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Einstein Unveiled 261

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the who-was-that-man-in-the-stylish-brown-suit dept.
John_Renne writes "One of the most well known scientists in the near history is Albert Einstein. Pictures of him can be found on allmost everything varying from lunchboxes to t-shirts and cartoons. On the other hand there's little knowledge of who Einstein really was and the human being behind the genius. This article tries to create a view of the inner Einstein. A nice read for everyone interested in the person inside the phenomenon."
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Einstein Unveiled

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  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xpilot (117961) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:57AM (#4801264) Homepage
    The topic matches the topic icon!

    Beautiful! This is truly a Slashdot moment to cherish.
    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Funny)

      by SkulkCU (137480) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:03AM (#4801315) Homepage Journal

      This is truly a Slashdot moment to cherish.

      Well, don't worry -- it'll probably happen again.

      Very soon. *ahem* Sorry.
    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Funny)

      by einstein (10761) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:31AM (#4801552) Homepage Journal
      I wish it was a better picture. I look so grumpy.
      --
    • Re:Finally (Score:3, Funny)

      by jahalme (563074)
      Do note this sentence from the article;

      "Albert Einstein remains not just scientifically relevant but a multipurpose icon as well."

      Yes indeed - he's used as the icon for all science stories on Slashdot. I'd definately call that multipurpose!

    • Re:Finally (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      The topic matches the topic icon!

      I don't see an icon. Why, it must be relative to the viewer.
  • "unknown"? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cetan (61150) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:57AM (#4801266) Journal
    On the other hand there's little knowledge of who Einstein really was and the human being behind the genius

    You mean, aside from all the biographys written about him, the published letters to his children, the secret FBI file kept about him, etc etc.

    BN returns rather a lot on the man, and a number of these items are not lunchboxes.
    http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/result s.asp?WRD=Einstein [barnesandnoble.com]

    • by RyoSaeba (627522) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:09AM (#4801375) Journal
      I read a book on Einstein's life (i think it may simply have been called 'Einstein').
      Well, the article forgets a whole lot of things, unless i have totally messed recollection of that book.

      First, they don't even tell us Einstein got a Nobel Prize... and not even for relativity itself ! IIRC, he got it for explaining some optical phenomena (dual particle / light nature of photons)
      Second, article forgets to tell that Israel did propose him to run for presidency there, which he declined.
      Third, the 1919 experiment actually had MESSED UP results (that was found later) !!! So it didn't confirm Einstein's theory... which, granted, was confirmed later.
      Fourth, Einstein introduced some constant in the relativity's equations so that the universe is static, which was his deep belief.

      And don't forget his fun quote: God doesn't play with dice (i do think it's from him)
      • by guybarr (447727) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:34AM (#4801588)
        First, they don't even tell us Einstein got a Nobel Prize... and not even for relativity itself ! IIRC, he got it for explaining some optical phenomena (dual particle / light nature of photons)

        Actually, the photoelectric effect was one of the basis of "old" QM and is well-deserving of a Nobel all by itself.

        In fact, A.E. deserved at least 3 seperate Nobels : photo-electric effect, SRT, GRT (in reverse order of importance) are all Nobel-worthy just by themselves.

        These are the ones I know of , very probably there are more.

        However since they never give the Nobel more than once, indeed the Nobel should have been given to relativity theory.
      • by OldStash (630985) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:39AM (#4801644)
        Don't forget his fun quote: God doesn't play with dice

        And don't forget this little uncertainty gem either:
        "A mouse cannot change the universe just by looking at it." -A.E.

        Or this beauty from his wife (Speaking with an astronomer boasting about his new telescope with which he "examines the workings of the universe"):
        "Really? My husband uses the back of an old envelope."
      • Fourth, Einstein introduced some constant in the relativity's equations so that the universe is static, which was his deep belief.

