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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 Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 07-10-14

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.

75 of 75 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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 ? :-)

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Difficult to follow as an audio book

As a person who could never grasp high level math like calculus and most physics, I struggled to follow this without any visuals. Many times I had to listen to both short excerpts and entire sections multiple times before I was able to conceptualize the explanations. I looked up a few passages to read myself because I had trouble fully understanding the concept just hearing it aloud. It was well written for a person without much mathematics background to feel engaged and intrigued. This illustrated many of the concepts teachers, tutors, and friends were never able to explain while describing the amazing journey of discovery. Despite the excellent narration which made for a delightful journey, i would recommend buying a hard copy to fully enjoy the wonders in this tale.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sivan
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 02-16-15

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.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

wow the history physics

great balance of detail and understanding. only done four courses in physics and was able to follow along very easily

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful