The Special Theory of Relativity

The Special Theory of Relativity

The Special Theory of Relativity

The Special Theory of Relativity

Synopsis

Based on his famous final year undergraduate lectures on theoretical physics at Birkbeck College, Bohm presents the theory of relativity as a unified whole, making clear the reasons which led to its adoption and explaining its basic meaning. With clarity and grace, he also reveals the limited truth of some of the "common sense" assumptions which make it difficult for us to appreciate its full implications.With a new foreword by Basil Hiley, a close colleague of David Bohm's, The Special Theory of Relativity is an indispensable addition to the work of one of greatest physicists and thinkers of the twentieth century.

Excerpt

The general aim of this book is to present the theory of relativity as a unified whole, making clear the reasons which led to its adoption, explaining its basic meaning as far as possible in non-mathematical terms, and revealing the limited truth of some of the tacit “common sense” assumptions which make it difficult for us to appreciate its full implications. By thus showing that the concepts of this theory are interrelated to form a unified totality, which is very different from those of the older Newtonian theory, and by making clear the motivation for adopting such a different theory, we hope in some measure to supplement the view obtained in the many specialized courses included in the typical program of study, which tend to give the student a rather fragmentary impression of the logical and conceptual structure of physics as a whole.

The book begins with a brief review of prerelativistic physics and some of the main experimental facts which led physicists to question the older ideas of space and time that had held sway since Newton and before. Considerable emphasis is placed on some of the efforts to retain Newtonian concepts, especially those developed by Lorentz in terms of the ether theory. This procedure has the advantage, not only of helping the student to understand the history of this crucial phase of the development of physics better, but even more, of exhibiting very clearly the nature of the problems to which the older concepts gave rise. It is only against the background of these problems that one can fully appreciate the fact that Einstein's basic contribution was less in the proposal of new . . .

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