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Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius Hardcover – September 17, 2008
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However, I believe that he is a bit unfair to Einstein in calling him out for so many "mistakes":
- I do not agree that Einstein's argument for time synchronization was a "mistake": It was a REQUIREMENT following from the fact that no velocity of the Earth relative to the ether could be found. It is true that, if the Michelson-Morley result had given a positive result, Einstein's synchronization mechanism would have failed as being self-inconsistent, so in that sense it was an over-statement by Einstein to call his mechanism a "free act of will." But the argument itself is valid as an expression of what followed from the null result of M&M.
- The later argument by Swann that explained the Lorentz contraction in terms of dynamical effects was also valuable, but different. The preceding work by Lorentz and Poincare are also more in this school of thought: What do you expect to happen starting from Maxwell's equations and so forth? But these two approaches are both valuable and complementary.
- I do not agree that Einstein's argument for E = mc^2 is a "mistake". It is not valid as a mathematical proof, but it is an excellent heuristic argument. Given that it comes out of the blue, it is very suggestive, and convinces one that "there's gold in them thar hills." For a pioneer that is stumbling across this for the first time, it is like a miracle. The fact that more systematic and complete arguments are needed do not change that.Read more ›
I was inclined to accept this statement until I went to the trouble of looking up the actual paper, W.F.G. Swann, "Relativity, the Fitzgerald-Lorentz Contraction, and Quantum Theory," Rev. Mod. Phys., 13, 197 (1941). What the Swann actually does is this. He describes the process of accelerating a measuring rod from an initial state of rest in the lab frame. He considers the problem that it may be difficult to distinguish between two possibilities: (1) the rod becomes Lorentz-contracted, and (2) the rod suffers a mechanical contraction because of the stress imposed by accelerating it. He claims (and I think this is correct) that if all you know is the Lorentz transformation, you can't tell whether the result of the experiment actually verifies the Lorentz transformation (#1) or not (#2); you need some specific physical theory that's capable of describing the structure and dynamics of solid rods. He hypothesizes a Lorentz-invariant theory of quantum mechanics capable of addressing this problem, which didn't actually exist at the time. What he does know, based on the state of the art at the time, is that quantum-mechanical systems have ground states. Then he argues that after you're done accelerating the rod, it will settle back down into its ground state (assuming you accelerate it gently enough).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A good read and a good reminder that failings are the necessary step to breakthroughs in human thought and creativity.Published 2 months ago by Hannah Lissette
I hesitate to call this a biography since these days it seems biographies have to be more than 400 pages. Read morePublished 5 months ago by El Gringo
I was mesmerized by this book and read without a blink. Great sense of humor too.Published 13 months ago by TI
This sentence from the back cover is accurate:
"In lively, accessible prose, Hans C. Ohanian paints a fresh, insightful portrait of the real Einstein at work, in... Read more
The appeal of this book is that it is nice to hear that even the unparalleled genius of Einstein was fallible. Read morePublished 18 months ago by SpartinStuff
The book is not in any way against Einstein or relativity. It is an excellent review of development of relativity from the time of Galileo and Newton to the twentieth century... Read morePublished 20 months ago by M Khan
not for the layman----Einstein was good but "wow" did he blow it time after time. he admitted many times Newton was the No1.Published 21 months ago by sandy higgins
Very poorly researched. Much of what Ohanian says is either factually incorrect or has been refuted by prominent physicists such as Head of Applied Physics at Yale Professor... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Heisenberg Schrodinger