Lightning Strikes Twice

kinematics_martinez-shelflifeYou don’t have to be an Einstein to learn more about Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, thanks to Alberto Martínez’s accessible writing style in his new book titled “Kinematics: The Lost Origins of Einstein’s Relativity” published by Johns Hopkins University Press 2009.

Martínez, an assistant professor in the Department of History, will present a talk on the process of writing and publishing his new book at The University of Texas History of Science Colloquium from noon to 2 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, in GAR 1.102.

Whereas various historians have studied the origins of Einstein’s theory in relation to optics, electricity, and magnetism, none had analyzed its roots in the context of kinematics- the science of motion. Martínez explains that the book is the product of 15 years of research. “By contrast to works that are thick on conjectures, I worked to assemble the most extensive collection of documentary sources and to compose a ‘mosaic’ account of Einstein’s path to relativity.”

The cover of the book uses artwork designed by the author. “Basically, in Bern on 1905, early on a May morning, Einstein woke up with a breakthrough idea: events that are simultaneous to one observer might not be simultaneous to another,” Martínez says. “He analyzed this notion by asking himself, how would we know whether lightning bolts strike distant places at the same time? This question led him to the relativity of time.” Accordingly, the cover of Martínez’s book illustrates that imaginary view: it shows an early morning view of the Swiss capital, Bern, with two lightning bolts striking at once.