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Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explained in 57-page book

By Staff | Feb 21, 2011

Sanibel resident and first-time author Robert Rightmire holds a copy of his book, "The Fascinating Universe of Einstein's Special Relativity."

Throughout most of his professional life, Robert Rightmire always wanted to understand the laws of the universe. But more specifically, Albert Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity,” which has both fascinated and puzzled some of the world’s greatest thinkers and most respected scholars for nearly a century.

In his book, “Relativity: The Special and General Theory,” published by Einstein in 1916, even the genius had to explain that the text was intended, as far as possible, “to give an exact insight into the theory of relativity to those readers who, from a general scientific and philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical apparatus of theoretical physics.”

The work presumes a standard of education corresponding to that of a university matriculation examination, and — despite the shortness of Einstein’s book — a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader.

Never one to contradict a genius, Rightmire had another idea.

“All my life, I’ve been fascinated with Einstein and his Theory of Relativity, but I was a chemist by trade and didn’t get into all of the complex mathematic strategies that physicists need,” said Rightmire. “So my first goal was just to understand relativity.”

Rightmire soon learned that the math wasn’t all that difficult, however, it was the ideas that were hard to grasp.

“I did a lot of reading,” he recalled. “I think I averaged about a page a day, because some of it is very difficult to learn. But the Theory of Special Relativity, it turns out, is quite simple once you understand it.”

So, relatively speaking, if you want to shake your world, this is just the book that will do it.

“The Fascinating Universe of Einstein’s Special Relativity,” released last year by the Strategic Book Group, breaks down the mathematic principals and concepts described in Einstein’s theories in an easy to learn format. The softcover book is also a less intimidating 57-pages long.

“I develop the theory of special relativity with simple mathematics,” said Rightmire, who has distributed copies of his book to high school and college students. “I use everyday language. I minimize the number of concepts and strange symbols. I teach the reader this simplified math.”

According to Rightmire, a resident of Sanibel since 1985, his mind-expanding book will open up new worlds for students of physics and mathematics. If you want to learn about vectors, complex numbers, matrix algebra, Einstein’s famous E equals MC squared — as well as some insights into string theory — it’s all here.

During his career, Rightmire was a chemical company’s Director of Research. As part of his job, he was responsible for translating complex technical information into journals that were easier to understand “without all of that technical jargon,” he explained. In his book, he does the same.

“The feedback I’ve been hearing has been very favorable,” said Rightmire. “The book uses simple, finite differences in tabular form to show people how Einstein’s theories work. This book can also help get past the barrier between the two.”

Presently, “The Fascinating Universe of Einstein’s Special Relativity” is available at the Sanibel Island Bookshop, located at 1571 Periwinkle Way.

The Brecksville, Ohio native, who first visited Sanibel in 1970 at the suggestion of a Standard Oil Company co-worker, has been married to his wife, Sandra, for 52 years.

“I’m working on my next book now, which will be about quantum mechanics,” Rightmire added. “It will use some of the same simplified math as this book, but it’s still a long way from completion.”