Archive for the 'Einstein' Category

Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness, by John S. Rigden

QC16.E5 R54 2005

This is the final installment in my series of books by or about Einstein in celebration of the World Year of Physics 2005. Its author, John S. Rigden, will be speaking at several UTA events beginning September 15. Read ahead and you’ll be prepared to ask intelligent questions when he appears.

One hundred years ago this year, Albert Einstein published five papers that revolutionized physics. While the general public knows that Einstein was highly intelligent (indeed his name is synonymous with genius), few of us understand why. This book, which is directed to a non-scientist audience, illuminates the importance of his work.

Aside from a prologue and epilogue, the book contains a section for each paper. They are (March) The Revolutionary Quantum Paper, (April) Molecular Dimensions, (May) “Seeing” Atoms, (June) The Merger of Space and Time, (September) The Most Famous Equation.

Each section describes the contents of the paper, how the concepts fit in relation to other scientists’ work, and the significance of the paper on consequent scientific thought. The reader emerges with a clearer understanding of Einstein’s work in the context of science, philosophy, and the greater human culture.

UTA Libraries holds six more titles by Dr. Rigden, including Hydrogen : the Essential Element (SEL: QD181.H1 R54 2002), Most of the Good Stuff : Memories of Richard Feynman (SEL: QC16.F49 A3 1993), and Physics and the Sound of Music (Central: ML3805 .R56).

(Originally published in Connections, September 2005)

Einstein and Religion, by Max Jammer

SEL Books: QC16 .E5 J36 1999

This is the first time I’m recommending a book in this column that I haven’t yet finished. Since it isn’t a novel, a plot twist at the end will certainly not drastically change my opinion of the work.

For those interested in Einstein the man, and even Einstein the scientist, I believe this book is an important part of that study. His spiritual views were inextricably entwined with his scientific endeavors. Indeed, in an oft-quoted remark, Einstein maintained that his physics work was an attempt to read the mind of God.

It needs to be said that this book is not a religious work. Its intention is not to further any religious philosophy—it neither agrees nor disagrees with Einstein’s views. Its purpose is merely to illuminate the man and his work in relation to religion.

The book is divided into three chapters. “Einstein’s Religiosity and the Role of Religion in His Private Life” looks at his attitudes towards and experiences with religion from his early years until his death. “Einstein’s Philosophy of Religion” describes his views on religion from a philosophical (not a theological) standpoint. And “Einstein’s Physics and Theology,” the longest, and, for me, the most fascinating part of the book, looks at science’s influence on Einstein’s own religious philosophy and its implications for religious issues around the world.

Jammer was a pupil and colleague of Einstein’s, so his work provides special insight into the man. The work is scrupulous and scholarly, containing information from numerous writings by and about Einstein, and his theses are well developed.

This book should be an integral part of anyone’s study of Einstein’s life or work.

Other Max Jammer titles in UTA’s collection, none of which I have yet read, include Concepts of Space: The History of Theories of Space in Physics (foreword by Albert Einstein, SEL Books: QC173.59.S65 J36 1993), Conceptual Development of Quantum Mechanics (Central: QC174.12 .J35), and Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics: The Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics in Historical Perspective (Central: QC173.98 .J35).

(Originally published in Connections, August 2005)

Out of My Later Years, by Albert Einstein

Central QC16 .E5 A3 1970

The essays comprising this book were my first contact with Einstein’s writing. I was amazed both by the clarity of his writing and the warmth of his delivery. I had seen him as larger than life. In this book, I discovered something of the man.

The essays are organized into six sections: Convictions and Beliefs, Science, Public Affairs, Science and Life, Personalities, and My People. The majority of the writing requires little or no scientific or mathematical background.

As you make your way through the sections, a portrait emerges of a man of profound intellect, who somehow maintains a deep sense of his own humanity. Certain themes recur throughout the essays, including his desire to transcend the boundaries of race, class, religion, and country and his near obsession with establishing organizations that would ensure world peace.

This book is not a biography, but reading it allowed me to feel that I had glimpsed something of the heart and mind of the man behind the myth.

(Originally published in Connections, July 2005)

E=mc2 : A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation, by David Bodanis

SEL Books: QC73.8.C6 B63 2000

As part of the centennial celebration of Einstein’s four 1905 ground-breaking publications, I’m going to recommend several books by or about the great man and his work. I can think of no better place to start than Bodanis’s E=mc2. It is a great introduction to Einstein’s ideas and is written for a general audience.

The book is a fun and compelling read. It engages the reader by combining the fascinating history of certain scientists with the history (biography) of each element in the equation. Each section focuses on one element (such as E, or energy) and explains how perspectives towards the element changed over time. One gets the sense that a mystery is working itself out as the story progressing.

If you think you can’t understand what this famous equation means, this book will change your mind.

The Central Library collection has another book by David Bodanis that I haven’t yet read: The Body Book : A Fantastic Voyage to the World Within (SEL Books: QP38 .B59 1984)

(Originally published in Connections, May 2005)