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From the best-selling author of E=mc2, a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals the genius and hubris of the titan of modern physics Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of hi From the best-selling author of E=mc2, a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals the genius and hubris of the titan of modern physics Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of his life, he was ignored by most working scientists, and his ideas were opposed by even his closest friends.   How did this happen? Einstein's imagination and self-confidence served him well when he was young. But when it came to the new field of quantum mechanics, the same traits undermined him. Bestselling biographer David Bodanis traces Einstein from the skeptical, erratic student to the world's most brilliant physicist—and then to the desolate, fallen-from-grace celebrity.   An intimate biography touching on the romances and rivalries of the celebrated physicist, as much as on his scientific goals, Einstein's Greatest Mistake reveals what we owe Einstein today—and how much more he might have achieved if not for his all-too-human flaws.


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From the best-selling author of E=mc2, a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals the genius and hubris of the titan of modern physics Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of hi From the best-selling author of E=mc2, a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals the genius and hubris of the titan of modern physics Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of his life, he was ignored by most working scientists, and his ideas were opposed by even his closest friends.   How did this happen? Einstein's imagination and self-confidence served him well when he was young. But when it came to the new field of quantum mechanics, the same traits undermined him. Bestselling biographer David Bodanis traces Einstein from the skeptical, erratic student to the world's most brilliant physicist—and then to the desolate, fallen-from-grace celebrity.   An intimate biography touching on the romances and rivalries of the celebrated physicist, as much as on his scientific goals, Einstein's Greatest Mistake reveals what we owe Einstein today—and how much more he might have achieved if not for his all-too-human flaws.

