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Einstein Relatively Simple: Our Universe Revealed in Everyday Language

About the Book

     Scientific American™ Book Club Bestseller

     Outstanding Academic Title 2014American Library Association CHOICE Reviews

     Silver Medal Non-fiction 2014 — Florida Book Awards

Told with humor, enthusiasm, and rare clarity, this entertaining book reveals how Albert Einstein, a former high school drop-out revolutionized our understanding of space and time. From E=mc2 and everyday time travel to black holes and the big bang, Einstein Relatively Simple takes us all, regardless of our scientific backgrounds, on a mind-boggling journey through the depths of Einstein’s universe. Along the way, we track Einstein through the perils and triumphs of his life—follow his thinking, his logic, and his insights—and chronicle the audacity, imagination, and sheer genius of the man recognized as the greatest scientist of the modern era.

The book brings together for the first time an exceptionally clear explanation of both special and general relativity. It is for people who always wanted to understand Einstein’s ideas but never thought they could.

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Reviews

  • I found the manuscript extremely well written… I actually love the way (the book) interweaves the history and personalities of the scientists with the actual science. Having read many, many relativity books… I find Mr. Egdall’s book is one of the most complete survey books I have seen . . . If you only read one book on special and general relativity, this is the one to read.

  • Here’s my general blanket evaluation of your book. It’s terrific. Extremely well written, understandable, and displays a logical and clear development and explication of some of the most hard-to-understand ideas in the world… I can see you have a considerable talent for explaining erudite concepts to the lay reader in clear and concise writing.

  • This is a great book! Egdall’s writing style is excellent. It is casual and often humorous. He explains complex concepts with patience and clarity… I greatly enjoyed his tracking of Einstein through the perils and triumphs of his life. Egdall showed that learning the history helps us understand the theory.

  • Great book! Most of all, I’m impressed with Egdall’s scholarship and the level of research. 

  • Excellent writing. Really well-done.  Nice discussion of the twins paradox.

  • I have never been known for my scientific know-how. It’s amazing how certain things that never interested me in school, interest me now.

    This book is very well written. He doesn’t patronize you as he breaks everything down into easy to digest bite size pieces. He builds theories on top of each other, reinforcing the earlier ones. I now have a working understanding of physics!

    My favorite element of his book is how he uses funny stories and helpful diagrams to paint a picture that is impossible not to understand. I loved the crazy characters he created to make a point, from Crash and Steady Eddie

    I highly recommend that you invest your time in this book! Amaze your friends and family with your new found knowledge, because I certainly have!

  • Einstein Relatively Simple by Ira Mark Egdall is being written to tell Einstein’s story with the use of Analogies and real-life examples. We have all heard of Einstein’s – genius – right? Now, the history behind the science and the fame behind physics are explained.
    What is Einstein experimenting on? Space and it’s shrinking of time. Muons? What is that? It is fascinating to read how Mr. Egdall puts it all together.
    Very informative full of “works” of geniuses we just don’t capture in a single book. I do recommend for Young Adults and up.

  • I’m crazy about (it). It’s the best presentation of relativity for non-scientists that I’ve seen . . . The writing is vivid and reader-friendly. I learned new things from it, and I’ve recommended it to faculty colleagues as a good book for non-scientists.

  • A very well documented historical fun-filled, humorous informative written book on mathematics/science. A very awesome book cover, great font, illustrations & writing style. It was very easy to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment . . . Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could make a great PP presentation or documentary TV series. A book you won’t want to put down. There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars . . . a must read for adults and older teens.

  • I have always been fascinated by space-time theory, cosmology and quantum physics but, alas, I’m cursed with being blessed only with a talent for words and not numbers. However, Egdall does a superb job in this easy to read book on one of the most puzzling, complex, and world view changing scientific breakthroughs in contemporary history. And he also talks about the subject just as comfortingly and engagingly as he writes about it. I interviewed him on Blog Talk Radio (Writers Alive) and was pleasantly surprised at how ease he is at explaining Einstein’s discoveries just as he does in his book, using everyday illustrations and analogies that can be quickly visualized without having ‘to do the math’. If you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about regarding Einstein, let educator Egdall explain it to you. I couldn’t recommend anyone better and I’ve read several books and countless articles on the subject. Also, there’s an appendix for skeptics who like calculus (for some unexplainable reason to me) and solid references that make this an authoritative guide well worth the money.

  • My wife purchased this book but I saw it on the coffee table so I grabbed it first. Several years ago, I read the Stephen Hawking book (A Brief History of Time) and enjoyed it, so I thought to take a look at this to see if it could explain something everybody knows about but few people really understand: the theory of relativity. After Chapter I, I was hooked. It took me about three days in between my other activities but I finished it and really enjoyed it.