        This is the cosmological constant [uchicago.edu], which he later abandoned (I think because it was realised that the Universe is expanding - previously they didn't think it was). It's now thought that this constant, which is associated with the energy density of vacuum, is associated with the dark matter (the existence of which has recently been verified [man.ac.uk]) which is slowing the expansion of the Universe.

        His abandoning of this idea is often called his greatest mistake.
      • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @12:20PM (#4802001) Journal
        It's also important to rememer that his quote, "God does not play dice," was famous, fun, and mostly wrong. That was his opinion on the study of quantum mechanics, which has its limitations, but is widely accepted and has predicted experimental outcomes.

        Einstein made a few interesting mistakes. That was one of them. Another was mucking up the theory of relativity when one of its implications was too incredible. Don't get me wrong. He was huge, and that is measured by the fact that he admitted his mistakes.
        • Einstein: God does not play dice.

          Bohr: Don't tell God what to do!

  • by TechnoLust (528463) <kai.technolust@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:58AM (#4801268) Homepage Journal
    splitting beer atoms to make fizzy beer? You have to admire anyone who wants to make better beer. Oh, wait, that was just a movie. History, pop-culture, same difference. :-)
  • Related Book (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @10:59AM (#4801273) Homepage Journal
    I recently bought a book at a library used book sale called Einstein: The Human Side. I'm not sure who it's written by, but it's basically a collection of letters that Einstein wrote to family, friends, and others. He personally responded to many of the letters written to him, and this book tends to capture the more humorous and touching ones.
  • by KingAdrock (115014) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:00AM (#4801287) Journal
    The Einstein Scrapbook is also a very good read on the life of Einstein. It is mostly just a printing of all of his personal papers/essays/letters that he left to be archived at The Hebrew University.
  • by the_Upsetter (257937) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:03AM (#4801320) Homepage
    A great amount of insight can be found in what children wrote to the man ... [nytimes.com]

    Some Highlights...

    Dear Dr. Einstein,

    I am a pupil in the sixth grade at Westview School. We have been talking about animals and plants in Science. There are a few children in our room that do not understand why people are classed as animals. I would appreciate it very much if you would please answer this and explain to me why people are classed as animals.

    Thanking you,
    Sincerely,
    Carol
    November 12, 1952

    The very thoughtful answer...

    Dear Children:

    We should not ask "What is an animal" but "what sort of thing do we call an animal?" Well, we call something an animal which has certain characteristics: it takes nourishment, it descends from parents similar to itself, it grows, it moves by itself, it dies if its time has run out. That's why we call the worms, the chicken, the dog, the monkey an animal. What about us humans? Think about it in the above mentioned way and then decide for yourselves whether it is a natural thing to regard ourselves as animals.

    With kind regards,
    Albert Einstein
    January 17, 1953
    • The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves...

      I resent this remark. I did at least five incredibly stupid things just yesterday. All of them were readily apparent to the most casual observer.
  • LSD? (Score:5, Funny)

    by giel (554962) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:03AM (#4801322) Journal

    "Einstein said that he thought in images and even muscular sensations," says John Stachel, a physicist and the founding editor of the Papers Project. "The hardest part for him was to translate his findings back into language that others could understand."

    Sounds like the good man was addicted to drugs. And yes, I can image it is really hard to translate an LSD trip into language others can understand. However a real artist will be able to do so.

    • Re:LSD? (Score:3, Funny)

      by gowen (141411)
      I can image it is really hard to translate an LSD trip into language others can understand. However a real artist will be able to do so.
      Or maybe not. Allow me to quote jambands.com [jambands.com]
      As the story goes, the first time Paul McCartney got high, he discovered something very deep and mystic. He wrote it down on a piece of paper and folded it up, entrusting it to Mal Evans, the Beatles' road manager. The next day Mal asked Paul if he wanted to see what was written on the paper. Paul said "yes". He opened it up. Scrawled across it was the phrase "there are seven levels".
    • Re:LSD? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:28AM (#4801532)
      No, not LSD. It's called autism. Albert Einstien was a high-functioning autistic savant. A common feature of the highly autistic mind is thought processes in music, sensations, pictures, written words, etc. Some autistics can also see music, taste sounds, hear pictures and the like... the sensors can become crosswired and overloaded.

