The whole structure of space and time which Newton imagined, an absolute coordinate system, has been abandoned in favour of a curved space-time formulation. His achievements in so many papers in such a short period of time seems almost superhuman. But he was just human, right? Do we risk exaggerating his genius sometimes? He was certainly very human and had many failings as well as an extraordinary scientific imagination. There were a few letters to his wife, and he published a little bit.
There is this feeling that it came out of the blue. What we do know is what he published in and that he was fascinated by contradictions in physics. From that, he concluded that light always moves at a constant speed — independent of the coordinate system you were using to measure it with. Another contradiction that fascinated him was to do with magnetism and electric charge.
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He imagined that if you had a stationary charge observed by a stationary observer, there would be no magnetic field which could be observed with a compass. So which was true? And he did resolve it, with his theory of relativity. Yes, he did. It was fruitful for his imagination.
He liked contradictions and found them stimulating. With practically no mathematics, he manages to show how various contradictions were perceived by Einstein and then used to create these various papers during that year. Rigden is very good at explaining it in clear language with historical anecdotes nicely integrated into the text. This is a collection of correspondence between Einstein and his friend, the German physicist, Max Born. What do they talk about in the letters? It was a long friendship. It began with physics but developed into a relationship with many other overtones to do with politics, ethics, and the state of Germany during those years.
They disagreed frequently and they disagreed most famously about quantum theory. During that time, Born escaped from Germany and went to Edinburgh and became a professor. We learn a lot. Einstein can be quite inhuman. His family life was not particularly happy. He divorced his first wife and had a rather difficult relationship with his children. This comes into the book quite a lot because Born is a warmer personality than Einstein. The contrast is interesting.
What kind of personality does come across then? Physics dominated his life. The second aspect that dominated his life was humanity. He had a great passion to support what he regarded as just political causes. He said himself that that was not associated with a love of individuals.
He was very strongly in favour of the idea of world government. After the Second World War, he thought that was the only hope for world peace and to avoid another war. There should be a military-style organisation with the great powers all taking a role in it and preventing war. This is a book on an investigation of how the FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, spied on Einstein for 23 years. What happened exactly? It started in the s when Einstein moved to the United States. He had extremely mixed feelings about Russia and about communism.
But the FBI and many right-wing Americans thought that he was. So, even after he became an American citizen in , he was regarded with suspicion by them. He wrote a letter to President Roosevelt in advocating the building of an atomic bomb, along with some other physicists, which was taken seriously by the American government and Roosevelt.
Obviously other factors were involved as well, Einstein was not the only influence, but he was quite important. But even though he was involved in supporting this project, he was not allowed to have access to any secret documents. The army, who ran the Manhattan Project, did not give him security clearance. Edgar Hoover was convinced he was a security risk and might be leaking information to the Russians. When the Klaus Fuchs spy case happened—around —Hoover became even more convinced that Einstein was a risk. He was hoping to prove that Einstein was a communist and that he might be deported from the United States.
That was a serious project of the FBI and the immigration service for five years between and his death in In fact, some FBI agents—even though they were in the employment of the agency—were not aware about this secret file. Hoover knew that if it got out it would cause tremendous embarrassment to the United States government — this world famous scientist being pursued as a potential spy. He managed to keep the secret but how it was kept in the decades after the s and s is extraordinary and quite alarming, I think.
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Was this campaign a complete failure? Einstein thought he might have to go to jail because he was recommending to people that they should not testify to congressional committees about their political views. He said that courage was needed by American intellectuals otherwise they would become slaves. That is what he felt the American government was trying to do during the Red Scare of the s.
It was. It is quite moving to read his own private views and worries but he was quite old by then. He was prepared to stand up because he felt the situation had become so like Nazi Germany in the s. He really felt that having lived through the rise of Nazi Germany, he had a duty to warn Americans that the same thing might happen with McCarthyism. I think you can say he was a real factor in the fall of McCarthy.
