March 11: Encore of Quirks & Quarks' 2005 special celebrating Albert Einstein's impact on science
'The Einstein Show' marked 100 years since his publication of four papers that changed the laws of physics
On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:
In 1905, Albert Einstein was a 26-year-old obscure patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, who produced four separate science papers that would change the laws of physics, and, in many ways, the world. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist from the City College of New York, said the secret to Einstein's genius is how he thought in pictures that even children can understand, like a police officer chasing a speeding light beam. Kaku, who wrote Einstein's Cosmos: How Albert Einstein's vision transformed our understanding of space and time, said he considers three of those 1905 papers to be Nobel-worthy. They included his special theory of relativity, the photoelectric effect for which he did win a Nobel Prize, where he introduced the idea of a photon and Brownian motion that proved the existence of atoms.
Einstein revolutionized science with his thoughts on physics, but much of his fame came from his personal charisma and the wit and wisdom he displayed in his many correspondences and writings. Alice Calaprice is a writer and editor who worked with Einstein's papers at the Princeton University Press. She's written several books on Einstein, including a collection of quotations called, The Quotable Einstein, and The Einstein Almanac, a chronology of his life and writings. Calaprice said despite Einstein's immense popularity, he never understood why he became so famous. She explores his writings about education, his activism and even what he described as his "cosmic religion" that she said was more of an attitude of cosmic awe and wonder rather than any belief of personal God with the power to control people's lives.
In many ways, even though Einstein spent the last 20 years of his life in Princeton, New Jersey, and became an American citizen, he was a quintessential European scientist. Born in Germany, schooled in Switzerland, a professor in Zurich, Prague and Berlin, he was part of a wide network of scientists in Europe in the early decades of the last century. Those scientists were re-writing the laws of physics: Planck, Heisenberg, Bohr, Schrodinger. Together with Einstein, they changed our understanding of the universe and the forces that rule it. Freelance journalist Vincent Landon took us on a tour of Einstein's Europe to visit where he lived for insight into his life during those crucial years of discovery and achievement.
The Einstein Show originally aired in 2005.