      I perfectly understand what he means by finding translating his ideas into language as being the hardest part, as I'm in much the same position. I don't function in relation to words in the same way as neurotypical individuals do; my comprehension of meaning is far more abstract compared with what is normal; I don't as much conform my thinking to the subtlties and conotations (sp?) of the meanings of words used to describe or convey concepts.
      When an idea is in my mind, I can easily process relatively complicated concepts. But when I try to commit them to the written word, I run into difficulties because I am 'out of sync' with the standardised influences and meanings which are socially attached to words, and therefore the ideas which are conveyed with them.

      • Re:LSD? (Score:5, Informative)

        by BitHive (578094) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @12:14PM (#4801949) Homepage
        Woah there, you're mixing up autism (a mental disorder originating characterized by self-absorption, inability to interact socially, repetitive behavior, and language dysfunction) with synaesthesia (a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color). While it is possible that Einstein was slightly autistic, savants are not usually as charismatic and witty as he seems to have been; the savant pays a huge price from other cognitive areas for their heightened ability in one area.
      • Re:LSD? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Xerithane (13482)
        No, not LSD. It's called autism. Albert Einstien was a high-functioning autistic savant. A common feature of the highly autistic mind is thought processes in music, sensations, pictures, written words, etc. Some autistics can also see music, taste sounds, hear pictures and the like... the sensors can become crosswired and overloaded.

        I can tell you for certain that it is definitely not autism that triggers this. When I'm solving complex problems, I don't think in any language, or anything that could be understood by someone outside of my mind. For a long time I thought that was normal process.

        Sometimes writing it down helps me, but only so that I can see the individual points to any problem.

        A lot of people ask bilingual people, "What language do you think in?" The answer for a lot of people is none. Why put something into the constructs and rigidness of a language when you already know exactly what it is that you are going to think?

        As for what you wrote, I do not believe you are describing (or understanding of) Einstein's methodologies. He's not speaking purely of words, for math uses no words, in essence. Einstein was very well-spoken, and after he parsed the information out into an easier-understood form he could deliver with with eloquence. He believed children should be able to understand the most advanced concepts of the universe. He knew very well the subtleties and nuances of language, just read any of his papers, quotes, or speeches.

        Just because one chooses to solve problems without using the constructs of a language, or numbers, does not mean they are without capacity to do so. It is merely the more efficient approach for that individual. True genius does not come from the mind, but the minds presenter.
      • It's been bothering me the last year the degree to which Einstein is posthumously being labeled as having dome learning disorder. I saw that because the evidence in favor tends to be either anecdotal (and contradictory) or taken out of context.

        Last month there was a pretty decent article about the problems with attempting to diagnose dead celebrities with medical/learning problems:

        The famous dead yield only murky diagnoses [sunspot.net]

        "Something that can't be proved is taken very blithely as fact," said Marlin Thomas, an expert in learning disabilities at Iona College who published an analysis of the claim about Einstein. Thomas became curious when he saw the diagnosis showcased on T-shirts, Web sites, ads and even brochures from the American Academy of Pediatrics."
        Unfortunately, the article in question doesn't seem to be available on the internet, but here is the reference:

        Thomas, Marlin. "Albert Einstein and LD: An Evaluation of the Evidence." Journal of Learning Disabilities No. 2, Vol. 33 (March 1, 2000): 149.

        The conclusion? Well, the author pretty tightly defines "Learning Disability" within the realm of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual IV(defining mental disorders) and US law (IDEA 1997) so he concludes that "Due to the paucity of evidence supporting the claim that Einstein had a learning disability, and due to the abundance of evidence disputing such a claim, the claim should be withdrawn until convincing evidence supports it."
    • Re:LSD? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by GigsVT (208848) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:34AM (#4801587) Journal
      Dr. Albert Hofmann didn't synthesize LSD until 1938. Einstein was a very old man by then, and had already written many of his most famous works.
    • Hey now. that's quite a leap of logic you made there. and stop turning into a pink elephant.
      --
    • Re:LSD? (Score:3, Funny)

      "Einstein said that he thought in images and even muscular sensations," says John Stachel, a physicist and the founding editor of the Papers Project. "The hardest part for him was to translate his findings back into language that others could understand."

      I've been watching a lot of footage of Joe Cocker on stage, and if I understand his body language correctly, he can expound volumes on Stephen Hawking's latest theories.

    • I don't know, it sounds like Einstein was more of a synaesthesiac (someone who perceives stimuli by non-normal or extranormal channels) than either an autistic or a drug addict, although I've never heard of someone experiencing thought as muscle sensation.

      I can't tell you what it's like to experience flavours as colours, sounds as colours, smells as sounds, or the like, though (or thoughts as colours, smells, you name it) -- but if you know what I'm talking about, you'll recognize what I mean immediately.

      In fact, I would argue against Einstein's having Asperger's Syndrome or other high-function autism disorders simply because he was so social and had so much affect (affect, not effect, though he had that, too) -- the photogenicity, the celebrity, and the overall social skills which he exhibited in spades during most of his life are traits which most high-function autistics never manifest. In fact, the DSM-IV [syr.edu] specifically mentions "Qualitative impairment in social interaction." Somehow, a guy who can come up with snappy retorts like that isn't suffering from any impairment in social interaction at all. In fact, considering ordinary mortals' abilities to come up with the right zinger at the right time, he's probably got us beat.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:05AM (#4801343)
    Mine is "Imagination is more important than knowledge".

    In any case, I found this site a while back. It's somewhat of a tutorial on Einstein, allowing you to do "Easy" or "Advanced", and fairly informative.

    Theory of Relativity [thinkquest.org]
    • by simong_oz (321118) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:31AM (#4801560) Journal
      oooh, there are so many good Einstein quotes, but if I had to pick a favourite, I would probably go for:

      "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. Now that's relativity!"

      My other favourite would be:

      "The important thing is not to stop questioning."
      • "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. Now that's relativity!"

        For many geeks these two experiences are nearly indistinquishable.
    • Personally, my favorite Einstein quote is:

      Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

      ah... so true.
    • I've always been partial to this one:
      Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
      • I've always been partial to this one:
        Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.


        I love Einstein quotes in general. I hate hate hate this one. First of all, it is false. But even if it were true, too many newage airheads and libertarian psuedologicals and general crackpots tend to cite this when they mean the VERY VERY false converse.

        In other words, if you are finding that you are encountering opposition from mediocre minds, that does NOT mean you are a great spirit. In fact, if you are the type of person who cites this quotation, I would lay odds that you are not a great spirit. Stupid, foolish, pompous, moronic spirits ALSO often encounter violent opposition from all sorts of minds. So take your theory about crop circles and go away.
    • You could try his web site [albert-einstein.net] (It even has an email address. :^)

      "It would be better if you begin to teach others only after you yourself have learned something." -- (to Arthur Cohen, age 12, who submitted a paper to Einstein, 12/26/28; Einstein Archive 25-044)

  • "His life projects high achievement and a hope for a sane future for humanity..." I really wonder what Einstein would say today about mankind and its future, Hey Taco, how about borrowing that time machine from Celebrity Death Match and bringing him here for an exclusive /. ten question interview?
  • Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America With Einstein's Brain, by Michael Paterniti at amazon.com [amazon.com] (I get no referrer fees from that link)

    From that page:

    Driving Mr. Albert chronicles the adventures of an unlikely threesome--a freelance writer, an elderly pathologist, and Albert Einstein's brain--on a cross-country expedition intended to set the story of this specimen-cum-relic straight once and for all.