30 review for Einstein's Greatest Mistake: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ETA: So I have been asked what was Einstein's greatest mistake. Are you wondering too? The answer I gave in message five below is the following: Einstein could not accept the randomness central to quantum mechanics. This separated him from the research community. The reader does come to understand why he was so stubborn. He had previously erred in thinking that G=T had to have a lambda factor added. When it was discovered that the universe was expanding, the lambda factor was no longer necessary ETA: So I have been asked what was Einstein's greatest mistake. Are you wondering too? The answer I gave in message five below is the following: Einstein could not accept the randomness central to quantum mechanics. This separated him from the research community. The reader does come to understand why he was so stubborn. He had previously erred in thinking that G=T had to have a lambda factor added. When it was discovered that the universe was expanding, the lambda factor was no longer necessary. Actually, it may be that dark energy does represent the lambda factor. He stubbornly stuck to a belief in the existence of universal rules. *********************** This book is interesting for two reasons. It is both a biography of Albert Einstein, as a person he is very interesting, and it gives a summary of his discoveries. It is written for a layman. It moves forward chronologically, starting from his birth in 1879 in Ulm, Germany, through to his death in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, 1955. We learn about his personality, his family and his friends. Nevertheless, the main focus is his work; this was the driving force in his life. Where he studied and lived, who he studied and worked with and how his discoveries developed are explained step by step. Special relativity, general relativity, the debate over the lambda factor, quantum mechanics and his skepticism toward this theory are discussed in a clear manner. There is discussion of his work toward a unified field theory, how his discoveries relate to photons, lasers, dark matter and dark energy and why he became isolated from mainstream research in his old age. The book is not written for a physicist expert; it is written for you and me. Neither is the book that long, so don’t expect to close it and be an expert on either the man or his theories. It is a good book to start with. Einstein's “thought- experiments” and Edwin A. Abbott's Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions are used to illustrate concepts central to Einstein’s theories. The examples given make it possible to comprehend dimensions beyond the three we ordinarily use to see the world around us. For the most part I could understand what was being said. At the end of the book, there is an appendix that goes deeper, discussing for example why time curves and why time measurements vary. Here the author lost me completely! I was glad this information was separated from the general text. In addition, the author's web site provides more detailed analyses. The audiobook is narrated by Roger Davis. He reads slowly and clearly, and that is exactly what I want in a book like this. The narration I have given four stars. I felt the theories were more clearly explained in Einstein's Greatest Mistake: A Biography than in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. On the other hand Isaacson’s book has more biographical detail. Both I have given four stars. Both are worth reading. The two complement each other. Both the man and his theories are fascinating! I recommend this book to those of you who are curious about the man and his theories.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I really enjoyed this book. Took me longer to read than usual for me, but that was life getting in the way, not the book itself. It was written in a very approachable manner. The science, despite being Einstein and completely over my head, was introduced in ways even I could follow and understand. Einstein was, to my surprise, a bit of a lady's man. No offense, but that hair! I just couldn't, but many women were attracted to him. Even though he was married. For SHAME ladies! Also, being a product I really enjoyed this book. Took me longer to read than usual for me, but that was life getting in the way, not the book itself. It was written in a very approachable manner. The science, despite being Einstein and completely over my head, was introduced in ways even I could follow and understand. Einstein was, to my surprise, a bit of a lady's man. No offense, but that hair! I just couldn't, but many women were attracted to him. Even though he was married. For SHAME ladies! Also, being a product of the times, the modern-day woman in me absolutely SCREAMED at the treatment of females in the science field. Warning, do NOT read this if you are feeling particularly anti-male/society for keeping ladies down, just sayin'. Very well written book, though being my first biography of Einstein, it may have huge gaping holes in it, but I didn't notice any and felt that I learned quite a bit; about Einstein, those in his life and physics. Highly recommended for the newbie interested in Einstein's life. I learned a lot and didn't feel like an idiot when reading the science bits. Bonus! Four stars because it was a solidly written book, but didn't knock my socks off wow me. Highly recommended. My thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book. I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln - it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someone read this book than didn't know anything about Einstein, other than he was that crazy clever guy with the big white hair. Einstein's Greatest Mistake isn't going to impress popular science regulars, but it is likely to appeal to many readers who would never pick up a Gribbin or a Carroll. Because of