Read Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius by Hans C. Ohanian Online


Although Einstein was the greatest genius of the twentieth century, many of his ground-breaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious misconceptions in physics to blatant errors in mathematics. For instance, Einstein's first theoretical proof of the famous formula E = mc2 was incomplete and only approximately valid; he struggled with this problem forAlthough Einstein was the greatest genius of the twentieth century, many of his ground-breaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious misconceptions in physics to blatant errors in mathematics. For instance, Einstein's first theoretical proof of the famous formula E = mc2 was incomplete and only approximately valid; he struggled with this problem for many years, but he never found a complete proof (better mathematicians did). In this provocative forensic biography, Hans C. Ohanian dissects this and other mistakes and places them in the context of Einstein's turbulent life and times. Einstein was often navigating in a fog of irrational and mystical inspirations, but his profound intuition about physics permitted him to reach his goal despite—and sometimes because of—the mistakes he made along the way. Einstein's uncanny ability to use his mistakes subconsciously as stepping stones toward his revolutionary theories was one hallmark of his genius....

Title : Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393062939
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius Reviews

  • Emily
    2019-01-15 13:36

    Albert Einstein was a genius. Time after time, he made theoretical leaps and discoveries that were decades ahead of the work his contemporaries were doing. He also made some colossal, amazingly bone-headed errors. In fact, according to Dr. Ohanian, a physicist himself, out of 180 scientific papers published by Einstein over his lifetime, a full 40 of them had mistakes, some of which were trifling, but many of which were significant. 40 out of 180 - that's almost a quarter of his output! Not only that, but his doctoral dissertation alone had over thirty math errors. If the greatest physicist of the 20th-century (and the second-greatest of all time, after only Sir Isaac Newton) can mess up that frequently and still be lauded as a genius, I figure a few mistakes here and there aren't going to kill me, either.Interestingly, Einstein didn't consider intelligence or hard work to be his most important asset. His stubborness got top billing, instead. “He felt that the task of a scientist is to find the most important question, and then to pursue it relentlessly.” But Einstein also had what Dr. Ohanian calls “a remarkable talent for making fruitful mistakes.” His intuition frequently, but not always, guided him to correct conclusions, in spite of his “botched” mathematical reasoning. Some of these mistakes led directly to the discoveries Einstein is best known for: his theories of special and of general relativity. (One quick note: in physics, as in most scientific fields, the word “theory” doesn't mean “opinion” or “conjecture” as it does in everyday usage. Rather, in this setting, the word “theory” is equivalent to “explanation.”) I was most surprised to discover that Einstein was not very comfortable using math as a basis or proof of his proposed theories; and he made many errors in the mathematical portions of his papers. Whenever he could, he'd partner with another physicist or a mathematician whose job it was to write the part of his papers that involved calculations – and in his later years, he employed assistants for the sole purpose of performing the complex mathematics his work required. Unfortunately, these partners or assistants often were denied the credit due to them, either by deliberate omission, or simply because the name “Einstein” overshadowed any other attached to a project.Dr. Ohanian has a talent, too, of explaining complex scientific theories in a way that is understandable for the layperson. I appreciated his analogy comparing mass and energy to ice and water. First, in relation to possibly the most famous equation associated with Einstein, E = mc2 [that '2' should be in a superscript, but I don't know how to do that here], he explains that “mass is a congealed form of energy, or an inactive form of energy” or, in other words, “mass and energy are two facets of the same thing.” Then he provides this image: “We can think of the congealed energy hidden in the mass of a body as analogous to the congealed water locked in the Antarctic ice sheet, and we can think of the liquid water on the Earth as analogous to the ordinary energy.” He goes on to provide more detail about, for example, the “dramatic and violent” effects we would see if a great deal of congealed energy – mass – was released at once; similar to the “disastrous flooding of all the coasts” that would happen if all the congealed water – ice – in the Antarctic were released simultaneously. Great visual, isn't it?Einstein once said, “We all must from time to time make a sacrifice at the altar of stupidity, for the entertainment of the deity and mankind.” It's affirming to know that a stubborn, arrogant genius like Einstein recognized the inevitably and necessity of the occasional error. Perhaps I can be a bit more welcoming and gentle with my own mistakes, too.For more book reviews, come visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

  • Mark
    2019-01-02 10:44

    Based on the description, I was excited to read this book because I thought it was going to focus on Einstein's thought process. Wouldn't that be great -- not just a description of the final form of Einstein's discovery but a in-depth description of the path he took to get there, describing both the insights and the wrong turns along the way. The book does do some of that, which is why I'm giving it a positive rating. However the author also spends a lot of time delving into Einstein's failings in his personal life, as a husband, as a father, and so forth. Also the author spends a lot of time on things that aren't failings but that tend to undercut Einstein's accomplishments, like constantly pointing out that other physicists were working on the same topics and understood some concepts better than Einstein. The overall impression is that the book's goal is to take Einstein down a peg, and it leaves rather a sour taste in the mouth.

  • Georgia Hedrick
    2019-01-12 09:22

    Someone else, read this and tell me if you love it as much as I do.

