Monday, July 5, 2010

Book Nook - Einstein

Hi readers,

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson is a well-researched, well-written look into Albert Einstein's life.  I can't help but feel rather intimidated to "review" such a tome on such an iconic genius, so I shall be offering the CliffsNotes version instead.  So, here goes:

-Einstein never failed math, as the rumor goes ("I never failed in mathematics....before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus" page 16).  He did, however, drop out of high school, promising his parents that he would continue his studies & try to get into the Zurich Polytechnic (page 24).

Do you like all the quotes & page references?  I'm feeling quite scholarly!  Anyway, continuing on:

-Einstein loved to play the violin & in the many times it's mentioned in the book, it sounds like he excelled at it.  According to Einstein, "Mozart's music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe itself" (page14).

-Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, had a daughter, Lieserl, before they were married.  Worried that this would damage Einstein's budding career, they kept the baby a secret.  Lieserl was raised by a friend of Maric's and historians suspect she died of scarlet fever in 1903.  Einstein never saw her, nor told any of his friends or family about her.

-Einstein developed many of his theories by doing thought experiments.  In his most famous thought experiment, which he used for the Theory of Relativity, he imagined "if a person could run after a light wave with the same speed as light, you would have a wave arrangement which could be completely independent of time" (page26). There is much to be said for taking it easy & letting your brain just think!

-Einstein's 2nd son, Eduard, was institutionalized for schizophrenia for much of his adult life.  Einstein had a poor relationship with him and their visits were tense.

-Einstein's 2nd wife was Elsa Einstein, who happened to be his first cousin.  They didn't have any children together, but Einstein loved her 2 daughters from her first marriage very much.

-When Einstein started to become a celebrity, Elsa "began charging a fee to photograph him, and she donated the money to charities that fed hungry children in Vienna and elsewhere" (page 269).

-Einstein's early successes came "in part from his rebelliousness.  There was a link between his creativity and his willingness to defy authority.  He had no sentimental attachment to the old order, thus was energized by upending it" (page 317).

-Time travel can only be to the future, not to the past.  I couldn't find where this is in the book, but I remember reading it & thinking it was interesting.  I googled this & found a good quote by Stephen Hawking that basically states, if we could travel back to the past, where are all the time tourists from the future?

-Einstein had a lot of lifelong friends, too many to list.  They were both scientific colleagues and good friends.

-After his early successes, Einstein spent the latter part of his career searching for a unified field theory, which he never finished.  In fact, he was writing equations on his deathbed.

-The pathologist performing the autopsy took Einstein's brain without his family's permission and had various research done on it.

These little sound bites just scratch the surface of this biography.  If you ever want an in-depth look at Einstein's life, I highly recommend this book!

In closing, I leave you with a good quote about Einstein's famous Theory of Relativity.  Chaim Weizmann sailed across the Atlantic with the Einsteins in 1921 and said "during the crossing, Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and by the time we arrived I was fully convinced that he really understands it" (page 292).

Unfortunately, after reading the book, I still need CliffsNotes on the theory that made Einstein famous and contributed to modern conveniences and knowledge of the universe.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed (and understood!) the personal side of Einstein and have that much more respect for this great figure of history.


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