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The Perfect Theory Audiobook

The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity

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Publisher's Summary

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, doctorate 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.

©2014 Pedro G. Ferreira (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (495 )
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4.4 (450 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 07-10-14
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 07-10-14 Member Since 2016

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "A Love Letter to General Relativity"

    This is quite an unusual science book, quaint and pleasant. The author’s love of relativity clearly comes through in the rich writing and narration. The book contains yet another history of modern physics, but is unusual in having General Relativity as the focal point of the historical developments. This is unusual because General Relativity wasn’t actually such a focal point, quantum physics and particle physics were at center stage and General Relativity was a side-player at best. Yet, this odd viewpoint is still enjoyable and interesting. This is also one of the least equation burdened book in this genre.

    Unfortunately, General Relativity is not really a perfect theory. We know the theory must be wrong. The theory is non-quantum and stubbornly refuses to quantize. The book was not very thought provoking, as it praised General Relativity instead of delving into its weaknesses. Certainly it is exploring the weaknesses and assumptions of Relativity that will lead to unification.

    Often books with lots of science and math don’t do well in audible format. This book is not about the science or math of the theory, but instead describes the personalities and stories surrounding General Relativity. This works very well in audible format and the narration is excellent, slow, clear and even passionate.

    69 of 69 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Johnson 09-09-14 Member Since 2012

    rower55

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    "Biography of Einstein's Relativity"

    This is a beautiful, human account that was a great surprise to me and I have listened to it about 4 times. It has the basic science and the human story as well which makes it so much more intelligible and personally valuable. This is an incredible story when you consider all that has been involved over the past century.
    At this level: What is an *equation*? In and of itself what is the deepest knowledge that Relativity is pointing out to us ? :-)

    23 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randell 04-15-15
    Randell 04-15-15
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    "Understanding General Relativity"

    An excellent work that helped me understand general relativity better and provided good background content. Narrator was very good and easy to understand.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trav 01-09-15
    Trav 01-09-15

    Re Audible: I rate A-F based on 10-pt scale (e.g. 90-100 = A = *****). I try not to be too soft on ratings, or needlessly give F's.

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    "Great if interested in history.. not theory"
    What did you like best about The Perfect Theory? What did you like least?

    The performance was very well done. There are some interesting bits regarding theoretical physics. My main complaint is something that may be a complement in someone else's eyes. I thought there was way too much meandering through the history of it all (e.g. background stories of physicists). It provides good information regarding the context in which much of theoretical physics developed, but was lacking the details of the physics itself that I was looking for. As a result, I felt it kind of dragged.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Pedro G. Ferreira again?

    Probably not, but that's not to say that someone else wouldn't like it.


    25 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard United States 07-28-14
    Richard United States 07-28-14 Member Since 2012

    Musical Engineer

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    "Excellent"
    If you could sum up The Perfect Theory in three words, what would they be?

    Just the right speed and detail. Nice mix of history, science, and technical.
    I'm sorry for the lack of details - I'm in a hurry but if you want to know about GR - the history and science and you're a specialist, this is a great read.


    What did you like best about this story?

    General relativity, Albert Einstein, etc. :-)


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Looking for more like this

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick 12-21-15
    Patrick 12-21-15 Member Since 2014

    Making my way through all the US President a biography at a time.

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    "So easy to absorb but should it be..."

    This is a skilfully executed book. It trims the details of both the stories of the men & women it is drawn from for narrative succinctness and leaves the theories at a high level so they are like characters in the story. This accounts for the lost star yet (4 out of 5) but this might be unfair give the brevity and scope. I'd have liked more of these things yet doing so would likely have lost other readers and even more important the fluidity.

    The author uses the planet of Vulcan (used to explain Mercury's precession) story to link the Newtonian physics upheaval by Einstein's General Relativity (GR) to the current story of Dark Matter as perhaps a similar defence by the scientific establishment. The book is about this upheaval and the revolution and failed coups in GR. It is an excellent book that gets you thinking about our physical world in a highly accessible way.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sivan Houston, TX, United States 02-16-15
    Sivan Houston, TX, United States 02-16-15 Member Since 2013
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    "A good overview of relativity"

    Narration was perfect, you need a slow pace with this sort of topic. This book is a history lesson on relativity. It doesn't overstay it's welcome. It's a good length. I recommend it as part of your library regarding cosmology.

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
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    Gerald 01-31-15
    Gerald 01-31-15 Member Since 2013

    Focused on discovering errors in my thought processes

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    "History of General Relativity"

    One of those books one must revisit yearly! I find myself constantly replaying numerous chapters in hopes of retaining some little detail l could then share in future conversations.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
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    Remsen Avenue Boy Brooklyn NY 04-14-15
    Remsen Avenue Boy Brooklyn NY 04-14-15 Member Since 2015

    Canarsie Brooklyn, what more can I say

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    "Great stuff"

    From Euclid to loop quantum gravity
    This audio book takes you on a scenic journey
    Through the minds and works of Great physicists
    And mathematicians
    A must for your library

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan Love CLEARFIELD, UT, United States 06-06-16
    Jonathan Love CLEARFIELD, UT, United States 06-06-16 Member Since 2016

    My two favorite topics are Baseball and Military History. But my favorite books of all time are Starship Troopers and Ready Player One.

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    "A Bit Esoteric for a Wide Audience Publication"

    I think I was looking more for a book to present relativity to the layman. Although I consider myself above-average intelligence, I was often lost in the descriptions that the author was presenting. There were a few analogies to help one understand the complex science, but not enough to really be consumable to a general audience.

    I did thoroughly enjoy the history of relativity, especially the key players and the on-again-off-again love affair with Einstein's theory, but that's essentially where my full understanding started and stopped. Perhaps a non-audio version would have helped me to better understand the science, but really the book isn't meant to de-mystify relativity. Rather, it's for those who already conceptually understand it and, therefore to learn how we got to where we are today with it. I did enjoy the inexorable tie-in to String Theory and Gravity Waves, something heretofore I didn't know were necessarily related.

    The narrator was great, but I gave only three stars due to the complexity in trying to understand the presentation in an audio format.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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