this, I think we need to overcome any worries about inaccuracies and be genuinely grateful - and just as some viewers of the movie Lincoln will go on to read a good biography to find out more, so I believe that reading this book will draw some readers into the wider sphere of popular science. What Bodanis does brilliantly is to give us a feel for Einstein as a person. I don't think I've ever read a book that does this as well, both in terms of the social life of young Einstein and what he went through in his Princeton years, which most scientific biographies don't give much time to, because he produced very little that was new and interesting. Apart from that, Einstein's Greatest Mistake is also very good when it comes to descriptions of supporting events, such as Eddington's eclipse expeditions of 1919 or the way that Hubble made sure he got himself in the limelight when Einstein visited. Whenever there's a chance for storytelling, Bodanis triumphs. It seems almost breaking a butterfly on the wheel to say where things go wrong with science or history, a bit like those irritating people who insist on telling you what's illogical in the plot of a fun film. But I do think I need to pick out a few examples to show what I mean. In describing Einstein's remarkable 1905 work, Bodanis portrays this as being driven by an urge to combine the nature of matter and energy, culminating in Einstein's E=mc^2 paper (in reality, the closest the paper gets to this is m=L/V^2). Yet this paper was pretty much an afterthought. The driver for special relativity was Maxwell's revelations about the nature of light, while the book pretty much ignores the paper for which Einstein won the Nobel Prize, one of the foundations of quantum physics. When covering that same area, which Bodanis accurately identifies as the greatest mistake - quantum theory - the approach taken is to make Bohr, Born and Heisenberg the 'pro' faction and Einstein plus Schrödinger the 'antis'. Although this was true in terms of interpretation, the stance means that the Schrödinger equation is pretty much ignored, which gives a weirdly unbalanced picture of quantum physics. Bodanis picks on the uncertainty principle as the heart of quantum physics. Unfortunately, he then uses Heisenberg's microscope thought experiment as the definitive proof of the principle - entirely omitting that Bohr immediately tore the idea to shreds, to Heisenberg's embarrassment, pointing out that the thought experiment totally misunderstands the uncertainty principle, as it isn't produced by observation. This isn't, then, a book for the science or history of science enthusiast. However, I stand by my assertion that this kind of biopic popular science does have an important role - I am sure the book will appeal to a wide range of people who think that science is difficult and unapproachable. And as such I heartily endorse it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    SeaShore

    Einstein (1879 to 1955) Einstein was growing in confidence but still far from smug. When he first came up with the idea for his final paper linking E and M, he had written a friend, "The idea is amusing and enticing, but whether the good Lord is laughing at me and leading me up the garden path- that I cannot know." The author goes on to describe Einstein's interactions and rivalries that occurred with Friedmann, with Lemaitre, with Edwin Powell Hubble. Hubble was said to be a diligent worker but Mi Einstein (1879 to 1955) Einstein was growing in confidence but still far from smug. When he first came up with the idea for his final paper linking E and M, he had written a friend, "The idea is amusing and enticing, but whether the good Lord is laughing at me and leading me up the garden path- that I cannot know." The author goes on to describe Einstein's interactions and rivalries that occurred with Friedmann, with Lemaitre, with Edwin Powell Hubble. Hubble was said to be a diligent worker but Milton Hubason was even better. A photograph of Einstein with Charlie Chaplin at the premiere of City Lights January 1931, is shown. By this time Albert Einstein and his wife, Mileva Maric were totally estranged from each other and she raised their two sons. Albert Einstein had met Elsa (and her two daughters) and was now ready to settle down- no more affairs. Einstein continued to do his research and as he aged, recognized that he was beginning to refute ideas of the young physicists. He had his share of problems; the deaths of Elsa in 1936, and Mileva Maric in 1948, his sister Maja in 1951, as well as one of his sons diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is a worthy read including at the end in the Appendix, A Layman's Guide to the Theory of Relativity, "Why Time Curves: The Case of King Kong." This is where he ventures to explain using a person seeing King Kong on the Empire State building. It is a layman's guide but a challenge still to understand Space-Time. I recommend Professor Leonard Susskind's lectures on The Theory of Relativity available at the Open Courses website or on YouTube. His explanations are detailed and straightforward and easily understood. The author, David Bodanis is a fascinating speaker and he integrated Einstein's personal life with his Scientific research to make this book an encouraging read. He pointed out Einstein's feelings of being isolated and marginalised even. Another reviewer said: "I don't think a Genius is ever in search of a formula or idea or is over ambitious about being a genius. Genius just happens. And it happens when you actually don't care about making it big or working towards figuring the laws of the universe only so you have a great career or ego satisfaction. It takes a much higher level of intelligence, ignorance and a non ambitious attitude towards your study/research. All this becomes secondary when you immerse yourself in what you deeply understand or wish to understand and that opens the gateways. "

  5. 4 out of 5

    Niyati

    When most chapters end with "and Einstein was there but still not close enough" "was oblivious to what was in store for him" "not long before he was convinced of his greatest discovery" - they scream for attention and follow a very predictable fashion of writing especially with finishing chapters in a manner that should push the reader to the next one. Good but obvious attempts. Also through most of the book Bodanis portrays Einstein to always be in search of that one genius idea that will estab When most chapters end with "and Einstein was there but still not close enough" "was oblivious to what was in store for him" "not long before he was convinced of his greatest discovery" - they scream for attention and follow a very predictable fashion of writing especially with finishing chapters in a manner that should push the reader to the next one. Good but obvious attempts. Also through most of the book Bodanis portrays Einstein to always be in search of that one genius idea that will establish him as a notable scientist. Through several chapters that describe his struggle, it seemed perhaps that Einstein wasn't going to rest untill he found THE formula and was in search of something (success, fame) that satiates him. I don't think a Genius is ever in search of a formula or idea or is over ambitious about being a genius. Genius just happens. And it happens when you actually don't care about making it big or working towards figuring the laws of the universe only so you have a great career or ego satisfaction. It takes a much higher level of intelligence, ignorance and a non ambitious attitude towards your study/research. All this becomes secondary when you immerse yourself in what you deeply understand or wish to understand and that opens the gateways. To portray him as someone who year after year was constantly wondering that he's got to do something, he's got to come up with something is an immature narrative. I don't think folks trying to figure out the laws of the universe, are constantly on the edge of making it big. It's got to be deeper than that. Otherwise an easy read and good for starters with all the necessary information about Einsteins personal and professional gains and loses.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Craig Rowley

    Interesting take on the cost of isolating and stubbornly sticking to one's traditional views in the face of seemingly insurmountable new discoveries. Perhaps we will find that Einstein was right when we can transcend spacetime-bound thinking just as the flatlanders leapt off their page. Or not, but the journey to find out will be enjoyable in retrospect, I'm sure, maybe even laughable. Interesting take on the cost of isolating and stubbornly sticking to one's traditional views in the face of seemingly insurmountable new discoveries. Perhaps we will find that Einstein was right when we can transcend spacetime-bound thinking just as the flatlanders leapt off their page. Or not, but the journey to find out will be enjoyable in retrospect, I'm sure, maybe even laughable.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Fellows

    I enjoyed the book very much. It gave you a good background on Einstein and also gave you a good idea of the science going on around him at the time. It was nice that a fair and even description of all science and scientists at the time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    So Einstein was brilliant, and human. A fascinating case study of how science works. Einstein introduced lambda into his simple and elegant general relativity equation to accommodate the then current state of experimental knowledge. Then he (eventually) removed lambda, in line with the work of Lemaitre, Humason and Hubble (which demonstrated an expanding universe) restoring the equation to its original elegance. It turns out that very recent work on dark matter (ironically, work that is partly d So Einstein was brilliant, and human. A fascinating case study of how science works. Einstein introduced lambda into his simple and elegant general relativity equation to accommodate the then current state of experimental knowledge. Then he (eventually) removed lambda, in line with the work of Lemaitre, Humason and Hubble (which demonstrated an expanding universe) restoring the equation to its original elegance. It turns out that very recent work on dark matter (ironically, work that is partly dependent on Einstein’s work on gravitational lenses) suggests that lambda is still needed. Einstein resisted quantum mechanics and the probabilistic nature of events, and in this book he cops criticism for his intransigence in his later years. But, who knows, perhaps our models that work very well on either the macro-scale and the sub-atomic scale (but not both) will eventually be unified so that one becomes a limiting case of the other? After all, we only have one universe-or do we?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Ah, such a pleasant read! Anyone who wants to delve into the mind of Einstein will appreciate the author’s lucid, mesmerizing portrayal of this amazing yet ordinary man. Women did much to support him over the years, and he would not have been as successful without so.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Read my full review at my blog Wonderfully Bookish. Truthfully, I really didn’t know what I was going to make of this book. I haven’t read a biography for ages, and last time I did, it wasn’t packed full of physics. I was a bit worried it’d all go way over my head and I wouldn’t understand very much of it. I was so wrong. The book is written in a way that helps people who have no knowledge of physics understand what’s going on. It describes every small detail of Einstein’s research and the creatio Read my full review at my blog Wonderfully Bookish. Truthfully, I really didn’t know what I was going to make of this book. I haven’t read a biography for ages, and last time I did, it wasn’t packed full of physics. I was a bit worried it’d all go way over my head and I wouldn’t understand very much of it. I was so wrong. The book is written in a way that helps people who have no knowledge of physics understand what’s going on. It describes every small detail of Einstein’s research and the creation of his theories, but in a digestible, easy-to-read way. Another of my worries was that it would just feel like I’m reading a school textbook, but I truly felt like I was sucked into the story of Einstein’s life. The book not only talks about the physics and the theories, but also his childhood, his academic career, and his personal life. I found out so many things I didn’t know about his wives and other relationships, his children and his travels all around the world. If you want to learn more about how our universe works, I couldn’t recommend this enough. I got one very important message from reading this book: even a genius can make mistakes!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Megh

    This book is a somewhat unconventional biography, in that the term applies rather loosely to it. I do not mean to say that as a critique since the author clearly did not set out to write a biography either, but it is a significant distinction one needs to make early on if one wishes to enjoy the book rather than fight with its course of events. The book focuses on many facets of Einstein's life and times at the start but and as the years pass by the focus is less on Einstein and more on his (cer This book is a somewhat unconventional biography, in that the term applies rather loosely to it. I do not mean to say that as a critique since the author clearly did not set out to write a biography either, but it is a significant distinction one needs to make early on if one wishes to enjoy the book rather than fight with its course of events. The book focuses on many facets of Einstein's life and times at the start but and as the years pass by the focus is less on Einstein and more on his (certain) actions. Again, that is not without intent - it is by conscious choice that that's what the book ends up being about. The bad - That latter part has the capacity to get on your nerves and get really repetitive. Everything and anything Einstein did past 1925-30 is just fodder for another anecdote tying in to the central theme, i.e., "Einstein's Greatest Mistake" - yet another dark portent. Really, we got the point around the 11th casual story. Unforgivable, given the subject matter is not only one of the most brilliant men ever but equally lively, imaginative and colourful. The good - Everything else. The writing is very decent. It says enough in the straightforward yet calculated words and unless we're talking about the qualm raised above, the stories range all the flavours of Einstein's life and lifestyle and all of them are just detailed enough to deliver the message and make way for the next event, without a hitch. The research, cataloguing and indexing of sources is exhaustive, as it should be. The show-stealer however are the illustrations and analogies used by the author to describe rather involved physical phenomena in layman terms. Having an academic background in Physics I knew the formalism and actual derivations of the real phenomena without any need for watered down analogies but I genuinely had a good time reading them, and I am sure anyone with an analytical mind can easily grasp all of it irrespective of their background. The appendix was another good surprise, which contains a no-frills (but exact) explanation of physical phenomena expands upon the analogies further. It is a truly good read for anyone. Thus, weighing the positives and negatives I rate this book a solid 4/5. If you are interested to know about Einstein, what he did and understand the basics of the progress in physics in the 1900s this would be an apt read. There are however certain inconsistencies in the analogies (which is why Feynman rightly called analogies "dangerous") and thought experiments, and quite a few omissions of important (non-science) events of Einstein's life post 1935, mostly of political kind. Whether they are intentional, to pigeonhole him as outdated old codger 1935 onwards, or deemed not important enough to make it to the final draft, or simply missed, I know not. So I would give a fair warning to not consider this book as an authoritative source on the science or politics of Einstein.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This is not a book about Einstein making math or science mistakes! (although he does some of that too) It's a book about genius and hubris, but also about aging and failure and how we deal with both. Failure can be enlightening or disabling, and sometimes both. Einstein and Copernicus faced similar failures, as they aged but handled those failures differently. They both isolated themselves, one by choice and the other by choice and circumstance (Einstein) and their isolation, their quiet times, This is not a book about Einstein making math or science mistakes! (although he does some of that too) It's a book about genius and hubris, but also about aging and failure and how we deal with both. Failure can be enlightening or disabling, and sometimes both. Einstein and Copernicus faced similar failures, as they aged but handled those failures differently. They both isolated themselves, one by choice and the other by choice and circumstance (Einstein) and their isolation, their quiet times, probably freed their imaginations to take them to worlds unknown. The Einstein author, Bodanis, makes difficult concepts more understandable. My favorite Bodanis analogy or is that a metaphor describes concepts of mass and energy as cities: The M city and E city, and the genius of Einstein was understanding that these were not separate concepts, not separate realities. Einstein figured out how to find that invisible tunnel between the cities to explain (along with the speed of light) their relationship, relationships. (E=Mc2). Bodanis also explains Einstein's view of the world which he found through a book written by Edwin Abbott in 1884, called A.Square (a one dimensional hero, 11 inches long, who lives on a sheet of paper). Abbott writes about this one-two dimensional world of lines, called Flatland, which suddenly receives a visitor from the 3rd dimension! The visitor "lifted" Mr. A. Square into Spaceland and he saw an entirely new world. But on returning to Flatland though no one believes him and this new world. Mr. A. Square's life didn't end well ... the authorities, afraid of rebellion, put Mr. A. Square in prison, but he continued to hope that "humanity .. may stir up a race of rebels who shall refuse to be confined to limited Dimensionality." Bodanis makes the point that other physicists/scientists would have come up with E=mc2 but ... his theory of relativity (the rock in a trampoline metaphor with equation G=T, Geometry guides Things) in 1915 was completely Einstein's own and was a watershed in the history of physics. (p74-77) Einstein conducted "thought experiments" which led to his most imaginative discoveries. Bodanis sees this as Einstein's idea of "observational democracy": the belief that "just as no one automatically deserves superior rights in life, so no one observer can say that their vantage point in viewing some event is automatically superior to that of everyone else." (p87) The world came to know Einstein mostly because he happened to be in the right place at the right time. His general relativity work became generally known in 1919, just at the end of WWI. People in both Germany and England were happy to move toward more cooperation and less antagonism between their countries. It didn't hurt either that a sports reporter from NY Times generated a whole lot of publicity for Einstein, although the reporter got the science all wrong. Einstein's personality was also very appealing. Unlike some of his fellow scientists, Einstein was quiet, thoughtful, badly dressed and carried a violin case. But his ideas that made time travel seem a possibility was probably another reason that popularity exploded. Einstein's ideas were being spread about just at the end of WWI and many people were suffering from the loss of so many friends and families, and the idea that .. maybe ... someday ... possibly ... I can meet up with that loved one was a powerful one, even if most people understood the fantasy of that possibility. But with Einstein's ideas or the distortion of his science people thought they glimpsed a deeper reality. As William Blake said, "I see Past, Present, Future, existing all at once/Before me." (p 110-111) Einstein's biggest mistake ! or his first biggest mistake was bowing to the ideas of or data of astronomers and changing his beautiful perfect G=T equation. He was unhappy and uncomfortable with making that change right from the beginning (in 1917) but astronomers had assured him that all the stars moved not at all or very slowly among one another and so his original G=T theory couldn't be right, couldn't work so he put in that extra lambda to reconcile his theory to the astronomers findings. But he always felt that this was "gravely detrimental to the formal beauty of the theory."Einstein didn't believe that any deity or force of nature would have created a universe with that kind of "correction." He compared this lambda insertion to playing in a string quartet (which he loved to do) and having someone drag in a large tuba and randomly blast out a noise. That's what he thought happened with changing G=T to G-lambda=T. (p 118) But the astonomers were uniequivocal in their beliefs. They insisted that the universe was not expanding that there was just infinite blackness out there ... so Einstein caved to that "experimental evidence." This was his first great mistake! Despite his hesitation and forebodings, Einstein reworked his beautiful, simple equation, and "now he was stuck. His reputation was at stake ..." and his pride too. "He had done this to himself ... and couldn't admit that he'd been weak - and wrong" to kowtow to others' ideas. (p130) Rescued by an unlikely man ! Edwin Powell Hubble who's name is synonomous with astronomy. He was director of California's Mount Wilson observatory, who found galaxies out there, way out there, and by various means determined that those galaxies were spinning out and away at a very rapid pace. Therefore ... no need for his Lamda! Hubble is an interesting guy in his own right, a Walter Mitty type who made up much of his life and loved glory but he did give credit to the men (Humason and Father Lemaire) who along with him were responsible for re-establishing Einstein's pure and perfect G=T theory. Unfortunately, the lesson learned by Einstein was to hold to his own ideas and theories, regardless of what others were finding by thought or experiment. And when a guy by the name of Heisenberg developed the uncertainty principle, and the birth of quantum mechanics (world of the very very small), Einstein disagreed strongly with him (and others). Einstein said, famously, God does not play dice with the universe. He felt that ... somewhere, somehow ... an explanation for "uncertainties" would eventually be found. If not him, someone; if not now, someday. But the evidence for uncertainty grew and grew, but Einstein held to his own opinion which was strengthed by his experience of adding "lamda" to his perfect, pure G=T theory. They were wrong then (those experimenters) and they could well be wrong now ... and he was not going to fall for the same trick twice. As age pressed in on Einstein, so did his isolation at Princeton from his fellow scientists. He became even more stubbord and less inclined to accept the now acceptable uncertainty principle. He became the Einstein we know so well ... the old guy, shuffling from building to home at Princeton, his hands behind his back. A well beloved man and still towering figure in the science world. But he was lonely, and the loneliness increased as his family died ... first his second wife (and first wife), and then his faithful and loving sister. I kind of agree with Einstein ... just the name "uncertainty" with principle cries out for discovery. I'm betting there is some kind of explanation .... and it may take 100-500-1000 years, but someone will work it out!