    After Thomas Harvey performed Einstein's autopsy in 1955, he made off with the key body part. His claims that he was studying the specimen and would publish his findings never bore fruit, and the doctor fell from grace. The brain, though, became the subject of many an urban legend, and Harvey was transformed into a modern Robin Hood, having snatched neurological riches from the establishment and distributed them piecemeal to the curious and the faithful around the world.

    ...

    Traversing America with Harvey and his sacred specimen, Paterniti seems to be awaiting enlightenment, much as Einstein did in his last days. But just as the great scientist failed to come up with a unifying theory, Paterniti's chronicle dissolves at times into overly sincere efforts to find importance where there may be none, and it walks a fine line between postmodern detachment and wide-eyed wonderment. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the book offers an engrossing portrait of postatomic America from what may be the ultimate late-20th-century road trip.

  • Did you know (Score:3, Interesting)

    by noz (253073) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:19AM (#4801464)
    The article doesn't mention that Einstein was a shocker at simple arithmatic. He had the natural genius to interpret large and complex equations, but was unable to perform simple calculations.
    • The article doesn't mention that Einstein was a shocker at simple arithmatic. He had the natural genius to interpret large and complex equations, but was unable to perform simple calculations

      I did not "know" this because it is false. It is a common urban legend. Einstein was not one of the Great mathematicians, but he was extremely good at mathematics and could do simple calculations with the rest of them. The origins of this myth are fairly well documented.
  • Albert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joelwest (38708) <joelNO@SPAMjoelwest.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:20AM (#4801473) Homepage
    Ad hominem arguments never explain the 'how' of physicists just the 'who'. Still Einstein was a facinating man, but just as fascinating was Richard Feinman. I suggest reading about Feinman as well.
  • but your previous experience as a clerk at the Swiss Patent Office doesn't qualify you for a position of research physicist here at the Institute for Advanced Studies.


    Is is any wonder the poor guy has been reduced to being an advertising shill for everything in sight?

  • by tmark (230091) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:24AM (#4801501)
    On the other hand there's little knowledge of who Einstein really was and the human being behind the genius.

    Please. As far as scientists go, there are none whose personality has been more revealed and documented than Einstein - except now, maybe John Nash. Lots of lay people know at least something about Einstein's personality; he's probably the only scientist ever who has been adopted by the media. By contrast, see if the lay people around you know anything about the personalities/loves/quirks of Darwin, Newton, Bohr or Freud.
  • I'll have to delive a quick plug for this book, sitting on my shelf at home. Last read it over a decade ago. I've pretty much forgotten, so I guess it's time for a reread. At the very least, I've kept it rather than given it to a library book sale.
  • there was a time magazine article in summer 1999 (i think) that talked about tomorrow's technology. on the topic of immortality, there were a few "methods" mentioned: replace immune system with one more efficient, move brain to new body, and live on as exact replica via memories. as an example of the latter, scientists attempted to replicate albert einstein.

    theoretically, at least, based on hist known reactions, the simulation of einstein would be able to answer questions as if he were still alive, even those not of his time period.
  • by MacAndrew (463832) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:28AM (#4801526) Homepage
    I went to grade school across the street from Cal Tech, and it was said that Einstein was often seen bicycling around on his 3-speed. Something about that lack of pretense has always charmed me, and I would think he is already one of the most human famous scientists. He spent much of the last 20 years of his life concerned with averting nuclear war.

    Einstein on a bicycle [caltech.edu]. And he didn't wear a helmet.
  • by bkhl (189311)
    I heartily recommend the book Einstein for Beginners [amazon.com] by Schwartz and McGuinness for anyone interested in a short biography of Einstein.