  • Christian
    2019-01-09 15:36

    Probably deserves zero stars. Stay away.

  • Anthony Cleveland
    2019-01-01 13:19

    An interesting read. The science requires more than a basic understanding to truly appreciate. But the less known facts about Einstein's personal life was informative. Also, the information regarding other scientists and their theories which came before Einstein and helped him to solidify his thinking was helpful. What I found most interesting was the discourse regarding the famous E=mc2 equation and the intellectual conflict between "stipulation and hypothesis". Would recommend for scientists interested in diving deeper into the life of Einstein and his contributions (and mistakes).

  • Converse
    2018-12-26 12:31

    Einstein succeeded not merely in spite of, but sometimes because of his mistakes. The fruitful mistakes were mainly conceptual rather than mathematical ones. For example, in formulating special relativity he decreed, rather than demonstrated, that light travels at a constant speed in a vacum regardless of how fast you are moving relative to a light source. In general relativity he started with the idea that it is impossible to distinguish in certain circumstances between acceleration due to gravity and acceleration due to some other force. Both of these ideas are to greater or lesser degrees incorrect or at least not consistent with the notion that science has some connection to what one observes. But he overcame both, though he tended to stubbornly insist that there was no problems with either of the above ideas. I was interested to learn that the physicist Hendrick Lorentz and the mathematician Henri Poincare had formulated parts of special relavivty before Einstein. Einstein though greatly generalized the application of the ideas of special relativity to all of physics, while Lorentz applied his ideas only to electromagnetism. Both Lorentz and Poincare seem to have stuck with the idea that light must travel through a medium like other waves, and thus stuck with the idea that the ether, a hypothetical medium in which light propagates must exist - although they conceded that it could not be detected and that special relativity made its existence redundant. Einstein did not follow their example. I found it interesting to learn that Einstein did not much like math, which seems rather odd for someone who was a theoretical physicist by profession. His successes resulted from insight into the consequences of physical principles, plus an eye for weak spots in existing ideas. In later years he always had an assistant to help with the math. Many of his papers have mathematical errors. His general relativity could have come out in a satisfactory form earlier had he been quicker to learn the relevant mathematical technique (tensors). Unfortunately his last two decades were spent in search of a grand unified theory of all the forces of physics, at a time when this was wildly premature. Worse, his fellow physicists could easily spot that his repeated and public efforts on this subject failed even to account for existing knowledge, such as coming out with the correct results for electromagnetism or the effects of general relativity. His efforts were further hampered by his unwillingness to accept the framework of quantum theory as developed in the 1920s. All this failure leads one to the more general question of how long anyone should persist with an idea that does not lead to immediate success. Abandoning the idea after the first reverse may be premature; continuing on and on in the hopes of eventual success however may simply be self-delusion. Einstein in his private life was not admirable. He seems to have been a serial adulterer. He also did little to ease the living conditions of a son by his first marriage, who suffered from some kind of mental illness and was institutionalized. Although it would appear that some sort of professional care was appropriate, some of Einstein's considerable affluence could have been devoted to ensuring that his son, an intelligent man whatever his emotional problems, did not have to spend decades sleeping in a dormitory.

  • Lealdo
    2019-01-13 12:17

    O autor escreve de maneira juvenil, no pior do sentidos. No entanto, para alguém cujos conhecimentos de física basicamente param na porta do séc. XX, como eu, podem ser algumas centenas de páginas absorventes e que ajudam a entender como as descobertas quânticas e atômicas foram acontecendo.Quanto à suposta humildade que os erros de Einstein trouxeram ao aqui repetidamente declarado Ser Humano Mais Inteligente do Século, ela não se faz presente. Nada que chegue a impedi-lo de ser o tiozão legal que ele aparentemente foi durante toda a vida.

  • J. D.
    2019-01-20 14:44

    A very interesting history of Einsteins intellectual endeavors. I came away appreciating that an important source of his genius was his intuition. His mathematical talent was apparently good, but not exceptional; or perhaps he was lazy.

  • Captain Nemo
    2019-01-11 13:27

    I enjoyed it, but bogged down around page 300.Its still on my pile to be finished, but now on those nights when I can't sleep because of some problem of the day which I keep replaying, then I turn on the light and let Einstein's problems put me to sleep.It may be too long.

  • Bookmarks Magazine
    2019-01-04 11:16

    In Einstein

  • Sabit
    2019-01-20 12:19

    Nje nga librat me interesant qe kam lexuar per Einstein-in. Tani kam filluar ne detaje t'a percjelli mitin dhe mitet mbi njerezit me epitete.

  • Pat
    2019-01-08 12:34

    I didn't read the jacket. Not my cup of tea.

  • Greg Springer
    2018-12-27 16:26

    I was leery of reading the book because of its title, but very much enjoyed the book. Wasn't what I expected and has a positive theme.

  • Carlos Amador
    2019-01-01 12:14

    Offered an interesting perspective on one of history's most brilliant minds and his life.

  • Eric Pitre
    2019-01-15 15:33

    Very easy to read plus you dont need a Ph.D in physics to understand the content. Simply loved it!