Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius

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Overview

“A thought-provoking critique of Einstein’s tantalizing combination of brilliance and blunder.”—Andrew Robinson, New Scientist
Although Einstein was the greatest genius of the twentieth century, many of his groundbreaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious errors in mathematics to bad misconceptions in physics and failures to grasp the subtleties of his own creations. This forensic biography dissects Einstein’s scientific mistakes and places them in the context of his turbulent life and ...

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Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius

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Overview

“A thought-provoking critique of Einstein’s tantalizing combination of brilliance and blunder.”—Andrew Robinson, New Scientist
Although Einstein was the greatest genius of the twentieth century, many of his groundbreaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious errors in mathematics to bad misconceptions in physics and failures to grasp the subtleties of his own creations. This forensic biography dissects Einstein’s scientific mistakes and places them in the context of his turbulent life and times. In lively, accessible prose, Hans C. Ohanian paints a fresh, insightful portrait of the real Einstein at work, in contrast to the uncritical celebrity worship found in many biographies.
Of the approximately 180 original scientific papers that Einstein published in his lifetime, about 40 are infested with mistakes. For instance, Einstein’s first mathematical proof of the famous formula E = mc2 was incomplete and only approximately valid; he struggled with this problem for many years, but he never found a complete proof (better mathematicians did). Einstein was often lured by irrational and mystical inspirations, but his extraordinary intuition about physics permitted him to discover profound truths despite—and sometimes because of—the mistakes he made along the way. He was a sleepwalker: his intuition told him where he needed to go, and he somehow managed to get there without quite knowing how.
As this book persuasively argues, the defining hallmark of Einstein’s genius was not any special mathematical ability but an uncanny talent to use his mistakes as stepping stones to formulate his revolutionary theories.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
Recounts [Einstein’s] chronicle of errors in clear and engaging prose, giving us in the process a short course in the history of modern physics and a witty and provocative account of the subject’s life.— Darrin M. McMahon
Los Angeles Times
The book’s quixotic approach—retelling Einstein’s story by homing in on his blunders—makes for good intellectual entertainment. . . . [It] kept me eagerly turning the pages.— George Johnson
Mathematical Reviews
A wonderful story that is well worth taking the time to read....We get a short course in this history of modern physics, one that is well-written and entertaining as well.— Alan S. McRae
Darrin M. McMahon - Wall Street Journal
“Recounts [Einstein’s] chronicle of errors in clear and engaging prose, giving us in the process a short course in the history of modern physics and a witty and provocative account of the subject’s life.”
George Johnson - Los Angeles Times
“The book’s quixotic approach—retelling Einstein’s story by homing in on his blunders—makes for good intellectual entertainment. . . . [It] kept me eagerly turning the pages.”
Alan S. McRae - Mathematical Reviews
“A wonderful story that is well worth taking the time to read....We get a short course in this history of modern physics, one that is well-written and entertaining as well.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337686
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/9/2009
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,390,859
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Hans C. Ohanian received his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, where he worked with John A. Wheeler. He has taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, and the University of Vermont. He is the author of several textbooks spanning all undergraduate levels: Physics, Principles of Physics, Relativity: A Modern Introduction, Modern Physics, Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Classical Electrodynamics, and, with Remo Ruffini, Gravitation and Spacetime. He is also the author of dozens of articles dealing with gravitation, relativity, and quantum theory, including many articles on fundamental physics published in the American Journal of Physics, where he served as associate editor for some years. He lives in Vermont.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 31, 2010

    Einstein as a man

    This book is the first book on Einstein that portrays him as a complete human being. It shows off his follies as well as his genius. I believe that I understand him as a real person after reading this book. I now understand a lot more about how he came to make his breakthroughs and also how he seemed stuck in making the same mistakes for so long. This book also shows the outside help he received in advancing his understanding of tensor mathematics and refining the analogies that are the heart of teaching relativity.

    It seems that even the greatist minds may need to see their theories from different perspectives in order to achieve their best potentials.

    If you want to see the inner development of Einstein's best concepts you must read this book. Join the intellectional development of the concepts of relativity and gravity. Leave the Newtonian universce for a time and see it from a new perspective by reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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