Einstein: His Life and Universe (Review)

Albert Einstein was:

— An absent husband and father, who occasionally burst with warmth and tenderness toward those closest to him, even though he was often wryly detached in his life.

After cheating on his first wife, Mileva Marić, he eventually convinced her to divorce him in exchange for half of his Nobel Prize winnings. He desired to marry his cousin Elsa, who he became romantically involved with during his first marriage. In his second marriage, he still had relationships with other women. Despite Einstein’s infidelity, Albert and Elsa shared a deep bond together, raising two stepchildren as their own. Elsa supported his scientific work, nursed him back to health, guarded him against intrusions, shared the glamor of his celebrity, and moved with him to the United States.

— A brilliantly intuitive theoretical physicist who developed the theories of general and special relativity, which led to radically new understandings of matter, energy, space and time.

— A visual thinker known for his famous thought-experiments.

— A revolutionary scientist early in his career, but a conservative later in his career.

He defended epistemological realism and often attacked the findings of quantum mechanics. He believed in an underlying reality, one that followed elegantly predictable laws, but was unknown to theoretical understanding. He failed to find a Grand Unified Theory.

— A loner, rebel, and non-conformist.

— A playful man with a childlike curiosity.

— A gifted violinist.

— A slacker in his youth.

— A patent clerk.

— An absentminded intellectual who focused so intently on the ideas that stimulated his imagination that every other concern was blocked out.

— An aloof man who delved into scientific ideas to escape from the emotional turmoil of his life.

— A German-Jewish secular humanist.

While Einstein was proud of his Jewish heritage, especially during periods of rampant antisemitism, he wrote that he was free from attachments to nationality, class, state, religion, and so on. Einstein considered himself to be a human being first. He stated that even though he was dimly aware of the laws of physics, he was too limited in his knowledge to believe or not believe in a God. He honored the mystery of the universe above all.

— A disorganized teacher who often improvised his lectures.

— A democratic socialist who denounced the atomic bomb, war, class inequality, racism, militarism, nationalism, and authoritarianism.

— An international celebrity who loved to complain about his status, but secretly enjoyed the attention.

— A German-Swiss-American citizen who criticized fascistic ideas, whether in the form of Nazism or McCarthyism.

He was considered to be a national security threat, and a Communist sympathizer, by some officials in the American government.

Some of Einstein’s Contributions to Science:

— Light is made up of small packets of energy called photons. Photons can behave both like particles and like waves, depending on what experiments are used to measure them.

— E = mc², which expresses that energy is equal to mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared. From this formula, particles are shown to have rest, kinetic, and potential energy. Mass and energy are not separate entities, but can change into each other. Additionally, any change in an object’s energy changes its mass and any change in an object’s mass changes its energy. Knowledge of the inseparable relationship between mass and energy led scientists to develop nuclear energy, and to eventually build the atomic bomb.

— Motion in time is relative to the position and velocity of the observer, while light is constant and the laws of the universe are the same. Time itself is not absolute, but dependent on how fast an object travels, what direction that object travels in, and where it is relative to the mass and the position of other objects around it.

— Space and time are not separate entities, but rather, are interwoven in four dimensions (three dimensions for space and one dimension for time). Mass causes spacetime to curve, and the more massive an object is, the more curvature there is. Gravity is no longer a mere force in the Newtonian sense, but causes a warping of spacetime. Spacetime is not flat, but curved. Light (or photons) travels along a curved path.

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