Books on relativity (GR and SR) and/or Quantum physics not too mathy.

msstice

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My family is casting about for what to get me for Christmas. No one wants to see my face when I unwrap another scarf, and so I've been asked to come up with gift ideas. I want books. I realize this will shock most of you, but now you know who I really am.

I want to try, once again, to understand relativity and/or quantum physics. I can do math, but not at the level of Tensors. I'm looking for books on GR/SR and/or Quantum Physics that give good intuitions, perhaps even with a little math, enough to get a good mental model of our universe without getting too dry and difficult to get through.

Thank you.
 

msstice

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A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking is amazingly accessible, not mathy, a good overview of spacetime, but missing the Quantum Physics.
Thank you for that reference. I have that book, but I ran into this page A Guide to Relativity Books where the author says

What about the well known book by Hawking, A Brief History of Time, you ask? To judge from the confusion it engenders in its readers (as reflected by numerous bewildered posts to this newsgroup mentioning some wild misunderstanding which is credited to this book), I cannot recommend this book.
 

Elentarri

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Any itroductory text book will give you the math. Science books for the lay person do not have maths (which is pretty stupid for a book on quantum physics which is all maths) - not that I've found anyway. Good luck!
 

tinkerdan

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There are two books I have by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw that are entertaining.



apparently the amazon uk doesn't have this one
 
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msstice

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@tinkerdan I think I will buy those two, thank you!
@hitmouse That looks like a cool book. I worry that it might be too whimsical for me, so I will try the Brian Cox ones first. Thank you!
 

Venusian Broon

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Hey @msstice , good luck finding a good book. I'm afraid my mind is so stuffed with mathematics, anything I find 'simple' is only because of years doing the subject!

My issue with a lot of layman books on the topics is that usually the first half is pretty good - clear and concise. Because you start simple and can discuss the axioms and assumptions...but that when you move onto more complex issues that build on this they are trying to describe mathematical results not using mathematics. Hence leading to (usually) a bit of a word salad that even confuses me!

Brian Cox seems a good place to hope for a good account.

EDIT: have you thought about using the Internet learning service Brilliant? I believe Sabine Hossenfelder has a full course on Quantum physics, and there is bound to be one on Relativity. I think it's full of interactive examples and problems to do. That might suit you better than a text book. I don't think you need university maths to do the courses! But if you are interested they should be able to tell you. (And they may have the requisite maths explained in another course anyway!)
 
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tinkerdan

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This got me to searching again...
I just received and read this one.(yes amazon is that fast right now.)

The first 120 pages are pretty good; most equations inside are short and can be overlooked as long as you don't plan on verifying the information or preforming similar experiments or extrapolating to something new.
The final 80 pages are how some things are currently being applied in real life and might be interesting to some though possibly not all readers.


Overall I found it to suit me.
 

msstice

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@tinkerdan thank you for the pointer to Brian Cox's E=mc^2 book. I'm 3/4 through and my understanding is further than it has ever been. The furthest I'd gotten previously was as a teenager reading Einstein's book, but I feel I have much better insight now with this one. There have been several places where I've gotten that "Wow" feeling I look for in books.

It's not perfect - I feel that he could have used more pictures/diagrams than so many words, but he uses just the right amount of math. I now want to find something just slightly more rigorous, but with the same kind of physical insight.

What I liked best was the explanation of the scientific/mathematical process that he gives, explaining how we make mathematical models and then check them against not only experiment but also our notions of how the world should work, like causality and invariance. This made the whole thing much more approachable than some other books that I've read that make the model building process more mystical.

I think I should now go back and read Einstein's book: it's probably still up to date for SR and GR.
 

Av Demeisen

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I now want to find something just slightly more rigorous, but with the same kind of physical insight.
Have you considered the Theorethical Minimum books by Leonard Susskind? The fourth volume on General Relativity is about to be published.
 

msstice

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Have you considered the Theorethical Minimum books by Leonard Susskind? The fourth volume on General Relativity is about to be published.
I have "Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory" on my desk as we correspond. I started it and was put off a bit by the excessive, forced and frankly, lame, humor, but I see some diagrams and equations and perhaps I will start it again. Thank you.
 

Av Demeisen

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I started it and was put off a bit by the excessive, forced and frankly, lame, humor,
Frankly, I was also put of by the humour at first, but quickly learned to look past it. ;)

iu
 

tinkerdan

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I think I should now go back and read Einstein's book: it's probably still up to date for SR and GR.
I just got a fresh copy of this.
Next on the reading list.
 

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