Only one factor, but he was important. After the fall of McCarthy, Hoover realized there was no point in pursuing Einstein anymore. One irony is that much of the file consists of associations to which Einstein had lent his name but very little of it consists of his views. As Fred Jerome points out, if Hoover had been more of a reader of Einstein he would have found much more evidence of his radicalism than by looking at his political associations. Many people did, but Einstein always refused. He was invited many times but he was opposed to many aspects of Stalin and the Soviet regime.
People tried to encourage him to go. There was even a false report that he had visited which was used against him by some Americans. But it was a false report. He did not visit the Soviet Union. What picture do we get from this Albert Einstein book, then, of his political views? There were a couple of books before that but this is the first collection in which everything is there that matters: letters, public statements, all of course in English many of them were originally in German. He was a committed pacifist until and made a number of provocative speeches about pacifism.
After he recognised what the Nazis stood for, he immediately changed his mind and said that there was no possibility of resisting Nazism without military force. He was prescient. Long before many people had realised what a risk to world peace Nazi Germany posed, Einstein recognised it and argued that the countries of the West would have to arm themselves and fight, eventually. Get the weekly Five Books newsletter. He supported the founding of Israel but persistently said to Israelis that they would have to find an ethical solution to their relationship with the Arabs.
Otherwise, the whole state would fail and they had a duty to do so. But he was certainly regarded seriously by the Israelis as a thinker and as an activist. Then, on the matter on world-government, in , it made sense. The United Nations had just started but they were already quarrelling in the Security Council. Einstein said the only way of controlling nationalism was by having a central, military authority. He tried to get both America and the Soviet Union and the British and some other nations involved in that, on the model of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which he had grown up under.
Of course it failed — but that was, I suppose, inevitable in the Cold War. His honesty and his courage do make me think.
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And he wrote well. He had a pungent style, his writing is not woolly, and he had a sense of history too. He also had a wonderful sense of humour. That comes through in virtually everything he writes about politics and human behaviour. Sometimes he was pretty caustic but he was often just gently ironic. I think impudence and defiance of authority are the defining features of his political statements. I find that, on the whole, admirable.
That is something that seems to run through his scientific thinking and his political views. He was a rebel, against orthodoxy of all kinds. He was trying to unify electromagnetism and gravitation — in other words, to extend general relativity to an even more universal understanding of the universe. And some of them said so — Bohr, in particular.
Niels Bohr came to Princeton in and Einstein had plenty of opportunity to meet him and talk to his old friend. They spent quite a lot of time ignoring each other. Einstein, however, had a question. It had bothered him for ten years, from the time he was a year-old student in Aarau, Switzerland, until one fateful evening in May Walking home from work, Einstein fell into conversation with Michele Besso, a fellow physicist and his best friend at the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, where they were both clerks.
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Forty years earlier, the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell had demonstrated that the speed of light is constant. If the person at the top of the mast sends a light signal straight down while the ship is moving, where will it land? For Einstein as well as Galileo, it lands at the base of the mast. From your point of view on the dock, the base of the mast will have moved out from under the top of the mast during the descent, as it did when the rock was falling. This means that the distance the light has traveled, from your point of view, has lengthened. The speed of light is always , miles per second.
In the case of a beam of light, the speed is always , miles per second, so if you change the distance that the beam of light travels, you also have to change the time. That means the time on board the ship appeared to be passing more slowly than on the dock. The reverse, Einstein knew, would also have to be true. To the sailor, the time onshore would appear to be passing more slowly.
And there we have it: a new principle of relativity. The difference between the two is in the math, and the math is the world. This was pretty heady stuff for a year-old clerk who only a couple of weeks earlier had submitted his doctoral thesis to the University of Zurich. Einstein would keep his day job at the patent office until , but his obscurity was over, at least among physicists. Within a year of completing his relativity paper, his ideas were being debated by some of the most prominent scientists in Germany.
He knew that his special relativity theory applied only to the relationship between a body at rest and a body moving at a constant velocity. What about bodies moving at changing velocities? Unlike the beam of light, which moves at a constant velocity, the falling man would be accelerating. But in another sense, he would also be at rest. Throughout the universe, every scrap of matter would be exerting its exquisitely predictable influence on the man, through gravity.
