112 Mercer Street: Einstein, Russell, Godel, Pauli, and the End of Innocence in Science

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As World War II wound down and it became increasingly clear that the Allies would emerge victorious, Albert Einstein invited three close friends-all titans of contemporary science and philosophy-to his home at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, New Jersey, to discuss what they loved best, science and philosophy, and perhaps to ponder their vision of the postwar world. His guests were the legendary philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell; the boy wonder of quantum physics Wolfgang Pauli; and the brilliant logician ...
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2007-07-09 Hardcover First Edition New NEW: First Edition, First printing (complete # line) for you collectors. Hardcover with dust jacket, no markings, no creases, no price ... clippings to dust jacket, not a Book Club Edition and no remainder marks. Read more Show Less

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Overview

As World War II wound down and it became increasingly clear that the Allies would emerge victorious, Albert Einstein invited three close friends-all titans of contemporary science and philosophy-to his home at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, New Jersey, to discuss what they loved best, science and philosophy, and perhaps to ponder their vision of the postwar world. His guests were the legendary philosopher and pacifist Bertrand Russell; the boy wonder of quantum physics Wolfgang Pauli; and the brilliant logician Kurt Gödel, whose "incompleteness" theorems a decade before had shattered the link between logic and mathematics. Their casual meetings took place far from the horrific battlefields of the war and the (then) secret lair of experimental atomic physicists, Los Alamos, New Mexico. Just how many times they met and precisely what they discussed remains a matter of conjecture. All four men were well along in years by scientific standards-where youth tends to dominate with major breakthroughs-and they had to be aware of what Feldman terms "the pathos of science," that their own work would one day be superseded. As they met, they and their scientific brethren were awakening to the dire consequences of atomic power-as well as the fact that henceforth science and politics were inextricably intertwined. It was, as Feldman notes, the end of innocence in science.
Taking these historic meetings as his starting point, Feldman sketches the lives and contributions of the four friends, colleagues, and rivals-especially Einstein, innately self-confident but frustrated in his attempt to come up with a unified theory, and the aristocratic but self-doubting Lord Russell. In a final section, Feldman also discusses the roles of J. Robert Oppenheimer and his German counterpart, Werner Heisenberg. Though neither was present at any of these meetings, they both cast long shadows over 112 Mercer Street during that cold winter of 1943-44.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

During the winter of 1943-1944, Albert Einstein met weekly with three other aging geniuses-philosopher Bertrand Russell, mathematician Kurt Gödel and physicist Wolfgang Pauli-in the study of his home at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, N.J. Feldman (who died in 2003) and Williams (who chairs the English department at the New York Institute of Technology) admit early on that "[n]othing really emerged from their meetings, so far as we can tell." What the authors present are illuminating biographical sketches of these men and their earlier, groundbreaking work. By 1943, the four European-born friends found themselves "sidelined and isolated" from the war effort, such as the atomic research at Los Alamos. To balance their stories, Feldman (The Nobel Prize) and Williams also review Werner Heisenberg's fission research in Nazi Germany and J. Robert Oppenheimer's work as leader of the Manhattan Project. While the book adds nothing to current scholarship on these individuals, it sheds light on a moment when architects of the early 20th century's most important discoveries in science and logic could only stand by and watch as their scientific discoveries directly affected the outcome of world events. (Aug. 20)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559707046
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/9/2007
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Burton Feldman earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He taught at the universities of Chicago, Maryland, Denver, Colorado at Boulder, and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He died early in 2003, shortly after completing Einstein and Friends.

Katherine Williams earned her Ph.D. from City University of New York. She chairs the English Department of New York Institute of Technology, Manhattan campus. She lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents


Introduction     ix
Glossary     xvii
The Pathos of Science
Princeton, Winter 1943-44     3
Aging Genius     7
Science and Sin     16
At Home in Princeton     17
Four Lives
Einstein     23
Russell: Aristocrat in Turmoil     57
Godel: Ghost of Genius     79
Pauli: The Devil's Advocate     90
The Universe
The Logic of Paradox     115
The Mechanical World     125
Relativity of Time and Space     127
On the Quantum Path     131
The Copenhagen Interpretation     139
Einstein and Unified Theory: Chasing the Rainbow     143
The Persistence of Nature     159
Beyond Pathos: Oppenheimer, Heisenberg, and the War
Wartime Berlin, Winter 1943-44     165
Heisenberg     167
Wartime Los Alamos, Winter 1943-44     174
Oppenheimer     181
Dangerous Knowledge: The New Security Order     187
Epilogue: The Projects of Science     191
Bibliography     199
Notes     211
Acknowledgments     231
Index     235
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