  13. 5 out of 5

    George Vernon

    Einstein's Greatest Mistake is a gripping and enjoyable light read split into bite-size chapters, clearly from a very talented author. Unfortunately it is also very opinionated, and not often substantiated when it is so. This could be excusable if not for the horrendous attempts to discourse on science. Let's excuse the summing of general relativity into "Geometry = Things." This was the crowning gem: "Isaac Newton had, after all, disregarded his own qualms about gravity acting instantaneously, an Einstein's Greatest Mistake is a gripping and enjoyable light read split into bite-size chapters, clearly from a very talented author. Unfortunately it is also very opinionated, and not often substantiated when it is so. This could be excusable if not for the horrendous attempts to discourse on science. Let's excuse the summing of general relativity into "Geometry = Things." This was the crowning gem: "Isaac Newton had, after all, disregarded his own qualms about gravity acting instantaneously, and as a result missed out on the breakthrough that Einstein himself had achieved in 1915." David is saying here that Isaac Newton could have come up general relativity, if he'd only thought a bit harder. This is simply wrong. Most importantly among many things, Newton was missing the entire field of electromagnetism which came almost 200 years later. I don't see how David can wriggle out of that. I have a few minor gripes with the book elsewhere. There is no mention of the Einstein–Szilárd letter sent to Roosevelt in 1939, informing the president of the possibility of a nuclear bomb, which led to the Manhattan Project. Was this not an important moment in Einstein's life? More likely, I think the author felt it didn't fit in with his narrative that Einstein stopped being important after the 1930 Solvay conference. Einstein's Greatest Mistake makes a very nice introduction to Einstein's life, as-well as giving an overarching view of the relationship dynamics between many of the pioneering quantum physicists in the early 20th century. The unguided reader simply should not treat it as authoritative in the slightest.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matt Ely

    I checked out this volume primarily because I knew that Albert Einstein was the guy in the posters who wrote an equation (relativity was involved? the words "special" and "general" might make an appearance?) and had something to do with the nuclear bomb but then said that quote about the fourth world war being stick-centric. Right, so I didn't know very much. In that sense, the book succeeded. This is not a truly in-depth biography; his (apparently minimal) involvement with the development in th I checked out this volume primarily because I knew that Albert Einstein was the guy in the posters who wrote an equation (relativity was involved? the words "special" and "general" might make an appearance?) and had something to do with the nuclear bomb but then said that quote about the fourth world war being stick-centric. Right, so I didn't know very much. In that sense, the book succeeded. This is not a truly in-depth biography; his (apparently minimal) involvement with the development in the nuclear bomb isn't even mentioned. So as someone looking simply for the broad brush strokes of a historically meaningful life, this is a good choice. Bodanis focuses not on every detail, choosing to center his book on a single question: why did Einstein become scientifically irrelevant by the 1930's? The narrowed focus is helpful, giving an orientation to the bulk of the book, which largely serves as buildup to that period. In getting there, the author makes an admirable effort at explaining Einstein's core innovations, as well as the unique nature of his fame. The book is far from the last word on Einstein's life, but it is a good introduction and answers the few questions it asks well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Matea

    i always struggle with rating non-fiction since i focus more on absorbing information than i do on how much i am enjoying a book but i will say that i got quite a lot out of this one. it definitely had its problems, it became a bit repetitive towards the end and there were many tangents about other scientists that had seemingly little to do with einstein, but nevertheless, i thought it was an interesting approach to writing a biography. as a (future) physicist, i appreciated the exploration of h i always struggle with rating non-fiction since i focus more on absorbing information than i do on how much i am enjoying a book but i will say that i got quite a lot out of this one. it definitely had its problems, it became a bit repetitive towards the end and there were many tangents about other scientists that had seemingly little to do with einstein, but nevertheless, i thought it was an interesting approach to writing a biography. as a (future) physicist, i appreciated the exploration of how science works, how new theories are developed, the way they are tested and the mindsets that can help, but also hinder your success in the field. although i was mostly familiar with relativistic physics, i found the author's explanations excellent, especially the analogies that really helped illustrate abstract concepts in a way that can be understood even without a science background. overall, i'm glad i read this, and would recommend it if you want to learn about one of the greatest minds of all time. it's not the most in depth book about the subject, but it is a good way to get started.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Moira

