Since Einstein was a dyslexic... Will the CD audio version include the text, too (or is there a package deal for ordering both)? Will it be available in AudioPlus, Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY), or other traversable formats?
I will suggest to S&S that they offer a package deal for those who want the text book and audio version. The childhood chapter explores some of the advantages he may have had from being a slow verbal learner.
A quick question. Can you tell me if ideas such as his quote regarding Quantum Physics, "Spooky action at a distance" are included, along with relevant information, or is it a more general overview of the mans life? You have quite a few people here in Sydney eagerly awaiting their copy.
I heard you speaking on a radio station this morning. You mentioned that Einstein had a speech impediment in which he repeated a phrase or sentence multiple times before speaking it aloud. What was the name of the impediment?
Mr. Isaacson, you've written an engrossing and inviting biography of Einstein that easily breaks down many of his scientific concepts. While the chapter on Einstein's support in building the atomic bomb is interesting, I was a bit surprised that there wasn't more devoted to this section particularly in light of his later regrets over its support (although I have to admit this would have resulted in a much different book with a very different focus). Did he honestly believe that the research that allowed the creation of the bomb wouldn't result in the device being used? Did he later view his belief in this regard as somewhat naive in retrospect?
Thanks for your hard work and for creating an entertaining, fascinating glimpse into one of the richest minds of the 20th Century.
Can you talk about what the difference is between the abridged and unabridged versions of the audiobook - what you decided to leave out and why? The abridged version is about 7.5 hours, and the unabridged is 21.5 - this is quite a big difference. Thanks.
It has been suggested that Einstein had Aspergers Syndrome, and echolalia is certainly one of the many signs of a spectrum disorder. Does this book address this at all? I know it is not entirely fair to diagnose someone after they have passed on, but one of the above posts suggests that he was dyslexic, and that wasn't a known diagnosis back then, either.
"Spooky action at a distance," the EPR paper, Einstein's relationship with poor Schrodinger's cat, and the entire range of his qualms about quantum mechanics are indeed in this book. In fact, there are some unpublished letters between Schrodinger and Einstein that I use, and they show a closer relationship between the two men than sometimes thought. I am fascinated by his resistance to quantum mechanics. Look at the chapter called "Quantum Entanglement," in particular. --- Walter Isaacson
He was, indeed, distressed by his support for building a bomb once he found out that Germany was not actually building one. I explore his arms-control efforts in the section of my book about what happened after World War II. -- Walter Isaacson
I discuss the contention that he had Asperger's syndrome, and give sources for that contention, in a long source note for the beginning of chapter 2. I am leery of long-distance diagnosis. Also, he made many close friends and was very sociable, so he was not a classic case.
Why did you feel there should be yet another book based on the life of Albert Einstein? From everything that has been advertised about your book, and from the few pages I've browsed in it, there seems to be nothing new added to this work that is not found in the plethora of other books such as "Einstein : A Life." In fact, one needs only to go to one's local bookstore and observe that not less then 4 or 5 (sometimes non-trivially more depending on the size of the carrier) books can be found on this subject alone.
I also find it questionable that one can conclude if Einstein had this learning disability or that learning disability by what amounts to anecdotal evidence. No amount of contrivance shall convince me otherwise.
I'm still waiting for a true critical look at Einstein's life that doesn't candy-coat his faults. I listened with earnest to your interview in Terry Gross' show. In your interview you seem to imply that mathematics is somehow some superfluous or "after-thought" component of physics that Einstein delegated to his friend/subordinate. The truth is, and I'm sure anyone who has studied mathematics or physics in any profound way should know, is that mathematics is the very meat and essence of physics, without which you aren't even left with the marrow, it becomes bad philosophy. What Einstein did, in his "borrowing" of mathematics/work without giving proper due (which he had a surprising alacrity in doing), was committing academic plagiarism.