    It is an illustrated biography in the same spirit as the classic Lenin for Beginners and Introducing Kafka (possibly the best Kafka biography ever).
  • A Good Biography (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ian_Bailey (469273) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:33AM (#4801575) Homepage Journal
    One good biography I read on Einstein was Einstein in Love [bookreporter.com]. It doesn't get to heavy into scientific details, but instead is full of rich descriptions of all the people and relationships in Einstein's troubled younger years, and the time leading up to his theories. A very entertaining and interesting read. It also touches on other famous Scientists of the day.
    • Among all the adulatory writing about Einstein, I've occasionally seen the observation that pretty much all of his great work was done while he was with Mileva. This begs an obvious question: How much credit does she deserve for his results? Was she really just his muse, as some have suggested? Was she a good mathematician who turned his ideas into theory? Was she the real thinker who was ignored because she was female (and Serbian)?

      I wonder if she ever met Rosalind Franklin? ;-)

      • Re:A Good Biography (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ian_Bailey (469273)

        The book I mentioned does discuss this issue, and while I have nothing to use to prove its validity, the author gives the feeling that's it's much more complicated than just 'how much'.

        Mileva was involved at varying degrees throughout their realationship. She was at times (especially early on) heavily involved in development, doing calculations for Einstein and serving as a person to bounce ideas off of. However, both in the early stages of the idea forming in his head, and later on, Mileva was not involved at all. But she was definitely not just a muse.

        She also was hardly ignored because of her gender or race among her peers. Remember, this was during the time of Marie Curie and Serbia had a wealth of scholars.

        It seems as if she was forced to distance herself afterwards by the pressure from her family and her children, and the moving around with her husband (who was trying to make enough money to get by while the theory was being worked on).

        Well, I've rambled myself out. You may wish to read the book for a more detailed version of this. ;-)

  • Einstein: A Life [amazon.com], by Denis Brian

    The book focuses more on Einsteins life and struggles, more than on his formulations and theories. It's a great and quick read. Denis Brian has great insight into what made Einstein tick.
  • This book is far better than the lesser known "Einstien Undressed", although there's more words, fewer pictures.
  • WMD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by primus_sucks (565583) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:39AM (#4801637)
    A committed socialist, he distrusted capitalism and communism in equal measure and believed that "world government" was the only way to control nuclear weapons and eventually abolish war entirely.

    Seems like Einstein would like to see UN weapons inspections for all countries. Personally I'd sleep better if all weapons of mass destruction were banned and all countries were subject to inspection. Let's not wait for millions of people to die before we consider this!
    • Re:WMD (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rogerz (78608) <roger@@@3playmedia...com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @12:22PM (#4802028)
      I was waiting for a comment on this well-known aspect of Einstein's views. I credit the poster for implicitly acknowledging that this perspective is a matter of both his and Einstein's opinion, and does not deserve any special credence because of the source. This is important, as, in today's impoverished intellectual climate, people often reach to the source of a viewpoint in order to validate it, without considering the supporting arguments.

      In this area, Einstein was simply regurgitating a "sense" and "feeling" he had derived from powerful political/social forces which were in the air during his formative years. In his comments and writings on the subject, he shows no special grasp of the issues. Indeed, his naivity and lack of moral judgement are glaring.

      Einstein was a brilliant physicist, but this has no bearing on the validity of his politics.
  • Read more (Score:4, Informative)

    by tiltowait (306189) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:45AM (#4801696) Homepage Journal
    A 2-page article is hardly going to make you a know-it-all on this man. It's a good overview, but please don't go away from it thinking you're an expert on his life. (That's just a pet peeve of mine, like people who saw a Ken Burns series and now think they're Civil War experts).

