Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interview with popular science writer Ira Mark Egdall

Today’s interview is with popular science writer Ira Mark Egdall as he tours his book, Einstein Relatively Simple: Our Universe Revealed in Everyday Language.

During his tour, Ira will be giving away 2 hard copy books, 2 soft copy books (US Only), and 2 e-books (open internationally), to a total of 6 lucky winners. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below.
Ira Mark Egdall is also the author of the eBook Unsung Heroes of the Universe and a popular science writer for He is a retired aerospace program manager with an undergraduate degree in physics from Northeastern University. Mark now teaches lay courses in modern physics at Lifelong Learning Institutes at Florida International University, the University of Miami, and Nova Southeastern University. He also gives entertaining talks on Einstein and time travel. When not thinking about physics, Mark spends his time playing with his grandchildren and driving his wife of 45 years crazy.

Welcome, Ira. Please tell us about your current release.
Einstein Relatively Simple brings together for the first time an exceptionally clear explanation of both special and general relativity. It is for people who always wanted to understand Einstein’s ideas but never thought it possible.

Told with humor, enthusiasm, and rare clarity, this entertaining book reveals how a former high school drop-out revolutionized our concepts of space and time. From E=mc2 and everyday time travel to black holes and the big bang, the book takes us all, regardless of any scientific background, on a mindboggling journey through the depths of Einstein's universe.

Along the way, we track Einstein through the perils and triumphs of his life — follow his thinking, his logic, and his insights — and chronicle the audacity, imagination, and sheer genius of the man recognized as the greatest scientist of the modern era.

Einstein Relatively Simple is now available as an eBook at (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and  Kobo. Hard-cover and soft-cover print books will be available in the U.S. in mid-March, 2014.

What inspired you to write this book?
I feel everyone should know about the strange new reality revealed by Albert Einstein's ideas, not just the experts. When I began teaching relativity to lay students, I had difficulty finding a book that was both thorough and at a level my students could truly comprehend.  So I wrote Einstein Relatively Simple -- hopefully as the definitive book on Einstein’s theories for the non-expert -- one that is comprehensive, entertaining, and most important, understandable.

Excerpt from Einstein Relatively Simple: Our Universe Revealed in Everyday Language:


All knowledge begins in wonder.

In June of 1905, former high-school drop-out and lowly patent clerk  Albert Einstein published a paper in the German Annals of Physics which revolutionized our understanding of space and time. What came to be known as the theory of special relativity predicted a strange new universe where time slows and space shrinks with motion.

In that same journal, Einstein proposed light comes in discreet packets of energy we now call photons. Along with Max Planck’s work, this insight sparked the quantum revolution. This in turn set off the greatest technological revolution in human history — enabling the invention of television, transistors, electronic digital computers, cell phones, digital cameras, lasers, the electron microscope, atomic clocks, MRI, sonograms, and many more modern-day devices.

Einstein’s follow-up article in September of 1905 proposed that mass and energy are equivalent. His famous equation, E = mc2, came to solve one of the great mysteries of modern science — how the Sun and stars shine. Some four decades later, Einstein’s breakthrough ushered in the atomic age.

In December of 1915, Albert Einstein — now Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Berlin — surpassed his already staggering accomplishments. In the midst of the turmoil and hardships of World War I, he produced his life’s masterpiece: a new theory of gravity. His audacious general theory of relativity revealed a cosmos beyond our wildest imagination. It predicted phenomena so bizarre even Einstein initially doubted their existence — black holes which trap light and stop time, wormholes which form gravitational time machines, the expansion of space itself, and the birth of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago in the ultimate cosmic event: the Big Bang.

Not since Isaac Newton had a single physicist attained such monumental breakthroughs, and no scientist since has matched his breathtaking achievements. In recognition, TIME magazine selected Albert Einstein above such luminaries as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Mohandas Gandhi, as the “Person of the Century” — the single individual with the most significant impact on the 20th century.

Albert Einstein has long since passed from this corporal world. Yet his fame lives on. His discoveries inspire today’s generation of physicists — providing stepping stones to a new understanding of the cosmos and perhaps someday a unified theory of all physics. His brilliance, independence of mind, and persistence continue to be an inspiration to us all. He remains the iconic figure of science whose genius transcends the limits of human understanding.

So come explore how an unknown patent clerk came to develop a new theory of time and space, to supplant the illustrious Isaac Newton with a new conception of gravity. Along the way we will examine the mind of Albert Einstein, who preferred to think in pictures rather than words, follow his thinking, his logic, and his insights.

To quote one of my students; “You’ll never look at the universe the same way again!”

What exciting project are you working on next?
My next book project is on our mysterious "fine-tuned" universe, and the profound scientific and religious questions it raises. Scientists have uncovered a remarkable set of cosmic coincidences which appear vital for the existence of life as we know it. They range from the quantum level to parameters on the scale of the universe. Change a single parameter's value by the slightest amount and we wouldn't be here. Some interpret this as evidence for a higher power. Others, such as Stephen Hawking, propose we are one of a number of parallel universes -- ours just happens to be right for life. My goal is a book which presents both sides of the argument in easy to understand, everyday language, and hopefully give the reader a greater scientific and spiritual understanding of our cosmos.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I've always loved to write -- whether it was stories about "My Cat Suzy" when I was in grammar school,  poetry when I was a teen, technical proposals when I was an aerospace program manager, or today's science articles for I didn't consider myself an author until World Scientific said they wanted to publish Einstein Relatively Simple, my first full-length book. I felt like Pinocchio when the fairy godmother waved her wand -- now I was a real writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
On a typical day, I start writing after breakfast, around 9 am, work till about 11:30 am, then  exercise (swim, walk, bike, or lift weights)  -- which is very important. I then shower and have lunch. I write some more from about 1:30 to 5:30 pm, eat supper, and write for another hour and a half or so after that. Occasionally, I write late into the evening. I often sneak in a nap in the afternoon.

Sometimes what I call writing is daydreaming or staring at the computer screen or sneaking off to some other distraction because at that moment I've got nothing. But somehow, I always manage to drag myself back to the keyboard and put actual words together in coherent (and incoherent) sentences and paragraphs. Lately I have been trying to forgive myself more, accept my foibles, and enjoy the process. All in all, I consider myself very fortunate and love my life as a writer and teacher.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
The famous picture of Einstein with his tongue sticking out faces me when I write. It  gives me inspiration and is a constant reminder not to take myself too seriously.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Oh. boy. I guess I first wanted to be a cowboy like Roy Rodgers, I used to squint my eyes to try and look like him. 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you (or someone you know) is interested in a book which explains Einstein's ideas in a way you can really understand, please check out Einstein Relatively Simple.

LinkedIn: Mark Egdall

Goodreads: Ira Mark Egdall

BookBlogs:  Ira Mark Egdall

LibraryThing: IraMarkEgdall    

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BookItBK Walker said...

Thank you so much for hosting Ira on the last day of his tour.

Mark Egdall said...

Thank you, Lisa, for hosting my book!

Mark Egdall said...

thank you, Lisa, for hosting my book!