Alone Against Grav­ity: Ein­stein in Ber­lin: The Turbulent Birth of the The­ory of Rel­a­tiv­ity, 1914-1918

Thomas De Padova

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction -

Bu­nim & Ban­ni­gan (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $18.99 (274pp), 978-1-933480-47-3

Alone Against Grav­ity is a fas­ci­nat­ing por­trait of the most fa­mous sci­en­tist of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

Ein­stein came to study in Ber­lin in 1913, dur­ing the city’s tech and pop­u­la­tion boom. As the physi­cist’s col­leagues be­came in­creas­ingly na­tion­al­is­tic and their re­search shifted to weaponry, Ein­stein had to choose be­tween a clois­tered aca­demic life and risk­ing his rep­u­ta­tion to pro­mote paci­fism.

For­ward­ing a great sense of the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity in a tu­mul­tuous era, the book weaves the story of the war into the birth of Ein­stein’s the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity. Ein­stein is elu­sive; it may be im­pos­si­ble to rec­on­cile the bril­liant the­o­rist with the man who emo­tion­ally abused his fam­ily. He proves both aloof and sup­port­ive, play­ful but ca­pa­ble of great cru­elty, and works to­ward be­com­ing a man who would de­nounce war.

There is more recorded of Ein­stein’s sci­en­tific work than his in­te­rior life; such spa­ces are filled with side nar­ra­tives, such as the gut­ting story of Clara Haber, whose hus­band was Ein­stein’s men­tor and who pi­o­neered the deadly tech­nique of weaponiz­ing chlo­rine gas. Af­ter it was used in Ypres, France, she shot her­self.

A sci­ence writer him­self, De Padova does not skimp on physics, trac­ing the par­tic­u­lars of Ein­stein’s work and mak­ing the ba­sics easy to un­der­stand. Fol­low­ing Ein­stein’s ex­am­ple, De Padova brings the­o­ret­i­cal physics to life with con­crete and imag­i­na­tive analo­gies, such as an imag­ined scene in which the sci­en­tist trav­els in space and waits for a much younger, un­con­ven­tional ro­man­tic in­ter­est to catch up to him in age.

This is an im­por­tant look at the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity in Europe dur­ing the rise of fas­cism. Though Ein­stein’s break­throughs and po­lit­i­cal choices were made a hun­dred years ago, they are com­pelling and per­ti­nent for to­day’s au­di­ence. MERED­ITH GRAHL COUNTS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.