Short Book Review: ABC of Relativity by Bertrand Russell
SBR: A Physics course in the very first year at IITK had taught me the formulae related to the special theory of relativity. But my interest in philosophy has kindled in recent past and I felt that puzzling on metaphysical questions in the 21st century is insincere without some intuitive understanding of things like relativity and quantum physics. And it was to gain this understanding, beyond Mathematics, that I picked up ABC of Relativity. This book might very well be the best attempt to explain relativity as non-mathematically as possible. But here is the heart-breaking truth. There is no understanding relativity without mathematics. Things became unintelligible after a while unless I started seeing them mathematically. If the intent is to explain relativity to a non-mathematical mind, beyond a limited point, the book fails. But what must be said here is that perhaps no other book will succeed half as well. Also, Russell’s is a brilliant mind. So sometimes what he mentions casually in a few sentences, as if it is the most obvious thing in the world, needs a lot of concentration and deliberation to understand.
To read or not to read: So long as you don’t expect to curl up in the bed and gain a breezy understanding of relativity, this book can be a good starting point. But don’t expect to avoid mathematics.