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An illustrated guide to relativity

27 Aug 2021 Laura Hiscott
Taken from the August 2021 issue of Physics World where it first appeared under the headline "Relativity, at top speed". Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app.

Laura Hiscott reviews Reimagining Time: a Light-Speed Tour of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub

a train in Switzerland

Einstein’s special theory of relativity may be the best example there is of fact being stranger than fiction. I don’t know what human imagination could have conjured such a bizarre construct, unprompted by hard experimental data.

In their new book, Reimagining Time: a Light-Speed Tour of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, artist Tanya Bub and her physicist father Jeffrey Bub guide you as you follow in Einstein’s footsteps towards his ground-breaking revelations. Rather than simply reeling off facts, the book is structured around a series of drawings that represent Einstein’s thought experiments, with a second-person narration that places you, the reader, at the heart of the experience.

It starts with the axiom that “light goes at one speed” (as you find written on a laser gun when you wake up on a train in empty space), and takes you from there through to the main implications of special relativity, including the universal speed limit, momentum conservation and the one equation in the book: E = mc2.

Reimagining Time takes nothing for granted, so anyone would be able to follow it. But those who have already learnt what’s in the book might also enjoy it as a fun exploration of their knowledge, one that gives the reader space and encouragement to really be awed by the strangeness of nature.

This book also has possibly the best dedication I have ever read: “For Einstein, who liked trains”.

  • 2021 Yale University Press £18.99hb 192pp
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