Your comment on the "race" that Hilbert had with Einstein is mere fallacy. First because Hilbert was not racing Einstein, solving his equations was some trivaility with respect to the mathematics Hilbert was working on. Second, Hilbert solved the issue and submitted publishing at least 1 week prior to Einstein, this has been documented by several other biographers. Further, there is no suprise to this fact as Einstein's knowledge of mathematics never developed beyond linear algebra at this time.
Or why for once could biographers entertain the thought that Einstein was not so-noble of a man in his ideals. Einstein's stance on the Second World War is stated by you as a sort of 'modification-in-pacifism' a-priori necessitated by the advent of Hitler. Yet, could it not have merely been that Einstein was just looking out for his own (i.e. European Jewry), a sort of Nepotism-by-extension; pacifism for-all until it affects you, in simpler terms naked hypocrisy? This could also explain his stance with respect to the Rosenberg's.
It's hard to swallow something as truth or even probable truth when you resort to reporting half-baked myths the subject's (that is Einstein's) own recollections have fabricated (which there is no doubt-if Einstein was human, that he very much embellished his own noble/intelligent abilities). For instance, why always take the uncritical eye that Einstein didn't like school because of the "regimented" and "uncreative" manner of the Prussian/German institutions (straight from his tongue). Could it not have been that he was just a lout in his youth, overtaken by the oafish desires of pubescence? Or is such a great man that he is beyond such things? These as well as that banal apocrypha that you recited about the "compass/wonderstruck" event in Einstein's childhood has led me to believe that the book is merely a verisimilitude of reality with little merit.
In my opinion, Einstein's works and by extension his life can only be written about profoundly by critical professionals, rather then mere dilettantes. You have not convinced this critical reader to purchase this book. I challenge the author to do so, if he can, and perhahs increase his clientale to thsoe of us who are not easily convinced by aphorisms and banality. I really wish we had more biographies about other scientist and academics, instead of the same trite rewritten 10 times.
Hmm - if you're that knowledgeable and can actually document refutations of what you describe as "apocryphal" information, why aren't YOU writing the biography you so desperately seem to crave? In the meantime, I can only recommend Walter Isaacson's book as a balanced and very well documented biography - lots of primary sources, which are becoming increasingly rare in so-called "scholarly" works.
Most of your statement is sueprflous but with regards to the "apocryphal" statement, perhaps you were obfuscated by the relative length of my response and hence mis-typed/connected my comment. To be concise, I was commenting about the very tired and (at this point) cliched image of Einstein with his compass which suppodly "led" him to his drive for science. This story, has exactly one source, that is Einstein himself. In this respect, its akin to Newton's "falling Apple," which like Einstein's compass story, is certainly an apocraphyl account.
We would like to think that singular moments such as these presage greatness and act as some kind of portent. It makes for great fiction no doubt, but it does not seem to make anything about the subject-matter very clear, on the contrary, it makes the individual's past more turbid in a way that reinforces myth-building.
Oh and with respect to this book being well-documented, I would hope so, since all this author needed to really do is look upon the plethora of other biographies that are already out on Einstein.
Primary sources are those which come directly from the horse's mouth, as it were; i.e., consulting a person's memoirs or personal letters, rather than secondary sources, which are those that are based on information compiled by sources removed from the original horse's mouth, i.e., another biography, which can contain undocumented or incorrectly documented material.
My reference to apocryphal information as described in your original post does not refer only to the compass, but also the other information you doubt, such as your contention that Einstein's recollections may be fabricated as well as his dislike of conventional education. The "apocryphal" umbrella also encompasses your theories about Einstein's motives regarding the atom bomb and his attitudes toward Zionism and the Rosenbergs.
That's where the primary sources come in: if you can't support your assertions/theories with primary sources (which include Einstein's descriptions and opinions in his memoirs and personal papers - if there are no other primary sources, they must be taken as fact until otherwise proven), they are rendered irrelevant and unscholarly. I would definitely expect an acclaimed biographer, whose work must stand up to peer reviews/vetting and scholarly criticism, would, if he could (and does) include new information and/or additional information that supports earlier assertions by other biographers.