And there we have it: another principle of relativity, called general relativity. After his vision, however, another eight years would pass before Einstein worked out the equations to support it. Einstein told friends that when he finally figured out the math to demonstrate general relativity in , something burst inside him. Einstein carried his writings on general relativity to the Netherlands, and from there a physicist friend forwarded them across the North Sea to England, where they eventually reached Arthur Eddington, perhaps the only astronomer in the world with the political clout and scientific prominence sufficient to mobilize wartime resources and to put general relativity to the test.
In late September, Einstein got a telegram saying that the eclipse results matched his predictions. In October, he accepted the congratulations of the most prominent physicists on the Continent at a meeting in Amsterdam. Then he went home to Berlin. Newtonian Ideas Overthrown. The Royal Society president and the discoverer of the electron, J. Because the public learned about special relativity and general relativity at the same time, says Weart, the cult of Einstein coalesced quickly. And all this celebrity, British astronomer W.
To many, Einstein became a symbol of postwar rapprochement and a return to reason. That must count as one of the most moral acts of that time. But some critics of relativity argued that Einstein was merely one more anarchist fueling the funeral pyres of civilization. Avisceral, lifelong anti-authoritarian, he had renounced his German citizenship at age 16 rather than subject himself to mandatory military service. Now, in the nascent WeimarRepublic, Einstein, a Jew, found himself portrayed as a villain by swastika-sporting German nationalists and as a hero by internationalists.
After Hitler rose to power in , Einstein abandoned Germany for good. He accepted an appointment to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he lived in a modest house on Mercer Street until his death from a ruptured abdominal aneurysm at age 76 in April Throughout his public years, Einstein embodied contradictions.
A pacifist, he would advocate the construction of the atomic bomb. He argued for a world without borders, and campaigned for the establishment of the state of Israel—so much so that in he was invited to be its president. He was a genius, puttering absent-mindedly around his house in Princeton, and he was a joker, sticking out his tongue for a photographer. It was their scale. They were all larger than life, and so therefore, the thinking went, must he be, too.
His first marriage had ended in divorce, a second, to a cousin, in her death, nearly two decades before his. He fathered one illegitimate daughter, who is thought to have been given up for adoption and is lost to history, and two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard. One of them, Eduard, suffered from schizophrenia. Hans Albert taught engineering at UC Berkeley. It was a fate Einstein hated. And maybe there was. Once the Nazis were defeated, Einstein would become not all things to all people but one thing to all people: a saint. The halo of white hair helped. But in time his hair flew, like a mind untethered, while the bags under his eyes deepened, as if from the burden of looking too hard and seeing too much.
Long before the public beatified Einstein, his fellow physicists had begun to question his infallibility. Ayear later Einstein acknowledged that the error had in fact been his, yet he remained unrepentant. Einstein frequently and famously objected to the central tenet of quantum theory—that the subatomic world operates according to statistical probabilities rather than cause-and-effect certainties.
Secrets of the Old One - Einstein, | Jeremy Bernstein | Springer
Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago and a director for mathematical and physical sciences at the National Science Foundation. But he was also single-minded about finding a unified field theory, and from on, his career was that of a mere mortal. And God plays dice. And there have been other startling ramifications of relativity theory, such as black holes, which can be created by collapsed stars with masses so great that their gravitational force swallows everything in their vicinity, including light. Scientists are still asking questions that Einstein made possible: What powered the big bang?
What happens to space, time and matter at the edge of a black hole? Will, a physicist at WashingtonUniversity in St. For his part, Einstein never quite knew what hit him. I never yet heard a truly convincing answer to this question. Social scientist Bernard H. The halo has helped maintain the myth, keeping Einstein a presence on magazine covers and newspaper front pages, on posters and postcards, coffee mugs, baseball caps, T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and, based on a Google search, 23, Internet sites. In reinventing relativity, Einstein also reinvented nothing less than the way we see the universe.
For thousands of years, astronomers and mathematicians had studied the motions of bodies in the night sky, then searched for equations to match them. Einstein did the reverse. He started with idle musings and scratches on paper and wound up pointing toward phenomena previously unimaginable and still unfathomable. Miller of UniversityCollege, London. Shortly after completing his paper on special relativity, in , Einstein realized his equations applied to more than space and time.