    I liked the fact that you got to learn about Einstein as well as his theories, and you felt (through his quotes) that he knew he was onto something great, he had some confidence that he would find answers, but of course there was no way for him to know if he’d be successful. Maybe Einstein’s frequent failures or challenges in life are what gave him the tenacity to keep working on a problem that no one else could see. I thought it really made the point of how difficult and wonderful his accomplishments were.

    The science was easy to follow for this non-science major. Lots of good illustrations, plenty of examples, and more details if a reader wanted them, with frequent footnotes. You may not believe this, but this book is actually a page-turner. Several times I had to read the next chapter just to see what was going to happen.

  • The format is inspired. Egdall offers streamlined presentations of the concepts along with more detailed explanations for those with more background in science and mathematics. Speaking as someone whose interest in the topic is not matched by his grasp of higher math, I appreciate the effort to make these difficult and very important ideas more widely accessible. The author also does a good job of showing the continuities and discontinuities between Newton’s work and modern physics, which in turn provides a glimpse of how science progresses.

  • the best among the books on relativity.The thoughts of the genius are explained so simply .

  • Both special and general relativity have a reputation for being very complicated theories to understand. While it is true that one needs some mathematical machinery to really master these theories, Egdall does a great job in showing that it is possible with a bare minimum of high school mathematics to get an appreciation of the main ideas. Egdall does not completely stay away from some mathematics, though as it is isolated somewhat from the main text, the mathematically shy should not be scared away from this book. The style is lighthearted and is full of thought experiments illustrated by short entertaining stories.
    The author does an excellent job in highlighting the main features of special and general relativity in a way suitable for the lay reader to understand. Moreover, the development of the theory is presented in a chronological/historical context by trying to describe Einstein’s trail of thought and how he was influenced by the various problems with physics found in the late 1800′s. We get a good overview of Einstein the man from this book.
    However, like all popular science books, there are the odd statements like “…the photon’s perspective” and “..spacetime curvature has energy” which any physicist will question. That said, I do consider the book well-written, entertaining and a useful introduction to the ideas of relativity for the lay person.

  • I am absolutely loving it. it’s beautifully written, concise and funny. I thought I knew a lot about relativity but this book is showing it to me with a whole different perspective. I had no idea that Einstein took such giant leaps of intuition. It’s all coming together but I had to take my time as the ideas keep spinning in my brain. Egdall has followed in Carl Sagan’s footsteps and is a welcome voice in bringing accurate science information to the non-professional physics reader. Oh, and yes, I am the real Howard Wolowitz for whom the character on “The Big Bang” Theory” is named.

  • Egdall’s book delivers an insight into Einstein’s achievements with a different perception. Egdall entwines his own wonderful sense of humor and a marvelous writing style into an engaging history of Einstein’s development of his work. I have always found that my students best remember those concepts taught with a history of the people involved…the people and events that surrounded the discoveries…rather than just dry pieces of information. The reader is allowed to see how science changes over time and how new observations and collaborations allow scientists to refine and change their ideas.

    Egdall includes enough mathematics to keep us “nerds” reading this book totally involved…but manages that delicate balance that allows the non-science, but interested reader, to readily grasp the complex and challenging aspects of the Theory of Relativity. After reading Egdall’s book, I have a stronger, broader awareness of Einstein’s work as well as his struggles with the development of his Theories. I eagerly await the next school year and the opportunity to share my augmented comprehension with my students.

    This is an excellent book for the person who is wondering about Einstein’s body of work. It is also a terrific resource for the Physics teacher and is a great suggested reading for those discerning students who crave more information

  • I’m not sure what it is about this book that caught my eye, but I’m so glad I read it. Even though I took physics in college, it was all practical, not much theory. When it got hard, I admit to being fully lost, so I have no idea if I ever was supposed to have learned Einstein’s theories. Maybe it was taught and I didn’t get it.

    There’s no danger of that here. Mark Egdall leads the reader from the most basic concepts, holding our hand as he slowly adds complexity. So in the end, we really do know what he’s talking about, and it all makes sense. Do pay attention when reading, though. It is a logical progression. For anyone who needs the math, that’s included also, but one can skip it and still understand the principle.

    This isn’t just all science, it’s also about Einstein. We get to know the man behind the physics so that I feel as if I’m discovery general relativity right along with him.

    The writing is easy to read, not full of scientific gobbledygook – overwritten as they usually are. No, it’s lighthearted and funny, with examples that fully illustrate the concepts.

    I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning Einstein’s theories. I’ll bet even physics students would appreciate seeing the big picture before delving into the math.

