Friday, February 3, 2012

10 facts about Albert Einstein

 Albert Einstein, a genius, an icon, a man in desperate need of a comb! Most people know a lot about the famous physicist without even trying to. To begin with it’s easy to see that he never owned a comb in his entire adult life, and it is also common knowledge that never wore socks because he disliked the way holes developed around his big toe. He was born on March 14th 1879 and ended his life in America in 1955 where his last words were lost to use because the nurse at his bed side didn’t understand German. He is a man who has had a periodic element, (einsteinium), named in his honor and one whose social and political rhetoric is studied as avidly as Machiavelli and Gandhi. But let’s see if there aren’t some more fascinating facts about one of the most fascinating people of the 20th century. Here is a list of top 10 fascinating facts about Albert Einstein.

10. Did not Talk Till he was Three - Albert Einstein is called by many the smartest man to have ever lived, but he had a great deal of difficulty in his early childhood development. Some have wondered if he suffered from ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ a high function type of autism. But such speculation is exactly that, speculation. But we do know that he did not learn to speak until he was three years old and even at the age of nine he is said to have spoken hesitantly and with uncertainty. This later information could have been a result of his dislike of this school system, (he went through several and never seemed to enjoy any of them), and his tendency towards introspection and thoughtfulness. If nothing else Albert Einstein is a good example of why being a late bloomer isn’t such a bad thing.

9. A Cottage in Norfolk Saved the World…Maybe - During the 1930’s while Hitler’s National Socialist Party, (the NSDAP), was gaining power and prominence Albert Einstein went to stay in a cottage in Norfolk, England. Einstein (a symptom of being of Jewish ancestry in the 1930’s) constantly had to be uprooted and moved as the political and geographical topography of the world shifted under the pressure of the Nazi’s. When Hitler was elected to power as Chancellor in 1933 it became impossible for him to stay in Nazi Germany and a British M.P, (Member of Parliament), Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson offered him a place to stay in Norfolk. While at the M.P’s cottage, located in the English countryside, Einstein was able to continue work on his scientific theories including developing the ideas behind the first atomic bomb. In many ways being able to retreat to the small cottage in Norfolk could be said to have helped end the war, (depending on your opinion on the atomic bomb), but certainly advanced scientific theory and progress. He left Norfolk to move to America.

8. Grand Theft Cerebral - A lot of people know that Albert Einstein’s brain was removed and given to science for research several hours after his death in 1955, but not many know that he might not have given his consent. It has been said in the past by biographers and friends of the famous physicist that it was Albert’s wish that his mind should be used for scientific research but more recently evidence has come to light to suggest he might never have requested anything of the sort and that his brain was removed without his or his family’s permission. Although Hans Albert Einstein, his son, did agree to it after the brain had already been removed but insisted it only be utilized for serious scientific research in respected journals. After significant study it was discovered that among other thing’s Einstein’s mind contained more gilal cells then most people. These cells are responsible for synthesizing information.

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7. He was Swiss- Einstein regained his Germany citizenship in 1914 during the changing political climate at the end of the First World War. He did so when he entered the Germany civil service, (the famous patent office), as well as being a member of the Prussian army and professor at the academy of sciences. But when he left the civil service in 1933, and Germany, he lost that citizenship. Before this happened he had already gained his Swiss citizenship in 1901. But unlike many of the bonds he made during this almost nomadic time in his life he retained his Swiss citizenship until the day he died, even after he became an American citizen in 1940. In fact between 1933 and 1940 he retained his Swiss citizenship only and you could argue that since he held it longer, and until he died, he was more Swiss than anything else.

6. His Work Largely went Unnoticed After the War - While Einstein gained a lot of popular attention for his eccentricity and public image as a member of the scientific community behind the discovery of the atomic bomb, and while most people knew the sight of his unkempt hair style and that he did not own a pair of socks, his work in the later part of his life, went largely unexamined until recently. Einstein had been working on a Unified field theory, (it involved gravity and electromagnetism being solved by one set of equations), and would do so until he died, but from 1920 onwards he also began to concentrate on quantum theory. Most people will have heard of this area of theoretical physics by now, (if not in class then in any number of Hollywood movies that have exploited it), but the work was neglected until very recently and is now at the centre of the discipline being considered alongside such high sounding things as ‘superstring theory.’
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5. Married his Cousin- A number of famous people have married their cousins including Jesse James, Franklin Roosevelt, H.G Wells and Charles Darwin. But so did Einstein and he did so with gusto. His first wife, Melvia Maric, (married in January 1903), was a Serbian woman and has been described as having more of an intellectual partnership with Einstein. He had two sons by her. He married his second wife, Elsa Lowenthal, about four months after divorcing Maric who had been living separately for five years. Elsa had nursed Einstein through an illness and this might have led to his affection for her. In any case she was his first cousin on his mother’s side, but also his second cousin on his father’s side making him her cousin two times over on both sides of the family!

4. Won the Nobel Prize for…One of the more fascinating facts about Albert Einstein is that very few people know what he won a Nobel Prize for in 1922. (Coincidently Nobel was the inventor of dynamite.) Of course an award like the Nobel Prize is actual given for a life time of work, and no one specific thing, but for the purpose of naming a winner a single thing is generally named. In Einstein’s case it was his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect in 1905. (Let’s not go there, but the photoelectric effect has to do with electrons that are given out of a material after the absorption of energy, more to the point x-rays, and Einstein postulated that this absorption was caused by quanta’s of light, now called protons) He invested the prize money heavily in the United States and saw much of his investments wiped out in the Depression of 1929.

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3. President of Israel - Here’s a good one. It is largely believed that in 1952 Israel asked Albert Einstein to become Prime Minister. In fact Einstein was asked by the Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, to become Israel’s Second President since it’s foundation in 1948, asking him ‘whether you would accept the Presidency of Israel if it were offered you by a vote of the Knesset.’ Albert, a Jew but not an Israeli citizen, declined the offer saying that while he was honored he was also sad and ashamed to say he could not accept it. There are various reports as to why he turned it down, but by and large they come down to his disinterest at taking on such responsibility, or joining the stress of the political world. After all his entire life had been spent fascinated by physics and the pursuit of scientific answers, his causes and ideology were a necessity brought on by the urgency of his time for good men to say wise words.

2. Funded WWII - In 1944 Albert Einstein decided to write out his 1905 paper, the one that won him the Nobel Prize in Physics, (see item 4 on this list), and auction it off. The papers earned six million dollars and the money was sent to help with the war effort of World War Two. A vocal pacifist and author of the book, ‘Why war?’ ironically Einstein actually helped fund World War Two.

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1. Money - Naturally we have been interested in what one of the smartest men who ever lived has to say on nearly everything, not least because he seems to have had so much to say on social and moral issues. A pacifist and social thinker Einstein has undoubtedly been able to teach us a lot outside the world of science, so what did he think was the greatest hold up to human development and social advancement? That’s right, money! In 1934 he wrote that he was convinced wealth would never be an aid to the betterment of humanity, ‘even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause.’ He felt that money only caused greed and envy which brought on selfishness and an abuse of power. At the end of the day it is only one man’s opinion and he never said it would be absolutely detrimental or disastrous to have a currency, only that it was the single greatest thing holding us back.


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