Relativity for the Million
For this project, I decided to read Relativity for the Million, a book by Martin Gardner. I have always been fascinated by the Theory of Relativity ever since you told me that time and distance is relative. For whatever reason, I could not make sense of this. It just boggled my mind that something as “constant” as time could change. Some of my favorite days in physics class consisted of discussions of relativity. It was always two steps forward and one step back for me. It seemed as if every time I thought I understood it, a curveball would be thrown in or I would learn something new that challenged it. One of my favorite things about this book is that it doesn’t take a physicist to read it, only an eager mind.
The book starts out by taking the reader through a lot of thought experiments (similar if not the same to the ones we have discussed in class) that get the brain thinking in a direction geared towards relativity. It discusses many basic ideas such as absolute or relative, and frame of reference. From page one, this book really makes you think (similar to an everyday physics experience with Mr. Parker).
One of the more interesting parts of this book is the theories prior the Relativity. One of the most widely accepted theories was the presence of “ether” and an “ether wind”. Ether is a substance believed by nineteenth-century physics to permeate all space, serving as the medium for the propagation of electromagnetic radiation. Basically, ether is everywhere. It is the odorless, invisible, massless substance that filled everything. Even in deep dark space where there is no air, no gravity, nothing… there was ether. Ether is a fixed, stationary substance that acts as a medium for light to travel. If light travels through Ether with a certain speed, c, and if this velocity is independent of the velocity of its source, then the speed of light can be used as a kind of yardstick for measuring the observer’s absolute motion....
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