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Spacetime Physics by J. Wheeler and E. Taylor

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I have had this book for a while and never really looked into it. It claims to be an easy/nonmathematical approach to relativity. Has anyone read this book before? Can I really understand what the subject matter is covering without any post-calculus math? Is it also a good beginer's guide to relativity as it claims?
 

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  • #2
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Plastic Photon said:
I have had this book for a while and never really looked into it. It claims to be an easy/nonmathematical approach to relativity. Has anyone read this book before? Can I really understand what the subject matter is covering without any post-calculus math? Is it also a good beginer's guide to relativity as it claims?
Who told you thay this was a nonmathematical approach??? There is a lot of math in this book and understanding some of it requires understanding derivatives, i.e. you need calculus.

Pete
 
  • #3
pervect
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Plastic Photon said:
I have had this book for a while and never really looked into it. It claims to be an easy/nonmathematical approach to relativity. Has anyone read this book before? Can I really understand what the subject matter is covering without any post-calculus math? Is it also a good beginer's guide to relativity as it claims?
The book is a serious, college-level course, and not a "lightweight" non-mathematical book. But since you already have it, why not take a look at it?
 
  • #4
robphy
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Is it the new edition (light blue color tones)? or the classic edition (maroon)? If classic, does it have the worked problems in the back?

The classic with worked-problems is a great text and resource. The new edition has addresses some new useful Q&A dialogues... but I was disappointed to see that discussions of the rapidity (and worked probems) were dropped. (If I remember correctly, Taylor told me that rapidity wasn't really being used by instructors.)
 
  • #5
The one I have is the classic eidtion (maroon). On the back of which says 'To begin with, this is 'non-mathematical' - according to Harold S. Zapolsky. I was sceptical of it at first and wanted an opinion on this. IT does have worked problems.
I have so far read throught he first 4 sections, but the next sections on Lorentz transformation do not seem as 'non-mathematical' as Zapolsky would have lead me to believe.

I am in college trig and haven't taken physics since a junior in hs, so would this be an appropriate book to be reading now?
 
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  • #6
robphy
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I don't have my copy to look at now... in particular, the entire quote. It may be that "non-mathematical" means "non-tensorial" for Zapolsky... I'm not sure. However, for textbooks, Spacetime Physics is great at introducing and emphasizing more of the physics. Certainly, there is mathematics that must be used to obtain numerical and algebraic results.

In my opinion, you can [begin to] appreciate some of the content with your current preparation (being in College trig and some physics in high school). Some basic physics you'll need for that text: Kinematics, Force and Newton's Laws, Work and Impulse, and the Conservation of Energy and of Momentum.
With the worked problems, you may be motivated to brush up or learn some more mathematics.

You may wish to get help by posting HW-type questions in the Homework Forums. For conceptual questions, you can post in the Relativity Forums.

If you want something less mathematical [but actually far deeper conceptually], try
Geroch's "General Relativity from A to B"
https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0226288641

If you want something comparable to Spacetime Physics, but more modern, try
Moore's "A Traveler's Guide to Spacetime"
https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0070430276

Frankly, I'd stay away from the "pop-science" books to learn relativity... but they are useful for motivation to find a good book to learn the subject.

Good luck.
 
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  • #7
If I might butt in, "Relativity Visualized" by Lewis Carroll Epstein is an excellent non-mathematical introduction to special and general relativity.
 
  • #8
robphy
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If I recall correctly, Epstein's book had some novel ways of presenting relativity... however, it was a while back when I saw it... and so I'm not sure how accurate those ways are. I think it's in our university library. I'll check it out again.

One other title that comes to mind is "Discovering Relativity for Yourself" by Lilley. It's written like a conversation with students.. and it does get into some mathematics.
 
  • #9
mathwonk
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if you read this book your hair will fall out, and your belly button will come off.

And worse! have you read (or seen since you are afraid to read) the Name of the Rose?
 
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  • #10
vanesch
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Plastic Photon said:
I have had this book for a while and never really looked into it. It claims to be an easy/nonmathematical approach to relativity. Has anyone read this book before? Can I really understand what the subject matter is covering without any post-calculus math? Is it also a good beginer's guide to relativity as it claims?
It is a super little book. Yes, it is about the best introduction to special relativity I know of, and the author tried to use the "lowest" level of math possible, without becoming inaccurate.
If you master (very well) high school trigonometry and algebra, and you have a few notions of calculus (derivative, for instance), then you will do just fine. And it is a fun read too. I loved it.

Moreover, there are A LOT of solved little problems in it.
 

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