Skip to main content

Einstein on the Road – Josef Eisinger ***

There is a huge industry of books that have Einstein as their subject, more so than any other scientist. And not just biographies. There is even a book that consists entirely of quotes from the Sainted Albert. So it is no entirely surprising that someone has found a new way to slice and dice the Einstein legend – by retelling the great man’s travel diaries.
In a relatively slim 165 pages (once one has extracted the notes and index), Josef Eisinger takes us with Einstein on his visits abroad from the exotic far East to the less bewitching Pasadena. And it is faintly interesting. Einstein, for instance, really struggled with Japanese music, because for him harmony was so important in the construction of music. And pined for his violin when he didn’t get a chance to play it (but not for the fjords).
There is a lot more of the social niceties here than any scientific insights. It is distinctly surprising just how much Einstein was feted as a superstar as he travelled the world. And how often he had to sit through boring speeches and formal occasions. He seems to have often been treated more like royalty than a working scientist. But it is hard to get particularly excited about what we read.
There isn’t enough detail here for a research writing a biography of Einstein – he or she would want to go to the original travel diaries. But there isn’t enough of interest or of science to capture a more general audience. For all that it opens up a (very mundane) slice of the mystery that is Einstein, this is a book that will be appreciated by a narrow audience.

Hardback 

Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Peter Spitz

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lucy Jane Santos - Four Way Interview

Lucy Jane Santos is an expert in the history of 20th century leisure, health and beauty, with a particular interest in (some might say obsession with) the cultural history of radioactivity. Writes & talks (a lot) about cocktails and radium. Her debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium was published by Icon Books in July 2020.

Why science?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of science especially our daily interactions with and understandings of science – especially in a beauty context. I could spend hours pondering the labels of things on my bathroom shelf. What is 4-t-butylcyclohexanol (as a random example)? Do I really understand what I am putting on my face and spending my money on? Would it change my purchase habits if I did?  

Why this book?

This book came from an accidental discovery – that there was a product called Tho Radia which contained radium and thorium. I found out about it because I actually bought a pot of it – along with a big batch of other produc…

Rewilding: Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe ****

Those who are enthusiastic about saving the environment often have a mixed relationship with science. They might for example, support organic farming or oppose nuclear power, despite organics having no nutritional benefit and requiring far more land to be used to raise the same amount of crops, while nuclear is a green energy source that should be seen as an essential support to renewables. This same confusion can extend to the concept of rewilding, which is one reason that the subtitle of this book uses the word 'radical'.

As Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe make clear, though, radical change is what is required if we are to encourage ecological recovery. To begin with, we need to provide environments for nature that take in the big picture - thinking not just of individual nature reserves but, for example, of corridors that link areas allowing safe species migration. And we also need to move away from an arbitrary approach to restricting to 'native' species, as sometimes…

Is Einstein Still Right? - Clifford Will and Nicolas Yunes ***

If there's one thing that gets a touch tedious in science reporting it's the news headlines that some new observation or experiment 'proves Einstein right' - as if we're still not sure about relativity. At first glance that's what this book does too, but in reality Clifford Will and Nicolas Yunes are celebrating the effectiveness of the general theory of relativity, while being conscious that there may still be situations where, for whatever reason, the general theory is not sufficient.

It's a genuinely interesting book - what Will and Yunes do is take experiments that are probably familiar to the regular popular science reader already and expand on the simplified view of them we are usually given. So, for example, one of the first things they mention is the tower experiments to show the effect of gravitational red shift. I was aware of these experiments, but what we get here goes beyond the basics of the conceptual experiment to deal with the realities of d…