Relativity Book Summary - Relativity Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro
00:00

Relativity summary

Albert Einstein

The Special and the General Theory

4.7 (142 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Relativity by Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of space, time, and gravity. This groundbreaking work presents complex scientific concepts in a clear and accessible manner, making it a must-read for anyone interested in the mysteries of the universe.

Table of Contents

    Relativity
    Summary of 4 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 4

    Understanding the speed of light

    In the late 1800s, scientists were puzzled. Using special tools, American physicists Albert A. Michelson and Edward W. Morley measured light's speed in different directions as Earth moved. Their results? Light always traveled at the same speed – no matter how Earth moved. But how could this be, you might be asking? It's like driving a car and turning on the headlights – you'd think the light would move faster if the car was speeding, right? Well, it turns out this isn’t the case.

    Here’s where Einstein's genius shines. Instead of assuming there was an error in the Michelson-Morley experiment, he suggested a groundbreaking idea: the speed of light remains constant for all observers, no matter their relative motion. In essence, light doesn't follow our common sense based on everyday experiences – it has its own set of rules.

    Now, you might be wondering, how does this idea of constant light speed play out in real-world scenarios? To see how this works, imagine two friends, Alice and Bob. Alice is on a train station platform, and Bob is in a fast-moving bullet train. Both of them have stopwatches. When the train speeds past Alice, they both start their stopwatches at the exact same instant. Here's where things get strange – if Alice could magically look into the train and see Bob's stopwatch, she'd notice that it seems to be ticking more slowly compared to hers. It's not that her eyes are deceiving her or that there's some trick of the light – it's a genuine difference in the passage of time.

    This weird phenomenon is because of something called time dilation, which is predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. According to this theory, as objects – like the bullet train – move really fast, close to the speed of light, time for them seems to slow compared to objects that are stationary or moving more slowly. So, from Alice's viewpoint on the platform, Bob's time on the moving train is actually going slower. However, from Bob's perspective inside the train, everything feels normal – it's as if he's not moving at all and time is ticking away as usual. But if he looked out and could see Alice's stopwatch, he would think hers was running faster.

    For centuries, we clung to the Newtonian notion that time is absolute, ticking away the same for everyone, everywhere. Yet Einstein challenged this foundational idea by figuring out that the faster something moves, the slower its time appears to pass compared to something that's not moving as fast. He called this spacetime – a fusion of space and time. In Einstein's universe, time could stretch and squeeze, affected by one's relative motion.

    The consequences of this revelation were profound. For example, if you were to journey into space at near-light speeds and then return to Earth, you might find that less time has passed for you than for those you left behind.

    But here's where things get even stranger. Let’s return to Alice and Bob. From Alice’s point of view, as Bob’s train speeds past, it isn’t just time that’s affected. The train itself appears contracted, squished in its direction of motion. It's shorter than when it's at rest! And once again, this isn’t an optical illusion – it's one of the bizarre yet fundamental truths of our universe.

    As we venture further into Einstein's universe, remember this: What might at first seem impossible or absurd can, with a shift in perspective, unveil the underlying fabric of reality. In the next couple blinks, we’ll peel back the layers of Einstein's revelations – and we'll see that space, time, and the very nature of reality aren't quite what we once believed them to be. Let’s continue.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Relativity?

    Key ideas in Relativity

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Relativity about?

    Relativity (1916) plunges you into the revolutionary world of physics, challenging your perceptions of space, time, and the cosmos. Dive deep into the groundbreaking ideas that reshaped our understanding of the universe. It's not just a scientific journey – it's a transformative experience that will redefine the reality you live in.

    Relativity Review

    Relativity (1916) by Albert Einstein is a fascinating exploration of the theory that revolutionized our understanding of the physical world. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With brilliant clarity, the book explains Einstein's groundbreaking theory of relativity, bringing complex concepts within reach of the average reader.
    • The book challenges conventional thinking and offers a bold new perspective on space, time, and gravity, expanding our understanding of the universe.
    • Through simple thought experiments and logical reasoning, Einstein presents his ideas in a way that is both intellectually stimulating and captivating, making a thought-provoking read.

    Who should read Relativity?

    • Science enthusiasts curious about the universe's fundamentals
    • Physics students seeking foundational knowledge
    • Thinkers intrigued by groundbreaking ideas

    About the Author

    Albert Einstein (1879–1955), a physicist of unparalleled genius, reshaped our understanding of the universe with his theory of relativity. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, he became an iconic figure transcending the world of science. Beyond physics, Einstein was a passionate advocate for peace, education, and civil rights.

    Categories with Relativity

    Book summaries like Relativity

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    31 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial

    Relativity FAQs 

    What is the main message of Relativity?

    The main message of Relativity is that space and time are not fixed, but instead are relative and dependent on an observer's motion and gravity.

    How long does it take to read Relativity?

    The reading time for Relativity varies depending on the reader's pace. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Relativity a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Relativity is an insightful book that sheds light on the fundamental principles that govern the universe. It's definitely worth reading for anyone interested in physics and science.

    Who is the author of Relativity?

    The author of Relativity is Albert Einstein.

    What to read after Relativity?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Relativity, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Gravity by Nicholas Mee
    • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
    • The Power of Neurodiversity by Thomas Armstrong
    • Becoming FDR by Jonathan Darman
    • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
    • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
    • On the Origin of Time by Thomas Hertog
    • The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
    • Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli