Skip to main content

The Ultimate Quotable Einstein – Alice Calaprice (Ed.) ***

There is no doubt that Albert Einstein had a way with words. He was an expert with the sound bite long before the concept existed. In this fat little book, Alice Calaprice has collected together a vast number of his quotable snippets to delight the Einstein fans.
Just looking at the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations shows how quotable (and what a wit) Einstein was. He has 37 entries compared with 10 for Rutherford (no slacker) and 7 for the ultimate science wit Richard Feynman. And that’s where the doubt creeps in. Feynman was, without doubt, even better at coming up with little gems – yet we don’t get equivalent books for him. At the moment on TV, a grotesque animation of Einstein is being used to advertise bread. He is more than a scientist, he is a brand. The only real reason for producing a book like this is because Einstein has fans. It wouldn’t be going too far to call the action of putting this collection together hagiography.
This being the case, it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about the result. It would have been much better, for instance, if it had far fewer dull quotes but gave a lot more context. Ultimately, I just don’t see what this book is for. You would have to be a real fan to read it from cover to cover, and it’s not really a reference book for any practical use. An oddity beyond doubt.
Hardback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dialogues - Clifford Johnson ***

The authors of science books are always trying to find new ways to get the message across to their audiences. In Dialogues, Clifford Johnson combines a very modern technique - the graphic novel or comic strip - with an approach that goes back to Ancient Greece - using a dialogue to add life to what might seem a dry message.

We have seen the comic strip approach trying to put across quite detailed science before in Mysteries of the Quantum Universe. As with that book, Dialogues manages to cover a fair amount of actual physics, but I still feel that the medium just wastes vast acres of page to say very little at all. This is brought home here because quite a lot of the sections of Dialogues start with several pages with no text on at all, just setting up the scenario.

As for using a discussion between two people to put a message across, Johnson makes the point that, for instance, Galileo's very readable masterpiece Two New Sciences is in the form of a dialogue (more accurately a discu…

Liam Drew - Four Way Interview

Liam Drew is a writer and former neurobiologist. he has a PhD in sensory biology from University College, London and spent 12 years researching schizophrenia, pain and the birth of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain. His writing has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian. He lives in Kent with his wife and two daughters. His new book is I, Mammal.

Why science?

As hackneyed as it is to say, I think I owe my fascination with science to a great teacher – in my case, Ian West, my A-level biology teacher.  Before sixth form, I had a real passion for the elegance and logic of maths, from which a basic competence at science at school arose.  But I feel like I mainly enjoyed school science in the way a schoolkid enjoys being good at stuff, rather than it being a passion.

Ian was a revelation to me.  He was a stern and divisive character, but I loved the way he taught.  He began every lesson by providing us with a series of observations and fact, then, gradually, between …

Ten Great Ideas About Chance - Persi Diaconis and Brian Skyrms ***

There are few topics that fascinate me as much as chance and probability. It's partly the wonder that mathematics can be applied to something so intangible and also because so often the outcomes of probability are counter-intuitive and we can enjoy the 'Huh?' impact of something that works yet feels so far from common sense.

I think I ought to start by saying what this is isn't. It's definitely not an introductory book - the authors assume that the reader 'has taken a first undergraduate course in probability or statistics'. And though there's an appendix that claims to be a probability tutorial for those who haven't got this background, it's not particularly reader-friendly - in theory I knew everything in the appendix, but I still found parts of it near-impossible to read.

As for the main text, if you pass that first criterion, my suspicion is that, like me, you will find parts utterly fascinating and other parts pretty much incomprehensible. Th…