"The Perfect Theory is a rollicking good read. We watch as Einstein’s brilliant successors struggle and squabble about everything from black holes to quantum gravity. With crisp explanations and narrative flair, Ferreira offers us a fun, fresh take on a magnificent part of modern science." —Steven Strogatz, Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, author of The Joy of x"Einstein’s general theory of relativity was the greatest of his many contributions to physics, but surprisingly little has been written about how the subject blossomed after his death, with profound implications for current cosmology and astrophysics. Pedro Ferreira provides an enthralling account of the ideas and personalities of those involved." —Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford"Pedro Ferreira portrays a community ensnared by a single great idea. With vivid detail, he brings to life the awesome story of one of humanity’s greatest achievements." —Janna Levin, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Barnard College/Columbia University, author of How the Universe Got Its Spots"Einstein's general relativity is a theory of unrivaled elegance and simplicity. But the history of general relativity is messy, unpredictable, and occasionally dramatic. Pedro Ferreira is an expert guide to the twists and turns scientists have gone through in a quest to understand space and time." —Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe"A fascinating introduction to our present understanding of space, time, and gravity, and to the confusion about how to go about finding a still better theory." —P. James Peebles, Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science, Princeton University"Einstein's beautiful theory is is now, more than ever, one of the liveliest frontiers of science, and crucial to our understanding of the cosmos. Pedro Ferreira describes, accessibly and non-technically, how the key breakthroughs have been made, and the personalities who made them." —Lord Martin Rees, Great Britain’s Astronomer Royal"You couldn't ask for a better guide to the outer reaches of the universe and the inner workings of the minds of those who've navigated it." —Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford, author of The Music of the Primes "Ferreira does not downplay relativity’s complexity and avoids the easy route of oversimplifying it into a cosmic magic show. The result is one of the best popular accounts of how Einstein and his followers have been trying to explain the universe for decades." —Kirkus (starred review)"With palpable delight, Ferreira details false starts, chance discoveries, and the vindication of long-ridiculed ideas that emerged from the work that predicted singularities, M-theory, and dark energy. He also shows that Einstein didn’t work in a vacuum; international collaboration made confirmation of his theory possible, while overturning some initial conclusions. Perhaps most importantly, Ferreira’s clear explanations offer a wonderful look into a world of those who tackle the hard math that is ‘the key to understanding the history of the universe, the origin of time, and the evolution of... the cosmos.’" —Publishers Weekly"No book better prepares armchair physicists for the intellectual excitement ahead!" —Booklist (starred review)
"Ferreira (Astrophysics/Univ. of Oxford; The State of the Universe: A Primer in Modern Cosmology, 2006, etc.) writes an enthusiastic and comprehensible popular account of how Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity continues to generate new knowledge as well as hints of more secrets to be revealed.
Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity may be the greatest discovery in science. It’s the key to understanding the history of the universe, the nature of time, stars, galaxies and matter itself. With the dramatic 1919 announcement confirming the theory’s prediction that gravity bends light rays, Einstein became a media superstar, and physicists began a search for other predictions that continues to this day. Everyone during that time, Einstein included, assumed that stars and galaxies drifted at random. Several physicists pointed out that his equations indicated an expanding universe. Reluctantly, Einstein finally agreed. Others calculated that when a large, aging star collapses, gravity shrinks it into an infinitely dense point outside of time and space: a black hole. However, Einstein never accepted that. During the 1920s, many physicists turned their attention to quantum mechanics and nuclear physics, which, unlike relativity, had vivid consequences. Only with the 1950s did a new generation return to the research. Simultaneously, astronomers began discovering phenomena that required relativity, including quasars, neutron stars, gravitational lenses, dark matter, energy and black holes. The perfection of Einstein’s theory remains; none of its predictions have been proven wrong, but the stubborn refusal of gravity to unite with all other natural forces remains a frustrating problem.
Ferreira does not downplay relativity’s complexity and avoids the easy route of oversimplifying it into a cosmic magic show. The result is one of the best popular accounts of how Einstein and his followers have been trying to explain the universe for decades."--Kirkus Reviews, STARRED
"Einstein pulled no punches when he met Belgian theorist Georges Lemaître in 1927: “Your physics,” the German titan told his colleague, “is abominable.” But Ferreira highlights the irony in this confrontation: Lemaître only starts the parade of geniuses mining Einstein’s theory for unanticipated cosmological insights. Of course, the history of this fertile theory begins with Einstein himself, the lowly patent clerk whose daring thought-experiments lead to a radically new space-time physics in which gravity bends light. Though eclipsed for decades by quantum mechanics, Einstein’s theory—crystallized in 10 elegant field equations—ultimately enthralls a phalanx of conceptual pioneers. Whether capturing the echoes of the Big Bang, glimpsing the phantom shadows of dark matter and dark energy, plumbing neutron stars, pondering possibilities for time travel, or testing the limits of string theory, these pioneers take Einstein’s formulas as their sure guide. Predictably, strong-willed scientists clash over their reading of these fiendishly entangled formulas: Eddington versus Chandrasekhar over black holes, Hawking versus Bekenstein over cosmic entropy, Oppenheimer versus Wheeler over stellar-collapse singularities, Gödel versus Robertson over rotating space-time. More such clashes seem certain in a twenty-first century poised for yet more audacious thinking about relativity. No book better prepares armchair physicists for the intellectual excitement ahead!" — Booklist
Praise for The State of the Universe:
"An intellectually exciting and eminently readable tour of cosmology."
-Joseph Silk, Savilian Professor of Astronomy, University of Oxford
"Ferreira does a good job of balancing the likely with the improbable."
"It is a clear, no-frills introduction to cosmology, just as Ferreira intended."
-Sky and Telescope
"Pedro Ferreira gives an expert tour of the universe we know and, even more fascinating, of the universe we don’t: a cosmos of unknown dark energy and dark matter, even dark dimensions. Beneath taut, economical prose, is warmth and charm. The result is a lovely and engaging book."
-Janna Levin, Professor of Physics at Columbia University and Barnard College.
How did one elegant theory incite a scientific revolution?
Physicists have been exploring, debating, and questioning the general theory of relativity ever since Albert Einstein first presented it in 1915. Their work has uncovered a number of the universe’s more surprising secrets, and many believe further wonders remain hidden within the theory’s tangle of equations, waiting to be exposed. In this sweeping narrative of science and culture, astrophysicist Pedro Ferreira brings general relativity to life through the story of the brilliant physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers who have taken up its challenge. For these scientists, the theory has been both a treasure trove and an enigma, fueling a century of intellectual struggle and triumph.. Einstein’s theory, which explains the relationships among gravity, space, and time, is possibly the most perfect intellectual achievement of modern physics, yet studying it has always been a controversial endeavor. Relativists were the target of persecution in Hitler’s Germany, hounded in Stalin’s Russia, and disdained in 1950s America. Even today, PhD students are warned that specializing in general relativity will make them unemployable. Despite these pitfalls, general relativity has flourished, delivering key insights into our understanding of the origin of time and the evolution of all the stars and galaxies in the cosmos. Its adherents have revealed what lies at the farthest reaches of the universe, shed light on the smallest scales of existence, and explained how the fabric of reality emerges. Dark matter, dark energy, black holes, and string theory are all progeny of Einstein’s theory. We are in the midst of a momentous transformation in modern physics. As scientists look farther and more clearly into space than ever before, The Perfect Theory
reveals the greater relevance of general relativity, showing us where it started, where it has led, and where it can still take us.