E MC2 DAVID BODANIS PDF

It is neither a biography of Einstein, although we do learn something about him along the way, nor is it an explanation of all his work, although we do encounter a little general relativity at the end of the book. Bodanis begins by explaining each element of the equation. For example, E represents energy, and by physicists concluded that energy is conserved. There are many types of energy, but they are all basically the same, so if you destroy some chemical energy then you must create an equal amount of energy in some other form.

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It is neither a biography of Einstein, although we do learn something about him along the way, nor is it an explanation of all his work, although we do encounter a little general relativity at the end of the book. Bodanis begins by explaining each element of the equation. For example, E represents energy, and by physicists concluded that energy is conserved. There are many types of energy, but they are all basically the same, so if you destroy some chemical energy then you must create an equal amount of energy in some other form.

The same goes for mass m. In the eighteenth century, it was observed that burning wood in oxygen resulted in ash, smoke and carbon dioxide, but these had the same combined mass as the initial materials. Mass is conserved. As a student, Einstein had learnt that energy and mass are both conserved, one of the great axioms of physics. However, his research into the properties of light forced him into the realisation that it is the combination of mass and energy that is conserved, and that mass can be destroyed as long it is turned into energy, and vice versa.

Therefore, a tiny mass can turn into a literally massive amount of energy. Typically, mass is happy being mass, so sheets of paper do not spontaneously explode with enough power to wipe out a city. This book is packed with the standard anecdotes relating to the equation, many of which will already be familiar to scientists.

But this is not a criticism. The book is intended for a different audience, namely Cameron Diaz and anybody else with curiosity but without a degree in physics. Finally, I rarely mention covers in reviews, but in this case it is exceptionally striking: a fluorescent Einstein sticking his tongue out. A similar image was used to promote the recent science and arts festival, Creating Sparks, and was criticised by some who thought it trivialised Einstein.

I am of the opinion that the image is enticing and engaging, and I hope it will attract rather than repel potential readers.

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This book takes an approach to the equation that concentrates not on the biography of Einstein but on the biography of the equation itself. Without the equation for instance there would have been no atomic bomb, no lasers, no Internet and no science of black holes. Introduction A few years ago I was reading an interview with the actress Cameron Diaz in a movie magazine. I shrugged, but everyone else in the room — architects, two programmers, and even one historian my wife! It got me thinking. There are plenty of books that try to explain it, but who can honestly say they understand them?

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