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Relativity: The Special and the General Theory

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  12,316 Ratings  ·  432 Reviews
An accesible version of Einstein's masterpiece of theory, written by the genius himself

According to Einstein himself, this book is intended "to give an exact insight into the theory of Relativity to those readers who, from a general scientific and philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical apparatus of theore
Paperback, 130 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Penguin Classics (first published 1916)
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Oct 15, 2016 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the copy that I wanted. In his own words, he describes conceptually the theory of special and general relativity. He uses very clever and easy to understand theoretical and real situations to guide your understanding towards an omega point. I bought this book at special price from here:
Riku Sayuj
Sep 14, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-gen

Some years ago in France a book by Jean-François Gautier appeared, entitled Does the universe exist?.

Good question.

What if the universe were a concept like cosmic ether, or phlogiston, or the conspiracy of the Elders of Zion?

Philosophically, Gautier’s arguments make sense.

The idea of the universe, as the totality of the cosmos, is one that comes from the most ancient cosmographies, cosmologies, and cosmogonies. But can one describe, as if seeing it from above, something within which we are cont
Note to the Fifteenth Edition


1. Simple Derivation of the Lorentz Transformation
2. Minowski's Four-dimensional Space ("World")
3. The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity
(a) Motion of the Perihelion of Mercury
(b) Deflection of Light by a Gravitational Field
(c) Displacement of Spectral Lines towards the Red
4. The Structure of Space according to the General Theory of Relativity
5. Relativity and the Problem of Space

مديحة حوري
أول احتكاك فعلي بيني وبين نظرية النسبية وبالمعادلات الرياضية
أول كتاب قرأته في مكتبة الجيش لأينشتاين ومرفق بالمعادلات
استمتعت به
وهو أول من فتح لي باب التساؤل حول: كيف أصوغ معادلة بمنتهى البساطة
Oct 19, 2007 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who already know about relativity
edit: i wrote the 4-star review below before reading the fifth appendix. i mean, who could imagine that an appendix could change anything? well, this one did. all the chapters in the body of the book are 2 or 3 pages. Appendix V is a 20-page essay, written 36 years after the rest of the book and just 3 years before einstein died. it is a tour de force on the history, philosophy, and psychology (i kid you not) of the scientific understanding of empty space. it was shocking, thrilling, amazing. th ...more
Mihai Dumitru
Apr 23, 2017 Mihai Dumitru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Nu am niciun motiv să mă îndoiesc de faptul că Einstein a simplificat teoria sa în această carte pe care, în prefață, el însuși o consideră prizabilă inclusiv de către "cititorul neinițiat în fizică". Nu mă îndoiesc că intențiile autorului au fost bune. Bașca apreciez exemplele concrete, gen aruncarea unei pietre dintr-un vagon de tren și calcularea traiectoriei/vitezei sale față de terasamentul căii ferate. De altfel, mai toate exemplele implică trenuri, un adevărat laitmotiv al cărții. Cu toat ...more
Dominika Kaníková
I hope that no one will ask me what was this book about .
Sanjay Gautam
Aug 02, 2014 Sanjay Gautam rated it really liked it
This book by Dr. Einstein is very well written, though you will find the anatomy of sentences a little unusual. Well this should not be a problem considering the theory's difficulty level. Though the theory is very simple mathematically (special theory of relativity I'm talking about), but the case is reverse when it comes to understand it intuitively. It defies the common sense. And that's what the book is about. It changes your outlook, the way you see the nature and gives you a new and better ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 12, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Peter Smith
Shelves: sciences
As a kid my serious interests were scientific. I collected feathers, insects, rocks and fossils; maintained an aerospace scrapbook; kept a journal about space exploration; and read a lot of science books ranging from popular stuff and textbooks to serious works from the library which I hardly understood. My greatest intellectual interests by junior high were in cosmology and astronomy.

During middle school, or possibly during the freshman year in high school, I started going to the library to rea

(The Times from Nov. 10, 1919, left; Nov. 16, 1919, center; and Dec. 3, 1919)

"He was living alone. A friend, Janos Plesch, once said, “He sleeps until he is awakened; he stays awake until he is told to go to bed; he will go hungry until he is given something to eat; and then he eats until he is stopped.”

