Reading this book has been a delightful mental gymnastic. Einstein occupies legendary status – genius, formulas, time, gravity, and relativity – all are concepts that evade most of us; this was my motivation in reading this book in the first place.
Isaacson includes detailed discussions of how Einstein arrived at some of his formulas and theories. I have a bit of a science background, but theoretical physics and the mathematics that goes along with it has always been a stretch for me. Yet, as challenging as it was, I did grasp enough to give me a better understanding of the world-shattering nature of his discoveries. I still struggle that there may not be simultaneous events, that time is curved, or that light is bent by gravity, yet when Einstein explains it there is sense about it, and it does fit what you see.
Though he was not at all a religious man, he was convinced and argued for the idea that “God would not play dice with the universe.” He opposed quantum mechanics to his death because it is based on randomness and probability. Einstein never was able to define a unified system that explained how all physics worked and connected, he was certain that it does exist and would be discovered one day.
As fascinating as his physics was, his personal life and his political thinking were just as intriguing. His theories were essential for the development of the atomic bomb, yet at his heart he was a pacifist who believed that there should be a world organization that prevented, by force if necessary, countries from going to war. This along with his socialist thinking earned him the label of communist, he was clear that he was opposed to communism because of its dictatorial nature.
Since Einstein died when I was quite young I was surprised at the celebrity status he enjoyed/hated. There were parades held in his honor and he was frequently asked to support causes, which he rarely declined and as a result ended up being associated with organizations that damaged his reputation, and who he really did not embrace.
A good read, challenging at times, but needed insight into one of the greatest thinkers ever, and a major influencer of the last century.