It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.
What was going on again? Oh, yeah - something completely preposterous. In a book full of preposterous plots, this one stands out because it isn't even a comedy. It reminds me of the daft goings on in Mediaeval romances.
An 11th Century Celtic (Irish) Divine Comedy by an unknown author. Visions of Heaven and Hell seem common in Mediaeval literature. Not really a surprise given the social context.
Darwin knew Charles Babbage! That said, I hope all this analysis of the characters of his acquaintances is over now.
This is an incredibly well researched, detailed account of all aspects of Einstein's life, personal, scientific and political that I can highly recommend to anybody interested. I learned heaps I didn't know and had the record set straight on a number of points, mainly regarding Einstein's political views, how they changed over time and his level of support for setting up the Manhattan Project.
I read the book with a specific research agenda, which was to independently form an opinion as to whether Einstein was autistic, an idea not first suggested by me and not on the author's mind either. Conclusion: Yep, autisticker than an autistic person with autism.
Towards the end there is an account of how Einstein was affected by and responded to McCarthyism. He was opposed, seeing in it the oppression of free speech and free thought characteristic of both Fascism and Communism. The author takes the view that McCarthyism was a passing fad, doomed to fail in the long term because of the greatness of the American Constitution. I found this level of complacency offensive to all the victims of McCarthy, all the people who spoke up in defense of freedoms and all the people who defended the constitution legally.
On it's own the constitution is nothing; without those people willing to risk reputation, career, even liberty, would McCarthyism have been a "passing fad"? Given the current political situation, we need such people more than ever. You disappoint me in this, Isaacson. Einstein, who used his world famous name to stand up for moderation, tolerance and freedom of thought and speech, does not.
Still, overall an excellent book.
There was a private campaign to prevent Einstein being awarded a Nobel Prize. This seems to have been variously motivated by 1. a bias towards experimentalists 2. an old-timer scepticism of Special (let alone General) Relativity 3. anti-Semitism.
This explains why the photo-electric effect was cited when Einstein eventually won in 1922.
What a great intro to a subject I found fascinating and is widely applicable: Digital communications, computing, neuro-science and other biological sciences, linguistics (a favourite) and then there's my secret application that made me want to read the book in the first place...but you won't find it in the book. There is a proper glossary of technical terms, something that long term readers of my reviews know I think is essential and yet all too frequently absent. There are also appendices on various topics in probability and statistics that are relevant and you may be unfamiliar with or in need of a quick refresher about. This is also good textbook writing, in my view, as is including XKCD cartoons (with permission). The latter are even relevant!
I found it straightforward to follow what was going on despite having been solidly rebuffed by my previous encounters with the subject. I think this is mainly because some opaque terminology is properly and thoroughly defined and explained and put into a practical context as soon as possible. I strongly recommend this if you ever have a need to learn the basics of the subject and thanks to whomever recommended it to me!
Stone says there is an energy limit (Landauer's Limit) below which acquiring information is impossible. This 0.693 Joules/bit. This apparently contradicts Feynman in his Lectures on Computation. The solution; Landauer's limit applies only to IRREVERSIBLE computations, where-as Feynman is talking about REVERSIBLE computing.
Einstein and General Relativity in the 1920s came under attack from German anti-Semitic Nationalists; "Jewish science" was somehow intrinsically, morally wrong. Recently, Harper, a right-wing pro-business, sod the environment nightmare, banned Canadian government employees (including scientists) from discussing climate change. The same has happened under Trump. I believe some science and scientists were repressed/persecuted under Stalin, also. The number of religious movements that deny all or some science is beyond easy count. There seems to be some connection between fervid Nationalist/Authoritarian/Totalitarian/Religious extremist thought that simply attempts to deny our best understanding of reality if it contradicts or inconveniences it and to impose this fake world-view on everyone else. It should rings as many alarm bells as loudly as those now sounding about blatant or more subtle anti-feminist, racist, Nationalist, militaristic, hetero-normative, trans-discriminatory policies and attitudes we are daily confronted with.
I would like to confirm that my view on Stalin is correct as I can't conjure any definite examples, it's just a vague notion that I've come across evidence of it before. I'd really like to hear from you if know of any supporting or contradictory evidence.
I'd also like to hear views on my thesis that science routinely comes into conflict with extreme views simply because it is the most balanced and sceptical world view humanity as ever invented.
Incredibly, possibly too, detailed. More interesting when talking about Einstein's work than his love life - which opinion probably says more about me than about Einstein.
This is a brief introduction to Dirac's life and work. It's plain and day that he was autistic (probably had Asperger's Syndrome). It's also a shame he isn't more famous; his work on quantum theory has been extraordinarily influential, bringing field theories of fundamental interactions to dominance and inspiring popular and increasingly well supported ideas about cosmology (Inflation theories).
The book is unreliable regarding the state of current physical theory, suggesting that both electro-weak-strong unification and the cause of matter-antimatter abundance asymmetry are both correct and understood. Neither is the case. As far as I know the parts about Dirac's science are correct however, and hopefully the same is true of the biographical details.
In stark contrast to that other "book", this is a well written, thoroughly researched, properly referenced, detailed account of Einstein's life.