I disagree that the author refers to the compass incident as the defining moment that led Einstein to pursue a life in science; rather, he uses it, in my opinion, as an historiographical placemarker, which is a technique used by even the most hard-core academicians when writing monographs especially. I never got the impression that Mr. Isaacson was trying to create an Einsteinian hagiography. Unless you're a lemming, I think it is pretty clear to any reader that there are many outside influences at work that cannot be documented, thus the placemarker, which can.
Finally, it takes an incredible amount of arrogance and intellectual hubris to critique a book that you haven't bothered to read and then resort to name-calling the author. Read the book before you show up with half-baked opinions; you don't even have to buy the book - check it out at the library.
I'm glad you decided to dedicate a paragraph writing the definition of primary sources for all of us, it brought much erudition. Again, you demonstrate the superflousness of your statements, it is not my fault that you mis-interpret what I meant by apocrypha.
With regards to your other comment, I never mentioned the atomic bomb; so that statement is purely false, nor did I mention anything about Zionism. That's two purely false statements which I impute to your profunditude (or lack thereof). With respect to the relevent comments you've made, yes I questioned Albert Einstein's motives in changing his stance on pacificm. I see not how this relates to Mr. Isaacson's usage of primary sources. Unless you are suggesting that Mr. Isaacson's primary sources are contemporaries (hence exceeding 120 years of age) of Einstein who were able to read his mind, their relevence in this matter is periphrial.
It is the author of the book that weaves the narrative and "interprets" the events in this matter. For example: certainly, there are a cornucopia of primary sources that suggest Adolf Hitler did not know about the execution of Jews in "Greater Germany," in-fact, all of his contemporaries in the German high-command stated as much. The reason for this particular stiuation is 1. Hero worship/fanatical loyalty for Hitler in the German High Command 2. There was nothing explicitly wrot in terms of orders with this issue.
So in the above example, are we merited in saying that Adolf Hitler was innocent totally or in part of the Holocaust because of the lack of written evidence? There is an obvious limitation to 'primary sources,' especially when one is trying to figure out the motives and thoughts of the historical individual. In this case, I'm merely questioning why it is the case that almost no author chooses to entertain the one possibility and present the candy-coat of the other.
Further, it is dubious to give preponderant weight to Einsteins own memoirs or recollections. Again, should we believe Einstein had a purely neutral stance about himself?
Finally, had you spent more time actaully reading my comment instead of erudiating on how to cavil me in a response, you would have realized my inital comment was with regards to Mr. Isaacson's NPR interview. Indeed, I believe anyone who had read my first two paragraphs, and had moderate command of english, would have been able to understand this fact.
Hence, it is not hubris or pomp that I wrote my querries to Mr. Isaacson, it is purely a phlegmatic inquiry into why I should spend money to purchase a book, whose subject matter has been written about so many other times. Indeed, I remember reading three Einstein biographies in my child-hood and I have heard of nothing new or "novel" that would incline me to purchase this one. Yet, I hear so many comments from reviewers (professional and not) that state that this book is written with perpsicuity. I'm merely asking Mr. Isaacson to differntiate his product in the market from the others. This is a legitimate querry in a market economy.
"Einstein" by Isaacson is the first book I've ever read about Albert Einstein. I don't care if the book is written with perpsicuity or not. I don't care if I don't know what perpsicuity means (most people probably don't - I'll look it up later). I'm just a simple curious guy who likes to read, and the release publicity of "Einstein" simply grabbed my attention.
I also enjoy listening to arguements, debates and appreciate opposite points of view. I know a little something about Mr. Isaacson's credentials (Aspen Institute, Time managing editor, charman of CNN - provided that that posted info is accurate). I would like to know something about your qualifications and/or achievements as to give relative weight to your statements. Is there any way you could provide some detail of your background with your next posting? Just curious.