    What the article barely touches on, for example, is that (like Russell) he turned from science and philosophy to political activism later in life, complete with a heaping FBI file [fbi.gov]. Read his own words [amazon.com] if you want to. There's also an interesting story about Einstein's [echonyc.com] brain [amazon.com]!
  • Einstein's Dreams (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HoldmyCauls (239328) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @11:48AM (#4801726) Journal
    I just recently bought this book at a book sale. Very good, and the imagery is amazing. It documents Einstein's thoughts in novel form and interjects with meetings he had with his friend Besso, wherein he tried to explain his want for understanding.

    What made me cry the most was the realization that Einstein thought very much the way I did. If only people understood how simple -- yet dedicated -- true genius is, fewer people would be afraid of science and technology.
  • In order to make the world a better place. I think we all need to get in touch with our inner Einstein.

    "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." ~ Albert Einstein
  • privacy? (Score:2, Funny)

    by v(*_*)vvvv (233078)
    Where are all the privacy activists? I guess we all only care about our own privacy huh.
  • by Theovon (109752) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @12:03PM (#4801862)
    One thing about Einstein that is often omitted is what he was intellectually bad at. Sure, we know he wasn't good at math, but an even more important point was that he couldn't memorize details to save his life. I remember reading a story about how he called the telephone operator from a pay phone to ask what his phone number and address were -- he couldn't remember them.

    Maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but not much of one, because this isn't unheard of. The crux of this boils down to this: One has only a certain amount of cognitive processing power; if the majority is dedicated to one particular type of reasoning, then others will suffer.

    So Einstein, as we know, was immensely brilliant at dealing with abstract ideas, but at the same time, he was also miserable at dealing with concrete things, like memorizing a bit of text or some numbers, or for that matter, being able to take in the full sensory experience of a walk in the park, without distraction from other ideas in his head.

    I do believe that he was certainly of above average intelligence, but it's important to realize that his total brainpower may not have been AS FAR beyond us as we are taught. As far as he was greater than us in abstract reasoning, he was equally lousy at many of the cognitive things that most people take for granted.

    In fact, Einstein was not a fluke or a freak of nature. There are other people like him in the world. They are rare, but they are otherwise normal humans. Rather than being brilliant at Physics, many are brilliant socially or amazing at understanding the thoughts and motivations of other people. Some of them are geeks.
    • He did not believe in memorizing trivia. He didn't bother to memorize his phone number because he rarely had need to call himself and if he did, then he could look it up.
    • I remember reading a story about how he called the telephone operator from a pay phone to ask what his phone number and address were -- he couldn't remember them.

      Einstein never bothered to remember his own phone number, reasoning that he seldom needed to call himself. On rare occasions when he did, it was something he could look up.

      As a student in a co-op education program, I move every four months, so I can't remember my phone number either. It's nice to know I have something in common with Einstein. (Yes, I study physics too, but I'm not going to flatter myself.)

      With regard to famous mathematicians and physicists forgetting where they live, this joke has been told about many scientists.

      Scientist X is moving today. Since he knows how absent-minded he is, he takes care to jot down his new address on a slip of paper. He has an important lecture to deliver, so his family moves while he is in class during the day. When Scientist X prepares to go to his new home, he realizes that he cannot find the piece of paper. Distraught, he returns to his old house, and sees a young girl sitting on the front step. He asks her, "Excuse me, little girl. Can you tell me to where the family who used to live here has moved?"

      She immediately replies, "Of course, Daddy. Mom knew you'd forget, so she left me to remind you."

      A quick survey of the web shows that Scientist X is usually mathematician Norbert Weiner, though a number of others are cited less frequently.
    • Sure, we know he wasn't good at math, but an even more important point was that he couldn't memorize details to save his life. I remember reading a story about how he called the telephone operator from a pay phone to ask what his phone number and address were -- he couldn't remember them.


      Evidence pointing to the contrary [fathom.com] Einstein was a good student who excelled in a number of areas. He wasn't the forgetful type and is described as having an eye for detail. The story of him forgetting his phone number hardly means he was forgetful in general.

