Any old Einstein …

May 24, 2007

After a lengthy run of science fiction, I’ve taken a turn into reality and begun reading Walter Isaakson’s excellent biography, Einstein.  Isaakson wrote the prize winning biography of Benjamin Franklin a few years ago. It’s been interesting, but difficult, to attempt to grasp many of the concepts of relativity, gravity, and quantum mechanics.  I wish I understood the basics of it better.  Reading this has made  me realize just how much I’ve forgotten concerning certain aspects of science, and underscored yet again my regret that math and physics were relegated to the back burner in school. 

Having done so well with both math and science for years, very well in fact, I don’t know what caused science and mathematics to be set aside for writing later in school.  I suspect it was a combination of factors.  As I became more interested in writing, I also ran into algebra, which caused me no amount of stress, and chemistry, which at times befuddled me.  Combined with a couple of teachers that could have made the Apocalypse boring,  the formulas of chemistry and the mathematics of physics were pretty much doomed. I still loved the idea of the sciences, and did well with biology and anatomy, but the mathematics of the other sciences stymied me.

One of the aspects of Einstein which intrigues me is his thought experiments.  Unlike scientists who do “physical” experiments to prove or disprove theories, Einstein usually left it to others to prove or disprove his theories, dropping challenges to do so at the end of his papers.  He relied on thought experiments, running scenarios and formulas in his head, from thinking about riding a light beam at age sixteen to the what it felt like to fall in an elevator.  One of his regrets, too, was not studying his math better and instead concentrating on physics, and had to have help with some of his math formulas.

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