- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 20, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471466743
- ISBN-13: 978-0471466741
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,559,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Einstein A to Z 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
A is for absentmindedness, and yes, the greatest scientist of the 20th century was a stereotypically absentminded professor. E is for his famous equation on the relation between energy and mass, which is nicely explained here in a clear, comprehensible way. M is for McCarthyism, which Einstein openly decried, and also for Marilyn Monroe, whose link to Einstein is wholly fictional. Fox (The Big Bang Theory) and Keck, a science reporter for public radio station WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, say their alphabetic omnium gatherum "is designed to be as casual or as specific as the reader wishes," and that's a fair description. Details about Einstein's life, not just his science, are found in these alphabetical fragments, which cover the physicist's feelings on Israel and Judaism, on pacifism (which he espoused) and on quantum mechanics (which he famously rejected), as well as his relations with other scientists and with his own family. Novice students of physics and casual browsers can learn a fair amount from these entries, though, of course, it's no substitute for reading one of the many comprehensive books on Einstein's life and work.
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From Scientific American
Every Einstein book talks about relativity, but not many tell you about the mortician who ran away with his brain. From absentmindedness to Zionism, Fox and Keck offer sharp, bite-size pieces of Einstein-related people, concepts and quirks in a fun book ideal for trivia lovers and the science-wary.
Editors of Scientific American
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Biographies about Albert Einstein can be divided into two categories: those written before 1987 when his papers and voluminous correspondence were made public, and after when the peccadillos of his life became more widely known. Authors Karen C. Fox and Aries Keck treat us to more than a few of those peccadillos, including his offer to marry either his cousin Elsa Lowenthal or her daughter Ilse, remarking that he was in love with both women, but wanted to have a child with Ilse!
Einstein biographies can also be categorized according to what the biographer chooses to emphasize, Einstein's private life or his scientific accomplishments, or both. In this book you can choose by letter which part of Einstein's life you want to read about. The alphabetical entries begin with "Absentmindedness" and end with "Zionism." In between are such entries as "Cosmological Constant," "Einstein, Mileva Maric" (Einstein's first wife), "Jokes about Einstein," the "Michelson-Morley Experiment," "Princeton," "Twin Paradox," etc.. In all there are 114 entries, a Timeline, an Introduction, a Selected Bibliography, and an Index. The entries are like little self-contained essays. They are well-written, informative and without any kind of bias while revealing that Einstein is definitely a man worth writing about.
Here's an Einstein joke. Einstein's driver used to sit in the back of the lecture hall while Einstein lectured. He sat there so many times that he said he could probably give the lecture himself. One day Einstein took him up on the idea, and the driver gave a flawless lecture with Einstein watching from the back of the room. At the end there was a question, and the lecturer said that "...the answer to that question is so simple, I bet that even my driver, sitting up at the back could answer it." (p. 148)
Sometimes I like to compare Einstein to other great scientists much as some people compare baseball players. What are the greatest baseball players of all time? I won't hazard an opinion, but my three greatest scientists are Einstein, Newton and Darwin in no particular order. Certainly Einstein is the most celebrated. Reading this "biography" makes that clear.
I was struck with just how human the authors make Einstein appear with his very human failings as a father and a husband along with his nearly superhuman accomplishments as a physicist. I was especially struck with Einstein's stubborn streak. Even at the time of his death in 1955 he still did not fully accept quantum mechanics, being especially disenchanted with the notion of "entanglement," which he called "spooky action at a distance." This is somewhat ironic since Einstein, along with his good friend Niels Bohr (with whom he had many spirited, even heated, discussions), Max Born, Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, and others were the architects of QM.
What makes this book so agreeable is how handy it is for dipping into and finding something out about Einstein and his work, and how gracefully and informatively it is written.
One last point. Fox and Keck do mention Einstein's famous disdain for socks. They speculate that he didn't like to wear them not merely because he didn't care about his appearance, "but possibly because they were physically uncomfortable." (p. 59) Maybe, but since I gotten older and have had time to think long and hard on this most interesting subject, I can report that the real reason that Einstein didn't like to wear socks is he didn't like to bend over and pull them on or push them off. If you've ever tried to put on a tight pair of socks, you know what I mean.
Bottom line: fun to read, nontechnical with just enough science for the layperson to appreciate.
Even though I've read many books about Einstein, and written a chapter about him in my book _Science Firsts_, I found quite a lot in _Einstein A to Z_ that was new to me. For example, I did not know that the German army was aware of the possibility of an atomic bomb as early as 1924, or how intensely Einstein was monitored by the FBI from 1932 on, or that Life magazine once labelled Einstein a Communist dupe or fellow traveller. I also thought the authors did a great job of tracing the evolution of Einstein's philosophical thoughts about science, from a very hard-nosed version of Mach's positivism (physics should deal only with observables) that guided his earliest work to a view that embraced the necessity of hypothesizing intangibles such as the gravitational field.
My only quibble with the authors was what I felt was their somewhat apologetic depiction of Einstein's lifelong battle against political repression wherever her encountered it. This was as central to Einstein as his science. He was outspoken in his battles against fascism and anti-Semitism in Germany, McCarthyism in the U.S., the nuclear arms race, and excessive nationalism wherever he saw it, including, as the authors point out, in Israel. His political views may or may not play well in America today, but they certainly don't need to be apologized for.
I don't think Einstein A to Z should be the only book about Einstein a person reads, but it certainly can hold its own with the more traditionally organized biographies. It's well worth reading.
Robert Adler, author of _Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation_; and _Medical Firsts: From Hippocrates to the Human Genome_.