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Einstein: A Life in Science Paperback – March 1, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
A study of Einstein's life and accomplishments from the authors of Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This biography of Einstein, by the authors of Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science ( LJ 5/1/92), provides both an insightful and well-balanced portrait of the man as well as clearly explained analyses of his scientific contributions. Well researched, it includes a reference to other works about Einstein, extensive notes, and a thorough index. The paradoxical or seemingly contradictory characteristics that Einstein embodies are objectively considered and placed in perspective. Likewise, given the technical credentials of the authors, Einstein's scientific output and its effect on the scientific community are thoroughly evaluated. An enjoyable and educational book to read.
- Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
In spite of what it may seem, there is much more to Einstein than "E = mc2", itself the most famous scientific equation of all. He made major and significant contributions in many and diverse areas, with his output outside of Relativity is (probably) the most valued from an individual to theoretical and practical physics in the 20th Century. Light, thermodynamics, quantum electromagnetism and quantum mechanism are just some of the subject matter. What is more, Einstein was a catalyst for the ideas of others, and there is a notable influence of the esteemed scientist, even into his latter years. Sometimes this was a result of little more than words of encouragement from him.
That is not to say that the book glosses over the detailed scientific outpourings of the Patent Officer (Third Class). It is staggering that someone at the time outside of the tightly knit scientific community could have such phenomenal output as Einstein in 1905 (referred to as his `annus mirabalus'). Just after the crucial experiment of the Eddington Expedition in 1919 to observe a solar eclipse, `Scientific American' offered a prize of $5,000 for the best explanation of `relativity' to the man in the street. It was the demonstration that light is `bent' by gravitational-like forces that catapulted Einstein to international stardom. How ironic that the aforementioned reward was won by a senior presenter at the British Patent Office.
This is a layman's guide to the man and his work, and it will probably lose readers [other than me] in the detail, but Einstein and his contributions are placed in both a scientific and historical context. There is no attempt to hide personal foibles, and some could believe that Einstein courted his own image as an eccentric. Certainly, many in Princetown had their own favourite story of how Einstein interacted with them individually; they surely could not all be true. The authors do play down some of the exaggerated claims of Einstein-worshippers - he certainly played a small but important part in the development of the Atomic Bomb, but was by no means `the father'.
I found the graphical explanations good, of thought experiments, or Schrõdinger's cat, the idea of neither true nor false, but being both and neither, collapsing to a of singularity, when observed. Concepts such as the curvature of space-time are not obviously true. Yet these and other complex, non-intuitive ideas are introduced as needed. In the final pages, the authors state that Einstein gave physicists the theoretical tools to describe the big bang, quasars, pulsars and black holes. He certainly gave future generations of physicians plenty to think about, and work on. Indeed even in to the 1990's, predictions of General Relativity were being tested. One thing that remains is the elusive Theory of Everything (TOA) that was hanging albatross-like around Albert Einstein's neck until his death.
Even when he was wrong, he was right! Throughout the 1930's, Einstein was implacable in his opposition to Quantum Theory, even though he has initially supported the ideas. It was his intellectual arguments against this plank of modern thought that actually forced the proponents to be more rigorous and precise in their formulations. He also found the need to introduce a `Cosmological constant' into his equations for General Relativity, "the greatest mistake if my scientific life", because it was thought at the time that the solar system was in the ONLY galaxy in the universe. This was shown to be untrue by Edward Hubble some 12 years later.
An absorbing read, you will learn that there is much, much more to the man. There is an enduring question that remains with me, however. Was Einstein great because he was eccentric, or eccentric because he was great? Was the nature of the man that which drove him to produce earth shattering ideas that changed the way we think about ourselves, and the universe. You decide!
The authors were interested in writing this story because they wanted to let people see inside the head of the greatest thinker of the 20th century. They wanted to piece together a story about him that would give readers not just an idea of he was but an understanding of all his important work. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in science at all. It gives excellent descriptions of what relativity is and why it is important. The book does get slow at times so I might suggest skimming through some of it. It is worth reading just for the scientific information, though. There are two chapters completely devoted to explaining physics before and after Einstein. The reader will have a good idea about how physics has progressed since Newton.