I am looking for a textbook on special relativity for school children. A background in simple vector based mechanics could be assumed. Primarily it needs to be readable at high school English reading level with minimal jargon, emphasising intuition and without introducing too much unnecessary mathematical baggage (tensors seem to be useful for GR but unnecessary in an intro to SR.) A more accessible alternative to vanilla SR mathematical calculations that directly models SR could also be a great bonus for aiding intuition, just as logs aid in the intuition of geometric progressions.

I've started reading Relativity and Common Sense, and it is amazingly readable, like a pop-science book, but in-depth and with real science. Bondi also uses doppler k-factors as a replacement for velocity which also aids intuition compared to matrices and gammas all over the place. Unfortunately, the e-book I've found is simply a PDF scan of the 40+ year old book and looks very dated, and there are only a few diagrams. Is there a modern equivalent that I should be looking at?

I've also looked at Algebra of Physical Space (Clifford Algebra) as an accessible methodology. It looks very easy to use, but I can't find a good textbook written for beginners. Unfortunately most of the material I've found are papers focussing on APS and convincing existing practitioners to convert to APS rather than a gentle introduction to SR that happens to use APS.

P.s. I'm not wanting to start a flame war about mathematical models of SR, I would just regard an intuitive mathematical model to be a bonus. These are school kids, they are not going to work at LHC next year.

To moderators: sorry that this question might not have a single clean-cut answer, but I expect that the answers will be based on experience and professional judgement rather than uninformed opinion :-)

Similar question, for a textbook for a different purpose:

Textbook on the Geometry of Special Relativity


An Illustrated Guide to Relativity - Tatsu Takeuchi

A very enjoyable book on special relativity for beginners. It covers the basics (Lorentz transforms, length contraction, time dilation, velocity addition, twin paradox,...) using spacetime diagrams rather than equations. It's a fun and intuitive introduction.

To give you an idea: this is an illustration of relativistic velocity addition:

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, it looks really interesting. Do you do the calculations visually then, or does it not worry much about calculations? $\endgroup$ – Richard Dec 10 '14 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard Yes, the calculations are done visually, by reading the coordinates off the diagrams. The actual equations are given in end notes and exercises. I've added an illustration. $\endgroup$ – Pulsar Dec 10 '14 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ Book has arrived :-) There are more diagrams than writing, but the writing is not rushed. It is just very focussed on keeping it simple. Bondi is much more conversational and goes into more detail about the concepts, and let's you construct relativity via Doppler Shifts as a logical inevitability. Takeuchi starts with Lorentz transformations and tells you how to work everything out. The two approaches are almost opposite, but both very well done. For my kids, because of all the diagrams, Takeuchi will definitely be the winner. $\endgroup$ – Richard Dec 17 '14 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Richard I'm glad to be of help. Good luck with your classes. $\endgroup$ – Pulsar Dec 17 '14 at 12:22

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