Excellent and exciting science writing also for the layperson
I’m more of a browser than a reader, but I read this book cover-to-cover. Not only with ease; I enjoyed it. The author succeeded in giving me the idea that I (almost) understood the physics he discussed. I don’t know how he did that. The professional math stuff is in the endnotes that I skipped.
After I had a post published in my Times of Israel blog about what I think are mistakes in one of Einstein’s breakthrough pieces of 1905, I googled the subject to find this book. The funny thing is that the author notes that the piece I think to have errors he calls the only flawless 1905 paper.
Besides delivering a very readable book, he shows himself to be no lazy writer. He reached far beyond the minimum and shows much more depth and context than I expected. He also discusses flaws in the other great in physics and mathematics and Einstein’s personal life. He makes it very clear that, on the one hand, Einstein was in a class of his own; on the other hand, he didn’t work in a vacuum; his greatest discoveries were bold extensions of beginnings the whole field grappled with.
With such a title, I also assumed the book to be terribly critical, but it’s not. Every great person errs; geniuses stand out by their ability to use their blunders to build on them and get to great discoveries. This book discusses both successes, mistakes, and if they lead to success anyway or not.
The text lacks the wishy-washy-ness that plagues many academics. The author is not too shy to be blunt and share his opinion about wrongs.
I found very few mistakes or questionable points in the book. Somewhere someone dies in 1960 instead of 1860. The penultimate page has one word in the singular instead of in the plural. Twice a line is repeated paragraphs apart. And he wondered why Einstein was such a hawk negotiating his salaries, which one generally doesn’t see by the occupants of ivory towers. Well, for Jews, money often has meant survival; no money meant death.
Though from 2008, I still recommend it to anyone fascinated by Einstein.