In:A Century Ago, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Changed Everything

Awesome, see here:
Oct 23, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The aim of this book is to introduce people without a strong physics (or even scientific) background to the special and general theories of relativity - theories that Einstein was the primary developer of. Einstein assumes the reader has passes a "university matriculation exam." What that meant in the first half of the 20th Century, I don't know but in practice what's required is the level of algebra I had by age 16 plus a smattering of mentions of the square root of minus 1. I also found basic ...more
The theory of relativity is amazing and important, but contrary to what the tagline says, Einstein himself is probably not the best person to have explain it to you. I read this class for Freshman Studies in college, and I honestly have to admit that I wouldn't have gotten much of it without the significant aid of in-depth lectures and classroom discussions. This is not because the ideas themselves are too complex, but because Einstein fails in his attempt to make his ideas understood to a layma ...more
Heather Cawte
Mar 18, 2011 Heather Cawte rated it it was amazing
Read on my Kindle, free from Project Gutenberg.

The biggest problem I had with this was actually one of presentation. The team which had prepared it for release had presented all the equations as jpegs, a reasonable idea when reading it in HTML, but not a good one when reading it on a Kindle! Still, who am I kidding - the equations probably wouldn't have made sense to me anyway....

I am an arts graduate trying to understand relativity. I've read Hawking, and I've read Cox, and I thought I should r
Jul 07, 2015 Þróndr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction
This year is the centennial of the publication of Einstein's general theory of relativity. I got my hands on the Pi Press edition, which was published 10 years ago (coinciding with the centennial of the special theory of relativity.) Yesterday, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, sending huge volumes of information back to Earth - and the day before, CERN announced that the LHC has found proof of the existence of the pentaquark. Science continues to reach new frontiers, though nothing t ...more
Mohamed al-Jamri
Feb 21, 2016 Mohamed al-Jamri rated it it was ok
هذا التقييم ليس لعبقرية آينشتاين بل لكتابه ومهاراته في الكتابة

من المفترض أن هذا الكتاب موجه للعامة ولمن ليس لديهم اطلاع غزير بالرياضيات والفيزياء، ولكن شرحه غير واضح وصعب الفهم. قرأت عن النظرية النسبية في أكثر من كتاب وشاهدت وثائقيات حولها واعتقد أني أفهم مبادءها الأساسية ولكني أردت القراءة عنها من صاحبها نفسه، فوجدت أن غيره كان أفضل منه في تبسيطها وشرحها، فكتابه مليء بالمعادلات والمصطلحات الرياضية.

أثار فضولي أمران في الكتاب، الأول هو استخدام آينشتاين لمصطلح "النجوم الثابتة" بالرغم أن العالم إدم
Dec 18, 2011 Mohamed rated it it was amazing
How dare I give this masterpiece less than 5 stars ?! Although I could hardly claim that I understood 10 percent of the book ! What he was talking about ?! Moving reference bodies, Euclidean geometry, Newtonian theory of gravitation, ..... What ?! We don't see the real length of things as everything is moving in the space ! Length is relative as well as mass ! So what is real ? Is there one single thing that all human can agree on it ?! Relativity can be applied on other aspects of life other th ...more
Stuart Kelly
Apr 18, 2012 Stuart Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was at university the lecturers recommended books on relativity and I even read a few. I gleaned a vague understanding of the subject. None of them recommended Einstein's book. I can't remember where I found it but I'm very glad I did. It's the best and easiest to understand book about relativity I have ever read. I recommend it to students who are struggling with the concepts and all of them so far have had the "Aha!" moment thanks to Albert himself.
It's just been returned to me from ano
Arya Ptb
May 23, 2013 Arya Ptb rated it really liked it
The best "for dummies" book ever. Written by the master himself, explaining it all with great depth and as simply as possible.
I feel that the General Theory was not covered in any real sense, probably because it would have been too difficult for us. While still appreciating Einstein's visual demonstrations and thought experiments, I wouldn't have minded a few more equations and formulas either, to combine the powers of intuition and precision.
Jul 23, 2011 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciences, germanie
Retour aux premières amours. Même un siècle après, le sens commun continue d'être fortement perturbé par les résultats d'Albert, déduits des travaux du XIXème sur l'électromagnétisme. Quel ironie ce retour en grâce inattendu de Descartes, après avoir été bien moqué: pas d'étendue sans contenu !
Mohamed IBrahim
Dec 19, 2014 Mohamed IBrahim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: الفيزياء
الكتاب جميل لكنه جعلنى اشعر بالصداع
القراءة عن تفاصيل فيزيائية دون المعادلات والتفاصيل الرياضية لا تجعلنى استطيع التركيز
Elliott Bignell
Aug 05, 2016 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Given Einstein's universally-acknowledged genius and the reputation for intractability still enjoyed by general relativity a century after its birth, this work is a paragon of clarity and simplicity of explication. It is very light on mathematics, only requiring basic algebra, and works almost entirely through illustrative models such as that of an observer on a moving train. Einstein was one of those who had been forced to rethink our universe based on the contradictions raised by the apparent ...more
May 08, 2007 Andrew rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nerds; cosmic thinkers
Albert Einstein was a really smart motherfucker. He was smart not just because he was able to conceive of the theory of relativity (both the special and general theories) - he was working on things that people before him had already worked on. What was really smart about him is that he was able to make it all explicable - if not entirely comprehensible - to your average person.

I'm not going to go into the general and special theories of relativity, because I honestly only understand the theorie
Aiman Faruqi
Jun 08, 2013 Aiman Faruqi rated it it was amazing
While a number of other books cover the topics of special and general relativity, only this one, written by the creator of the theories themselves, conveys a sense of profound understanding that is unparalleled by other books on the subject.

What is most remarkably about this book is that it provides an excellent framework for the special and general theories without necessitating the understanding of advanced math. As someone who loves math, this is not something I would normally laud, but, in
Apr 26, 2016 Tara rated it really liked it
Overall a very strong book, although, as another reviewer pointed out, “trying to teach general relativity in 45 pages with no math is just too tall an order.”

I thought Einstein made an excellent point regarding the relevancy of the special theory of relativity, since the special theory has been relegated to being “merely” a limiting case contained within the general theory: “No fairer destiny could be allotted to any physical theory, than that it should of itself point out the way to the introd
Bipul Roy
May 08, 2012 Bipul Roy rated it it was amazing
I call it epic book, not only in terms of the knowledge it gives. But it is sure to create a storm of queries and enthusiasm in your mind provided you enjoy mathematics form the core of the heart.

It surely imparts some best lessons for life, that keep your subconscious alert and curiosity should be the prime element of every thought process. The thing that Einstein got the idea of relativity while going home in a car, he saw the time in clock mounted on top of church, and it gave him the storm t
Sam Henington
May 10, 2011 Sam Henington rated it it was amazing
Years ago,in my college physics class,I had to actually learn and try to explain Einstein's theory of relativity. With the complex math and all the workbooks, it was a task I really hated. I thought I understood it and was able to get through the tests. But I never really paid close attention to what it really meant. At that time, all I wanted was to be able to answer queations about it to get grades. Then, I changed my major and went into other subjects that I really cared about. After so many ...more
Hrishabh Chaudhary
May 08, 2015 Hrishabh Chaudhary rated it really liked it
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that The Theory of Relativity is demanding and it is needless to say that you need to read it more than once.

While there is a plethora of books on relativity, available in shiny covers with technicolor nebulae and stuff for your ocular pleasure, which claim to provide an easier and better understanding of the topic, they are no substitute for this succinct book by the master himself.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler
" - Eins
Audrey Webster
Feb 19, 2017 Audrey Webster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting... the parts that I understood anyways.
Bob Nichols
Despite Einstein's best intention to make his theory comprehensible to the non-specialized public, this book is still difficult. The commentary at the end of the book by Robert Geroch is helpful.

In the Special Theory of Relativity, Einstein states that space and time are not fixed properties, that they are intimately connected to each other (hence, spacetime, "ST"), that time and space are shorter and slower as an object moves closer to the speed of light, and that mass increases with the addit
Becky Douglas
Relativity is Einstein's attempt to explain Special and General Relativity to a general audience. He states at the beginning of the book that he's trying to keep it concise and at a level where most people should be able to understand the small amounts of mathematics he uses. He mentions that it would be elegant, feeling he ought to leave that to artists but that, with a little effort on behalf of the reader, it should provide an adequate understanding.

It's hard for me to tell whether Einstein w
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benefits of this book not only for students 1 13 Aug 07, 2013 10:27PM  
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  • Six Not-So-Easy Pieces: Einstein's Relativity, Symmetry, and Space-Time
  • Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science
  • Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
  • On The Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres (On the Shoulders of Giants)
  • Euclid's Elements
  • Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy
  • On the Shoulders of Giants: The Great Works of Physics And Astronomy
  • Epitome of Copernican Astronomy and Harmonies of the World
  • A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, Vol. 1
  • The Life of the Cosmos
  • What Is Life? with Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches
  • Gravitation
  • A First Course in General Relativity
  • The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe
  • Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

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In 1879, Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Zurich by 1909. His 1905 paper explaining the photoelectric effect, the basis of electronics, earned him the Nobel Prize in 1921. His first paper on Special Relativity Theory, also published in 1905, changed the world. After the rise of the Nazi party, Einstein made Princeton his permanent home, becoming ...more
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