  • Egdall starts by introducing the reader to Einstein’s life as a child and young adult. He then goes through the usual discussion on the development of special relativity, culminating with the Lorentzian contraction equations and their application to time and space dilation. There are plenty of ‘thought experiment’ demonstration examples of the effects resulting from measurement in different constant motion points-of-view (or inertial frames of reference versus perception of simultaneity) and travel at very high (i.e., relativistic) speeds. So far, all is good.

    But in my opinion now comes the real jewel of the text – Egdall’s discussion of general relativity. None of the other mass publication books I have read on this topic have provided as good a historical background on, or the insight into Einstein’s thoughts, regarding the development of general relativity. The level of mathematics required to do a full-blown treatment on this topic are outside the scope of a popular text, but the generalization and amount of detail provided do justice to the subject for the mathematically-curious reader.

    All in all, this is an excellent popular reading book for the introduction to Einstein’s relativity theories. With the other popular books cited in the reference notes, anyone wanting more information on the topic will be well armed. Read, enjoy, and learn about the insights that can be garnered from the mathematical modeling of real-world phenomena

  • I enjoyed the book a lot. Like many of us, I grew up wondering what Einstein’s theories really meant. Well, this book delivers to the reader how Einstein’s theories impinge on our lives. For anyone who is curious enough to want to read and understand his theories this is it. The book has no tensor notation, complex equations, nor the electro-magnetic derivations from Maxwell’s vaunted EM theory. This book is meant for those who want to understand Einstein in plain English.

  • I was never very good in the Science area as a student but if I had had Mark Egdall as an instructor, I would have undoubtedly excelled! His book is as simple and as straightforward as the genre allows. I especially enjoyed the illustrations and came away with a perspective I never had about time and space. Person to person, he is an enthusiastic teacher with a humorous bent. As an author myself, I strongly recommend you read this book. I give it five stars.

  • I can summarize this review in one word: WOW!

    Egdall’s “Einstein, Relatively Simple” is all at once a physics book, a history book and a text book. He manages to do this while not only educating the reader, and this is what makes it so different from other books, he also manages to entertain the reader.

    Egdall’s passion for the subject matter is quite evident with the at times humorous examples to help explain concepts (while still respecting the physics he’s trying to help illuminate). At one point in the book you’ll find “When I introduce Einstein’s masterpiece in class, I feel like a roaring symphony should be playing over the loud-speakers— as in the opening to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Egdall cleverly uses turbo-charged cars (capable of near light speeds); Tom Thumb sized people; barns and pole vaults and a host of other objects, to assist the reader in appreciating concepts that are not necessarily intuitive (time slows down, objects shrink, “now” is not “now”, etc.)

    The book reminded me of things I had long since forgotten; reinforced things I already knew and perhaps most importantly exposed me to ideas and concepts I had never considered or was not aware of. As such, I think this is a really good read for people of various backgrounds and ability in physics and mathematics. All that’s required is a willingness to be exposed to the “strangeness” of Einstein’s relatively.

    Egdall uses physics and math history to help put it all in context. This serves not only to help us understand Einstein the man, but also Einstein the mind. In addition, Egdall provides an excellent set of appendices should the reader care to delve more deeply into the mathematics and a rich collection of “Notes with Sources” for further reading.

    The only other author that I’ve read in similar subject matter that is also capable of showing his passion for the difficult subject matter while at the same time keeping the reader totally engaged by use of clever examples and analogies is Brian Greene.
    I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in Einstein, physics or in learning more about such an intriguing subject.

  • In this little book Mark sets forth the concepts behind Einstein’s physics in the same manner he teaches us in his Osher (OLLI) classes, with wry wit, practical examples and a progression that guides even the non-physicist along a delightful path of understanding.

  • Normally I am very disappointed in books which attempt to portray real science using gimmickry and cute stories. Yet, I am forever hopeful that I would find one which nevertheless is successful at this. Well, this book has done that beyond my greatest expectations! Despite having a good background in physics, I’ve always seemed to miss the forest for the trees when it comes to relativity. However, Mr. Egdall’s superb work has tied up a lot of loose ends for me that I couldn’t have done with continued technical reading. His stories are so well posited and imaginative that they’re like nursery rhymes to a child. Once you encounter and, later, recall the stories, you’ll forever remember the physics! This is a really great book and I highly recommend it.

  • This author has the special gift of making his readers feel the beauty of Einstein’s ideas through mostly non-mathematical language. I was tickled to learn from Mr. Egdall that Einstein himself had problems with mathematics and had to collaborate with contemporary mathematicians to develop his new relativistic theory of gravity. Of course, Einstein wasn’t stumped by ‘ordinary’ maths such as calculus or algebra. He ran into trouble when trying to devise a geometry for his new conception of curved spacetime. He wrote to Marcel Grossmann, a professor of mathematics and an old classmate of his: “Grossman, you’ve got to help me or I shall go crazy.”

