Einstein Relatively Simple by Egdall

May 18th, 2014 by ajb

Both special and general relativity have a reputation for being very complicated theories to understand. While it is true that one needs some mathematical machinery to really master these theories, Egdall does a great job in showing that it is possible with a bare minimum of high school mathematics to get an appreciation of the main ideas.

Edgall does not completely stay away from some mathematics, though as it is isolated somewhat from the main text, the mathematically shy should not be scared away from this book. The style is lighthearted and is full of thought experiments illustrated by short entertaining stories.

The author does an excellent job in highlighting the main features of special and general relativity in a way suitable for the lay reader to understand. Moreover, the development of the theory is presented in a chronological/historical context by trying to describe Einstein’s trail of thought and how he was influenced by the various problems with physics found in the late 1800′s. We get a good overview of Einstein the man from this book.

However, like all popular science books, there are the odd statements like “…the photon’s perspective” and “..spacetime curvature has energy” which any physicist will question. That said, I do consider the book well-written, entertaining and a useful introduction to the ideas of relativity for the lay person.

The book is divided into two chapters, an appendix with more mathematical details and a rather extensive list of notes with sources. Part I deals with special relativity describing the initial development of the theory starting from the conflict between classical mechanics and electromagnetic theory. The strange consequences of Einstein’s special relativity including the idea of space-time, time dilation, length contraction and his famous equation E=mc^2 are discussed.

Part II introduces us to general relativity which is the most accurate theory of gravity know to science. The fundamental idea is that gravity should be viewed as space-time curvature and some of the consequences of this are discussed in this book. Some aspects of modern cosmology and the big bang theory are also briefly discussed.

Note: This book is based on lay courses in modern physics Edgall teaches at Lifelong Learning Institutes at several universities in South Florida.

Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Company (February 24, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9814525596
ISBN-13: 978-9814525596

Einstein Relatively Simple

Breakthrough Prize

May 15th, 2014 by ajb
Higgs event Online nominations for the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the New Horizons Prize in Fundamental Physics are now open.

The Breakthrough Prize is a $3 million award and the New Horizons Prize is worth $100,000 and given to young researchers.

The Breakthrough Prize

Physics and mathematics researchers in schools

May 5th, 2014 by ajb
The UK government is launching a new scheme to encourage those with a PhD in mathematics or physics to teach in high schools in England.

Under the scheme researchers would be paid £40,000 a year for conducting master classes for pupils in networks of schools, setting up free online maths and physics resources for schools to use, and teaching lessons that stretch more advanced students.

However, there is some concern that some of the researchers will not have all the skills needed to teach children, especially those that are struggling with the subjects.

I share some of this concern, however getting researchers involved in schools is a good thing. I don’t know the details here, but I would hope the terms are based on some kind of extended leave from your university.

University researchers to teach pupils in government maths drive BBC News

The economic benefit of UK science

May 3rd, 2014 by ajb

A report commissioned by The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) provides quantitative economic evidence that Government funding in science and engineering can boost growth in the economy.

The report states that for every £1 spent by the UK government on R&D, the private sector R&D output rises by 20p.

The report was written by Prof. J.Haskel of Imperial College Business School, and Prof. A. Hughes and E. Bascavusoglu-Moreau, both of the University of Cambridge.

The Economic Significance of the UK Science Base

What to eat in space?

May 3rd, 2014 by ajb

Astronaut Tim Peake. Image by the UK Space Agency.

The UK Space Agency is today (2 May 2014) launching a competition for school children between the ages of 7 and 14 to design a British-inspired, balanced and exciting meal for British ESA astronaut Tim Peake to eat during his 6 month mission to the International Space Station (ISS).


I suggest a rocket salad for Tim’s launch!

The Great British Space Dinner

Some (more) IFS fractals

May 1st, 2014 by ajb

It has been a while since I have produced any iterated function system fractals, so here is my latest effort. I have not coloured them, rather the opacity describes the number of times a point has been visited. This gives a nice effect for some, but not all of these fractals.




A very symmetric Julia set

May 1st, 2014 by ajb


This is just a Julia set that I created. I was surprised at just how symmetric it is as well as showing clearly the fractal property of self-similarity.

Kew Gardens are in trouble.

April 10th, 2014 by ajb
Image by DAVID ILIFF The globally important conservation and science work conducted at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is under threat due to government cut backs. The deficit is about £5M and will lead to loss of over 120 posts.

If you are worried about this you can sign the petition below aimed at Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the Rt Hon Mr Owen Paterson MP;

Urgently reverse existing, proposed, and further cuts to RBG Kew’s annual operating grant in aid

Odd Jacobi Manifolds and Loday-Poisson brackets

April 8th, 2014 by ajb
My work on Odd Jacobi structures on supermanifolds and how to construct non skewsymmetric Poisson-like brackets from them has now been published in the Journal of Mathematics.

Odd Jacobi Manifold and Loday-Poisson brackets, Journal of Mathematics Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 630749, 10 pages

Wales needs more engineers?

April 7th, 2014 by ajb
flag of wales According to the Royal Academy of Engineers Wales needs something like an extra 2,500 graduates by 2020 to cope with those leaving due to retirement.

Again, I just don’t know if this is really the case, given that we know that plenty of engineers are not finding suitable employment.

As soon as you look at the numbers, it is very hard to justify [claims of] a skills shortage

Marcus Body, head of research at Work Communications

Nearly a quarter of UK engineering graduates are working in non-graduate jobs or unskilled work such as waiting and shop work, a report suggests.

Katherine Sellgren (BBC) (2011)

I know I am starting to sound repetitive here, but what is really going on and how can we get to the truth? Do we really need more STEM graduates or not?

Wales needs 2,500 engineers by 2020, professionals says BBC News Wales