Monday, January 19, 2004

Dave Warsh shared his joy after reading a book on Eisntein (Levenson's "Einstein in Berlin"). This is interesting, about that magic equation:

"... Then in the single year of 1905, Einstein wrote three papers that demonstrated a capacity to revolutionize physics: the light quantum hypothesis in March, an account of Brownian motion in May, the relativity principle in June. Then in September, as a kind of an after-thought, he wrote up the startling insight into the deep connection between energy and mass that eventually would be expressed in the famous summary equation, E=mc-squared [sorry, Dave, you have typo there -- Aco]. ("This thought is amusing and infectious," he wrote to a friend, "but I cannot possibly know whether the good Lord does not laugh at it and has led me up the garden path.") By 1908 he was a professor at the University of Zurich, and in 1911, he was called to the German University in Prague and thus promoted into the top rank of world physicists...."

... and Dave thinks Germany has suffered from fatal brain-drain:

"... Before the war, German science was superlative. Planck, Nernst and other members of the scientific elite correctly intuited that enormous power, economic and military, awaited those who solved the mysteries of quantum mechanics and special relativity. And indeed, not just the atom bomb but radar, television, semiconductors and computers lay directly down the path that Einstein had discovered. German science generally and Einstein himself remained in place throughout the 1920s, amid the frustrations, humiliations and froth of the Weimar Republic. For a dozen years, it seemed to the best Germans as though things might get better..... Instead they got worse — disastrously worse. In late 1932 the Nazis finally won control of the government. Before Hitler became chancellor, Einstein and his wife slipped out of Berlin on their way to Caltech for a semester of teaching, never to return. The rest is tragic dénouement. Most of the most talented people in German science left, and leadership shifted to United States. The Einsteins moved to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; he spent the rest of his life on the sidelines..."

Nice posting, Dave.

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