    According to this author: “[Einstein’s] cavalier attitude towards esoteric forms of mathematics had come back to haunt him.”

    He eventually discovered that he could best model his new concept of gravity with the curved surface geometry of Gauss and Riemann. In two of the most difficult chapters in this book–“What is Spacetime Curvature?” and “Einstein’s Masterpiece”–the author gives his readers a look at Einstein’s gravitational model, and let me quote: “Gravitation is not a force.”

    Okay, if gravitation is not a force, why are scientists still trying to come up with a Grand Unified Theory that combines gravitation with the forces of electromagnetism, and strong and weak nuclear forces?

    Einstein’s ten second-order differential equations that define gravity are a gift that keeps on giving. According to the author, “To this day, physicists are still learning things from these highly complex and difficult equations.” I have to wonder if somewhere in these equations there lurk the answers to problems currently patched over with the concepts of dark matter and dark energy.

    Incidentally, in one of the most surprising sections of this book (at least for me), I learned that Einstein didn’t pull his most famous formula, e=mc2 out of thin air, but derived it from the Lorentz transform. Einstein had a profound genius for seeing things in plain sight and deriving new worlds from them.

    I’ve read other popular science treatments of Einstein and his theories of relativity, but none that delves as deeply into the details of Einstein’s life work. It took me a long time to finish reading “Einstein Relatively Simple” but it was worth it. The penultimate chapters, “The Universe Revealed” and “In the Beginning” discuss Einstein’s influence on our theories of the cosmos and its beginning. That’s ending this book with a bang–although there is an epilogue on Einstein’s later years. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of our Universe.

  • I like this book very much. I’m a relativity enthusiast and have most of the ‘popularisations’ in my library and this ranks as among the best. It also has a much more comprehensive treatment of General Relativity than one normally finds in introductory books on relativity which tend to concentrate on Special Relativity.

    The style is ‘laid back’ which makes for an easy read but there is no doubting the author’s knowledge of the subject – the extensive notes reveal that he has consulted just about every book available on Einstein. No math is required other than of an elementary nature but for those interested there is a more mathematical treatment of some of the key concepts of relativity in the appendices (but nothing too complicated).

    My personal experience is that no one book will get the average person up to speed on relativity – multiple sources need to be consulted for a full understanding of the often very elusive concepts. Having said this, if you are only prepared to invest in one book, then this would probably be my choice.

  • This is one of the best Einstein books. It does a fantastic job of explaining his theories. I highly recommend this book to teens and adults who are interested in understanding the magic and beauty of Einstein’s insights into our universe.

  • I’ve yet to found a more reader friendly book on relativity than Ira Mark Egdall’s “Einstein Relatively Simple: Our Universe Revealed.” The whole book is riddled with real life examples that almost anyone can relate to, all set in a humorous tone . . . I recommend this book to anyone who wants to grasp some of the most important works in modern physics . . . (including) the Big Bang, black holes and our view of the universe

    http://www.zmescience.com/science/book-review-einstein-relatively-simple-universe-revealed/

  • . . . Egdall genuinely does have an ability to present his subject in a way that . . . really enhances the understanding . . .

    (This book) could genuinely be of interest to, say, an engineer who wants to pick up some basics of relativity, a science graduate who has forgotten half he was taught, or someone who has started with popular science books but wants something with a bit more teeth. This might be a quite narrow market, but the book fits into it brilliantly, and really delivers 100 per cent for that kind of reader – for them it’s highly recommended.

    http://popsciencebooks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/einstein-relatively-simple-ira-mark.html

  • It is refreshing to read a book about Einstein and his theories, and understand it. Mr. Egdall uses plain language and everyday examples to explain Einsteins basic concepts through to his most complex theories.
    It is evident Mr. Egdall is knowledgeable in this subject. Through his insights of Einsteins history, struggles, and determination, I can truly appreciate the impact Einstein has made to the world of physics.

  • Excellent explanation about Einstein’s general and special theory of relativity.
    When Einstein explained about this theory only few people understood. One of them wrote a book called “Easy way to understand Einstein’s relativity”. But nobody understood that book. Interestingly every one can understand this book clearly.

  • This is a highly engaging book, for both lay readers, and students of physics. Excellently written, it discusses slowly and carefully the elements of special and general relativity.
    The author also discusses some implications of the theory regarding the beginning, and the possible demise of the universe. Unlike many charlatans who write about the Big-Bang and the Big-Crunch, as if these were proven truths, Egdall treads carefully through these topics, while at the same time honestly emphasizing the limitations of the theory and the speculative nature of “predicting” either the far-past, or the far-future of the universe.
    I admire Egdall for doing a great job in writing this book.