    This biography made me feel like I was talking to a real person whilst reading it, as if I was there. The words were so fluent making it quite calming to read. It made me sad how Einstein had wasted his last 15 years alive being unproductive, believing the universe wasn't actually expanding. It made me wonder what more he could've done, but that was his greatest mistake. One of my favorite parts of this biography was "interlude one." Interlude one was about a fictional world. Everyone was made o This biography made me feel like I was talking to a real person whilst reading it, as if I was there. The words were so fluent making it quite calming to read. It made me sad how Einstein had wasted his last 15 years alive being unproductive, believing the universe wasn't actually expanding. It made me wonder what more he could've done, but that was his greatest mistake. One of my favorite parts of this biography was "interlude one." Interlude one was about a fictional world. Everyone was made of shapes but didn't know it. One of the shape characters teleported into the sky and saw the world from a birds eye view. He was shocked to see everything and everyone was made of shaped. He then tried to imagine a square; he failed. He tried to imagine a square, he failed. Once he teleported back he rushed to tell the high council and they ended up knowing about the shapes. He was then thrown in jail because no one was supposed to know this. Interlude one was comparing how Einstein couldn't imagine curved space to the character being unable to imagine a square. Overall I enjoyed this biography. It do recommend this book if you want to learn more about Albert Einstein.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    A delightful read. An easy-to-comprehend, short biography of the adult life of the great scientist, Einstein, and his reluctance to accept the modern discoveries in the realm of quantum mechanics. Well-researched and clearly written, it leads the reader to better understand the man's formative student days, his emotional attachments and his strong personality; especially the stubborn traits which caused him to be shunned by many other great scientists in his later years. I really enjoyed this boo A delightful read. An easy-to-comprehend, short biography of the adult life of the great scientist, Einstein, and his reluctance to accept the modern discoveries in the realm of quantum mechanics. Well-researched and clearly written, it leads the reader to better understand the man's formative student days, his emotional attachments and his strong personality; especially the stubborn traits which caused him to be shunned by many other great scientists in his later years. I really enjoyed this book, and have been enlightened regarding the development of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Recommended.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liam Sandy

    Einsteins greatest mistake is a biography of Einstein that goes in depth into his childhood, discoveries, and elderliness. The book starts the introduction of Einstein's family heritage, and how they worked in a relatively new field, electricity. Then it goes into depth about his schools and troubles with teachers. Even later, the author tells of his young love and friends in Sweden. Finally, it tells of his reflections on his theories and his fallout with other scientists later in life. In the e Einsteins greatest mistake is a biography of Einstein that goes in depth into his childhood, discoveries, and elderliness. The book starts the introduction of Einstein's family heritage, and how they worked in a relatively new field, electricity. Then it goes into depth about his schools and troubles with teachers. Even later, the author tells of his young love and friends in Sweden. Finally, it tells of his reflections on his theories and his fallout with other scientists later in life. In the end, I liked this book. That being said though, I wouldn't recommend this to the average reader because it requires some basic knowledge of quantum mechanics to understand and is quite complex. I would recommend it to anyone who is an Einstein fanatic or has a great knowledge of science. I quite liked the background knowledge of Einsteins family along with his reflections on his theories. That being said at times the book could be quite bland. In conclusion, the book is quite nice for Einstein fanatics or scientists but to the average reader, it can be confusing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Miller

    I normally would never pick up this book. I borrowed it from my boyfriend when I needed to read something for a period of time. I became rather absorbed. Not only is it a very interesting account of Einstein's life, but David Bodanis explains complicated rules of physics in a very interesting and appealing way. As someone who never liked physics, I have a better understanding of its concepts. I also feel like he wove Einstein's stories and theories very well together. I have a better idea of the I normally would never pick up this book. I borrowed it from my boyfriend when I needed to read something for a period of time. I became rather absorbed. Not only is it a very interesting account of Einstein's life, but David Bodanis explains complicated rules of physics in a very interesting and appealing way. As someone who never liked physics, I have a better understanding of its concepts. I also feel like he wove Einstein's stories and theories very well together. I have a better idea of the man and the legacy he left behind. I also feel like Einstein's Greatest Mistake is a great title and a great story. I recommend.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This must have been a tricky book to write, because it is part-biography and part-theoretical physics primer. It is written in an accessible manner, although if you have read anything about Einstein's work before then there's not much new here. I was far more interested in the notes about his personal life and how he grappled between instinct and evidence. I think this part of the book could have been emphasised more. This must have been a tricky book to write, because it is part-biography and part-theoretical physics primer. It is written in an accessible manner, although if you have read anything about Einstein's work before then there's not much new here. I was far more interested in the notes about his personal life and how he grappled between instinct and evidence. I think this part of the book could have been emphasised more.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Piyush Sharma

