Foreword by the Author

I trust to have found a way of introducing the special and the general theory of relativity to high-school and undergraduate students, treating most of the aspects quantitatively. A certain familiarity with elementary physics is required. Occasionally calculus at high school level comes into this presentation. However, you can delegate these calculations to a modern pocket calculator - or just put your faith in the results presented by the author.

In any case this book is not primarily about calculations. On the contrary, the aim is to develop a profound ‘Anschauung’, an insight into the concepts of Einstein’s theories. To this end the diagrams of Lewis C. Epstein are used to visualize the phenomena. My experience is, that, after a short time, students think of these Epstein diagrams as self-evident ! Epstein diagrams are quantitatively correct, and they are simpler to draw and to evaluate than the widely used diagrams of the Minkowski type. Furthermore, they also help us to visualize fundamental aspects of the general theory of relativity. Beginning with the basic phenomena (the relativity of synchronicity, the relativity of duration and the relativity of length), we proceed carefully, step by step, to the more abstract Lorentz transformations, eventually arriving at the Schwarzschild metric. We will be able to verify most of the famous experiments performed to test the general theory of relativity.

Each chapter concludes with a page of “problems and suggestions”. The detailed solutions to these problems would require more than a hundred pages in print, thus creating a monstrous and expensive book. However, these solutions (as well as other material connected with the topic) are available to everyone at “”. Levin Gubler has designed this beautiful website for me in such a way I needed only provide the contents. I would like to take the opportunity now to cordially thank him for his work.

This book would not exist were it not for the assistance of many individuals. First of all I think of my high-school students whose reactions forced me to reconsider certain aspects and reformulate them. Then, in particular, I am indepted to the authors of two books: One of them is the well-known Lewis C. Epstein, the other is Horst Melcher, whose name is hardly familiar to our readers. Together they helped me to achieve a deeper understanding of the subject.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to three friends of mine, Alfred Hepp, Hans Buchmann and Hans Walser. They did a critical reading of early versions of the text, and their input contributed vastly to an improvement in style and content. Alfred Hepp and Jonathan Gubler helped me to improve the visual layout of the book, making it more attractive to the eye.

This English version of the book would never have been born without the many hours Samuel Edelstein invested in translating it from German into English. Many thanks! [These two words are Samuel's translation of several lines of mine. You should wonder about the exclamation mark. D.E.] However, I take full responsibility for any errors and ‘strange’ formulations that readers may encounter.

Further I would like to thank the Canton Thurgau and its tax payers. This small state of the Federal Republic of Switzerland provided me through means of a sabbatical the free time necessary to convert my accumulated documents and experiences into this book. It would be nice to think that many colleagues worldwide as well as their students should find it useful.

I would like to thank the ESO and the CERN for their friendly permission to use copyright protected pictures. The same goes for the cartoonists Sidney Harris and Oswald Sigg. “Insight-Press” in San Francisco generously granted permission to print the many drawings from Epstein’s book. The former ‘Hamburgische Electricitäts-Werke” (now Vattenfall Europe AG) granted permission for the use of the illustrations in chapter F3. Also Franz Embacher in Vienna has kindly allowed me to use his illustration of the Thirring-Lense-Effect.

I do admit that I have downloaded some pictures from the internet without legal clarification. Other illustrations were provided to me by students without indication of source (e.g. the autostereogram in E6). For most illustrations the source is however indicated. Of course many of the drawings, photographs and computer graphics come from the author.

Frauenfeld, mid of march 2007                          (German version)

Frauenfeld, end of october  2009                       (English version)                                        “David Eckstein”


Through their generous financial contributions the following companies, institutions and private persons have made it possible to publish the first German edition of this book:

sia Abrasives Industries, Frauenfeld

Kantonsschule Frauenfeld, Frauenfeld
Angelo Lombardi, Dr. sc. nat., Frauenfeld
Hans M. Streit, Dr. sc. nat., Frauenfeld
Stefan Casanova, dipl. natw. ETH, Frauenfeld