      (I'm not flaming you, it's just that there are a lot of myths about him - especially the math one. Hell, he was studying Kant and advanced mathematics by age 13)
  • by Omkar (618823)
    Richard Feynman was another physicist with Einstein's absolute brilliance, wit, and ability to reduce complicated things to their essentials. Read his Lectures on Physics which he gave at Caltech (the math is too advanced for my AP calculus mind...partial derivatives. I'll try and understand the math in around a year) and collections of his anecdotes. He was an amazing man. Did anyone here see his Challenger thing?
  • Neat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dirtsurfer (595452)
    My favorite part of the article is where it mentions how Einstein has become a kind of "scientific santa".
    It's true, in a way his face has become like the face of science, and the persona of "Einstein" is already mostly myth to most people. This might be a neat insight into how other famous figures in history developed into the over-simplified cultural icons that they are today (genghis khan, siddhartha gautama, moses, alexander the great, joan of arc, etc).
  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @12:27PM (#4802075) Journal
    My grandpa wrote Einstein a while back. Grandpa was leading a Great Books discussion on something of Einsteins, and he asked for a clarification of one of the problems in the book. Einstein wrote back. It's in English, which means he either dictated it, or someone translated it for him, since he didn't write in English.

    Either way, we're pretty sure he was wrong... hehe. Makes me happy every time I think about it.
  • [Dave is in the middle of painting a front porch and Kevin walks up. You only see his body but not who it is.]
    Kevin: So, you're doing a little painting.

    Dave: That's right Einstein. How'd ya guess? I mean, I was trying so hard to hide it. Huh Einstein?

    [Kevin's face is shown and we that he is really Einstein.]

    Kevin: Listen, not everything that comes out of my mouth is the theory of relativity. So can the sarcasm.

    Dave: Sorry, did I hurt your genius feelings?

    [Kevin starts to leave and reassure himself.]

    Kevin: Walk away, walk away... you're the genius, he's a painter... you're clearly the winner here. [etc.]

    Source [kithfan.org]
  • Exhibit (Score:4, Informative)

    by Have Blue (616) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @01:16PM (#4802546) Homepage
    There is right now a huge exhibit on Einstein at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Worth checking out if you're in the area over the next few months.
  • (an OT english usage comment)

    it's kind of ironic that his name gets invoked in a sarcastic sense to denigrate someone. i.e. "What do you mean you didn't think we'd need it? Nice move, Einstein."

  • I heard a comedy album by Mort Sahl a long time ago, so this is a major paraphrase (BTW, if you like political satire, you should definately check him out).

    A friend of mine says that if I named a famous man, he could name something humble about him, so he challenged me, and he's one of those high energy guys, so he says "GO!", like we're starting a race or something. So I say Thomas Edison, and he says "Thomas Edison always remembered the names of everyone he met". And I'm thinking, okay, this is fun, so I say Albert Einstein, and he says "Albert Einstein personally answered all of his own telephone calls".

    So I'm thinking it over, and I'm just awesomely impressed with the humility of the man, so important and famous, to answer all of his own calls, but then I think: Wait a second! Who called Einstein?

  • I did a book report of his Biography in school. I think it was very sad that the nurse who was attending him @ his deathbed was unable to speak German, so his last words were a mystery.
  • Mrs. Taylor: What was Einstein _REALLY_ like?
    Prof. Hathaway: Dead.
  • Unfortunately the most humorous alleged Einstein quote is in fact from George Bernard Shaw, who, asked by a strange lady: `You have the greatest brain in the world, and I have the most beautiful body; so we ought to produce the most perfect child.' just replied `What if the child inherits my body and your brains?'
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @05:58PM (#4805191) Homepage Journal
    Einstein was a patent clerk when he published many of his greatest papers

    No wonder the current patent clerks are such idiots: God accidentally assigned all the brains to a *single* clerk. Probably forgot to increment an index pointer or something when dolling out the smarts to future patent clerks.

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