate context with simultaneity. Many books give careless definitions of "length" leaving readers confused when the length concept is applied to the "distance" between the beginning and end of a journey.
The Minkowski diagram, including the all important scale factor, as a powerful aid to intuition and a technique for quick graphic approximate solutions, is not done in any other book short of the ponderous texts.
Mathematical transformation is not a concept that is familiar to most non-specialists. The introduction to transformations in general, as a prelude to the use of the relativity transformation, has received good notice from readers of the book in its stages of development.
The first five chapters combine history with logic, using little math. David Halliday has remarked on those, "I was especially impressed with the introductory chapters. You have done a first class job of laying the groundwork. This, of course, is the hard part..."
The illustrations and examples used throughout are carefully designed to leave in the reader's memory clear images that, in an abstract subject like relativity, take the place of experiment and experience. Timus Ybatu's mile run is perhaps a classic.
The brief excursion into four-dimensional dynamics is, like the rest of the book, intended to not only whet the curiosity, but to lay groundwork for those who may go on to more advanced study of this subject.
Finally, the decision to provide a book that uses algebra while remaining a book suitable for the non-specialist is based on the observation that the math-less or the math-sparse books are necessarily weak on definition of terms, using words as if their usage in spoken English is sufficient, which it is not. Only when terms are defined can they be used beyond the particular sentences in which they appear in a book on relativity. The critical reader of the math-less books tends to stop constantly, asking "Exactly what does this phrase mean?" without getting an answer.
For whom is this book intended?
Lillian Lieber on Math Why do we need algebra?
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