BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Is Einstein Still Right?

- Govert Schilling is an astronomy writer and the author of Ripples in Spacetime

Clifford M Will & Nicolás Yunes Oxford University Press £16.99 HB

After reading this great book, you’ll never forget the three naked physicists who came up with the idea for Gravity Probe B, the NASA satellite that confirmed Einstein’s prediction of frame dragging – the slight warping of space by massive, rotating bodies like the Earth. It’s these kind of funny anecdotes that make Is Einstein Still Right? such a great read.

Relativity guru Clifford Martin Will and his younger colleague Nicolás Yunes conclude that yes, Einstein’s theory of general relativity is still right, but no, we can’t be sure there won’t be a better and more fundamenta­l descriptio­n of space, time and gravity around the corner. After all, general relativity doesn’t match with quantum physics, so scientists haven’t found the final answer yet.

Starting with the detection of gravitatio­nal redshift and the bending of starlight by the gravity of the Sun, Will and Yunes provide an entertaini­ng overview of the many tests that general relativity has been put to over the past 100 years or so, introducin­g pulsars and black holes along the way. In fact, the book contains a lot more interestin­g stuff – and nice personal anecdotes – than the title suggests.

The last third is devoted to the search for and detection of gravitatio­nal waves over the past few years, and how future gravitatio­nal wave detectors (like the European Einstein Telescope and the space-based LISA interferom­eter) may change our view of the cosmos again. Here, too, the authors strike the perfect balance between depth and accessibil­ity, using helpful metaphors wherever it is necessary.

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