    The book was a time travel for me (in Einstein's language) to revive my Science concepts and analyze great theories of great scientists. It was a deep look into the life and work of great genius. The book narrates the complicated concepts in a very simplistic manner, gives insight of the brilliance of Einstein and his shortcomings that leaved him in seclusion in his last days. This book is really a must read for everyone. The book was a time travel for me (in Einstein's language) to revive my Science concepts and analyze great theories of great scientists. It was a deep look into the life and work of great genius. The book narrates the complicated concepts in a very simplistic manner, gives insight of the brilliance of Einstein and his shortcomings that leaved him in seclusion in his last days. This book is really a must read for everyone.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jerrid Kruse

    The book makes the science discusses approachable to non-physicists. The stories of Einstein’s life-arc are interesting and reflection-inducing. I was pleased to see the inclusion of the supporting actors in Einstein’s work. This work focused on Einstein’s work in general relativity and his rebuttals of quantum mechanics with only a bit of detail concerning his early work in special relativity, e=mc2, and photons.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mikael Lind

    I just loved this mix of scientific theory and biography. I'm sure Bodanis spices up the story a bit, but I don't really care. This is popular science, and entertaining! For me, who only vaguely remember the physics I once learnt at school, it made me revisit Einstein's theories and understand them better than I've done before. And getting to know his private life was, I must say, a joy - such an interesting character, and by no means flawless (as indicated by the book title). I just loved this mix of scientific theory and biography. I'm sure Bodanis spices up the story a bit, but I don't really care. This is popular science, and entertaining! For me, who only vaguely remember the physics I once learnt at school, it made me revisit Einstein's theories and understand them better than I've done before. And getting to know his private life was, I must say, a joy - such an interesting character, and by no means flawless (as indicated by the book title).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert Vlach

    Einstein's Greatest Mistake and E=mc2 by David Bodanis — Both books are great and similar in a way, but especially the first one touched me deeply as a remarkable intellectual biography and the story of how one of the history's greatest minds ended up in almost total intellectual isolation, ignored by most scientists of that time. Sad but true, the book is a must for all intellectuals struggling to stay relevant in their field. Einstein's Greatest Mistake and E=mc2 by David Bodanis — Both books are great and similar in a way, but especially the first one touched me deeply as a remarkable intellectual biography and the story of how one of the history's greatest minds ended up in almost total intellectual isolation, ignored by most scientists of that time. Sad but true, the book is a must for all intellectuals struggling to stay relevant in their field.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Hadn't read any other Einstein biographies, so can't speak to how this compares, but I thoroughly appreciated this author's take - not only the way he managed to describe the theory of general relativity in a way that my brain could grasp, but the way he contextualized Einstein's brilliant thinking in ways that led him both to incredible success and perhaps prevented him from achieving much more. Hadn't read any other Einstein biographies, so can't speak to how this compares, but I thoroughly appreciated this author's take - not only the way he managed to describe the theory of general relativity in a way that my brain could grasp, but the way he contextualized Einstein's brilliant thinking in ways that led him both to incredible success and perhaps prevented him from achieving much more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Not being terribly adept at science, parts of this book were not understandable and I don't have the wherewithal to read the appendix which explains the theory of relativity. However, after seeing the special this summer about Einstein that aired on television, this was a good follow up to clarify a few things. If you love science, you'll like the book far better than I did. Not being terribly adept at science, parts of this book were not understandable and I don't have the wherewithal to read the appendix which explains the theory of relativity. However, after seeing the special this summer about Einstein that aired on television, this was a good follow up to clarify a few things. If you love science, you'll like the book far better than I did.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sidney El Agib

    The book is very well written, it manages to touch just the tip of the physics, psychology as everything is very well combined. It allows those who read the book to understand the very basic concepts behind Einstein's ideas, but also his huge ego, doubts and touch the human being, not only the mad genius. The book is very well written, it manages to touch just the tip of the physics, psychology as everything is very well combined. It allows those who read the book to understand the very basic concepts behind Einstein's ideas, but also his huge ego, doubts and touch the human being, not only the mad genius.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sjors

    Very broad brush biography of Einstein, weak on physics, focusing on how he isolated himself from the cutting edge (quantum mechanics). It feels like a loss - but the same traits that made him able to discover and formulate general relativity appears to have made him unable to contribute more significantly to QM.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Arielle

    I enjoyed reading about Einstein's personal/early life a lot but sort of stopped caring as much when it got into the science. I mostly was reading this to kill time until the next Harry Potter book was available from the library - otherwise I probably would have finished it. =) I enjoyed reading about Einstein's personal/early life a lot but sort of stopped caring as much when it got into the science. I mostly was reading this to kill time until the next Harry Potter book was available from the library - otherwise I probably would have finished it. =)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wes

    This book opened my eyes to so many different ideas. I originally began reading this book to better understand Einstein, and I came away with even more questions about his work. What is clear is that his ideas are continuing to influence the way many think today!

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