Monday, August 20, 2007

Einstein: His Life and Universe Review

Einstein: His Life and Universe



"I only wish I had more mathematics" -- Albert Einstein, lamenting to his son that he did not pay enough attention to mathematics during his life, realizing that it would have made his life easier and more fulfilling.

Einstein Sparks Enthusiasm for Science & Math

This is a cute video about a school that sponsored a great Einstein festival:

Book Review

I finished listening to Walter Isaacon's Einstein biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe. It was a very good book. I learned a lot about the man who fundamentally changed our understanding of space and time. Here are some things I did not know:

  • Einstein could not stand the German educational system. He hated the militaristic style of forced learning of facts and rote memorization.
  • He excelled when he went to school in Switzerland where the teachers taught by using visualization techniques. Teachers helped guide students in their natural curiosity and engaged their minds.
  • His Special Theory of Relativity, from 1905, and General Theory of Relativity, from 1915, fundamentally transformed the way we understand the nature of the universe, forever displacing Newton's model. It proved that light speed is the fastest speed possible and that matter is equivalent to energy, as well as the facts that observers have no authority to claim precedence in observing events. That is, a person who sees something happen "now", only sees it "now" because the speed of light is constant, and thus takes longer to travel to someone further away from an event's source than it does to travel to someone close by.
  • However, he received the noble prize for his paper about the photo-electric effect, not the Theory of Relativity.
  • He almost named The Theory of Relativity a different name: Invariance Theory. This is ironic, because the "relativity" in the theory is not about everything being "relative" and open to interpretation in a post-modernist kind of way, but is instead about space and time the relative position of observers .
  • Einstein did not believe in a "personal God", but instead said he believed in Spinoza's God, which esentially equates "God" with the universe itself.
  • He was an accomplished violinist and played throughout his entire life.
  • He was not trusted by the US to take part in the Manhattan project, even though he had warned the US president Roosevelt that the Germans were likely working on an atomic bomb.
  • His son Hans Albert Einstein became a respected professor of engineering.
  • Einstein was falsely accused of communist sympathies because of his outspoken views and refusal to accept mainstream ideas without critically thinking.
  • He got in arguments with Thomas Edison about the purpose of education. Einstein firmly believed that education should not be about memorizing facts, but about teaching students how to think crtically
    and expansively.
  • Einstein's brain was taken out of his head after he died and was carried around the country for decades!

Misconceptions About The Theory of Relativity

It's a sad misconception in today's world that so few pepole understand that a scientific "theory" is not the same thing as a commonplace, everyday conjecture. Part of this is because the word theory comes from the word theoria, in Greek. This word does mean conjecture. But, a scientific theory has been observed and tested over and over. It is no longer a hypothesis. It has a body of evidence and observatoin to back it up. It makes claims that can be tested and verified by independent observers.

As such, when people say things like, "Well, it's just a theory!" about science, it really frustrates me. Scientific theories are open to revision and change when new evidence comes along that will force them to change. They are not "the truth". Rather, they are descriptive and predictive within a certain context of parameters and bounds. Einstein's theory of relativity has been tested and found accurate in hundreds of experiments, for more than 100 years.

Videos About the Theory of Relativity and Einstein

Carl Sagan explains time dilation in Cosmos Series

Time bends the faster you travel. Time actually slows down the faster you travel. This is NOT SCIENCE FICTION. This is REALITY. This clip really blew my mind when I watched it as a 5-year-old kid. It left me convinced that reality is far more amazing and worthy of my interest than fantasy since reality is stranger than fiction!

The Elegant Universe Part I: Einstein's Dream

Find the rest of the videos in this series here:

Einstein's Relativity

Time Travel: Einstein's Big Idea

Simultaneity: Albert Einstein and The Theory of Relativity

Time Dilation: Albert Einstein and The Theory of Relativity

Einstein's Brain!

His brain was dissected and taken all around the country in a jar!

The Secrets of Einstein's Brain

Einstein's Brain: Part I

Eerie but cool music in this video:

Related Links

  1. Einstein His Life and Universe, book:
  2. Einstein His Life and Universe, audio book:
  3. Albert Einstein:">
  4. Hans Albert Einstein:">
  5. The Photo Electric Effect:
  6. The Theory of Relativity:
  7. The Elegant Universe:
  8. Einstein's Big idea:

Links From Einstein's Big Idea on PBS

Inquiry & Articles

The Legacy of E = mc2
The Legacy of E = mc2 Einstein's big idea has been enormously influential, in ways that reach far beyond the purely scientific.

The Producer's Story
The Producer's Story Filmmaker Gary Johnstone describes how creativity fuels both art and science.

The Equation Today
The Equation Today Three young physicists contemplate how a 100-year-old equation figures into their careers.

Einstein the Nobody
Einstein the Nobody The patent clerk's career prospects looked bleak just before his "miracle year" of 1905.

The Theory
Behind the Equation

The Theory Behind the Equation Explore the eureka moment when Einstein came up with special relativity, the theory that spawned E = mc2.

Genius Among

Genius Among Geniuses To rank with Newton or Einstein, you have to reinvent the way we see the world.

and the Cosmos

Relativity and the Cosmos Examine what many consider Einstein's greatest achievement—general relativity.

Interactives, Audio & More

E = mc2 Explained
E = mc2 Explained Hear how 10 top physicists describe the equation in a few minutes or less.

The Power of
Tiny Things

The Power of Tiny Things How much energy does a paper clip pack? Test your intuition in this quiz.

Ancestors of E = mc2
Ancestors of E = mc2 Meet the visionary scientists whose experiments paved the way for Einstein.

Einstein Quotes
Einstein Quotes Seven thought-provoking statements from the world's most famous scientist

The Light Stuff
The Light Stuff Find out why the speed of light isn't always 186,000 miles per second.

Time Traveler
Time Traveler Explore time dilation in this interactive version of Einstein's "twin paradox."

Einstein Time Line
Einstein Time Line Follow the arc of Einstein's life from his birth in 1879 till his death in 1955.

Timeline of Einstein's Life

Born to Hermann Einstein (a featherbed salesman) and his wife Pauline in Ulm, Germany.

Receives his first compass around this time, inspiring a lifelong quest to investigate mysteries of the natural world.

Settles into a program of self-education at age 10 and begins reading as much about science as he can.

Stays on in Munich to finish the school year after his parents move to Pavia, Italy. Lasts only one term on his own and then follows his family to Italy.

Attempts to skip high school by taking an entrance exam to the Swiss Polytechnic, a top technical university, but fails the arts portion. His family sends him to the Swiss town of Aarau to finish high school.

Graduates from high school at age 17 and enrolls at the ETH (the Federal Polytechnic School) in Zurich.

Falls in love with Mileva Maric, a Serbian classmate at the ETH.

Graduates from the ETH.

Becomes a Swiss citizen and, unemployed, searches for work. Meets Maric in northern Italy for a tryst, and she becomes pregnant. In the fall, he finds work in Schaffhausen, Switzerland as a tutor. Maric, visibly pregnant, moves to Stein am Rhein, three miles upriver. She then returns to her parents' home to give birth to her child. Einstein moves to Bern.

In January, Maric gives birth to their daughter, Lieserl, whom they eventually put up for adoption. Lieserl reportedly becomes ill, and then all record of her disappears. Einstein takes a job at the Swiss Patent Office. Hermann Einstein becomes ill and dies.

Marries Maric in January.

Maric gives birth to their first son, Hans Albert.

Publishes, at age 26, five groundbreaking papers, making this his "annus mirabilis," or miracle year. One of the papers introduces his special theory of relativity and another E = mc2.

Continues working as an examiner at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern.

Begins applying the laws of gravity to his special theory of relativity.

Son Eduard is born.

Moves with his family to Prague, where he is given a full professorship at the German University there. Attends the invitation-only Solvay Conference in Brussels, the first world physics conference; he is the youngest physicist there.

Moves with his family to Zurich, where he becomes a professor of theoretical physics at the ETH.

Works on his new theory of gravity.

Becomes director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin and professor of theoretical physics at the University of Berlin. Maric and the children move there in April, but they return to Zurich after three months. Divorce proceedings begin. In August, World War I begins.

Completes the general theory of relativity.

Collapses from exhaustion and falls seriously ill. Nursed back to health by his cousin Elsa Löwenthal. Publishes his first paper on cosmology.

Marries Löwenthal. On May 29, a solar eclipse provides proof of the general theory of relativity.

Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1921.

Attends fifth Solvay Conference and begins developing the foundation of quantum mechanics with Niels Bohr.

Begins pursuing his idea of a unified field theory.

As a Jew, begins to feel the heat of Nazi Germany. Now, at 53, at the height of his fame.

Sets sail with Löwenthal for the United States. Settles with her in Princeton, New Jersey, where he assumes a post at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Löwenthal dies after a brief illness.

Writes a famous letter to President Franklin Roosevelt not long after the start of World War II that warns of the possibility of Germany's building an atomic bomb and urges nuclear research.

Becomes an American citizen (retains his Swiss citizenship).

Ex-wife Maric dies.

Dies of heart failure on April 18.

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