The iconic Einstein at the board, thinking.
Einstein the father
Imagine a 25 year old Albert Einstein wheeling baby Albert in a pram through a park in Switzerland. It was 1904, a cute image of scientific icon, lost in his own thoughts, imagination, universe, and embracing his role as a father.
Nestled beside baby Albert in the pram was a dirty old notebook, Einstein pausing intermittently to scrawl notes to himself. Of course, he would not wander through the park without thinking. His mind never shut off. The New York Times revealed this tender story today, and I am always delighted by little known stories of my hero.
In that baby carriage with his infant son was Mr. Einstein’s universe-in-the-making, a vast, finite-infinite four-dimensional universe, in which the conventional universe – existing in absolute three-dimensional space and in absolute three-dimensional time of past, present and future – vanished into a mere subjective shadow.
In those moments of inspiration, he mentally entered that "finite-infinite four-dimensional universe," a man so shaped by the reality of his imagination that his feet rarely touched this earth. Foremost in Einstein's genius was his ability to imagine complex experiments and events, some of which still cannot be duplicated in real life but lead to his major breakthroughs in the theory of relativity.
Einstein the hero
Few things are more powerful in my own imagination than Einstein tripping through the universe at the speed of light, wild hair flying behind him, a transcendent look on his face, his visions and theories becoming his reality. I don't know when I first conceived this, but the image is powerful. Einstein had a nearly perfect mind that merged the creative with mathematics and science.
My favorite anecdote of Albert, however, is of a time when he doubted himself and all of quantum theory.
Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr chatting.
Albert had an ongoing argument with the quantum physics great, Niels Bohr. Bohr and Albert were lifelong friends and collaborators, but at one point there entered a rift in the relationship that Bohr described in "Discussions with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Atomic Physics."
Argument among friends
The first engagement in the polite battle between the two was during Einstein's presentation at Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons in 1927 and dealt with particle superposition (a particle can reside in multiple places simultaneously.
The most interesting stage of argument came much later in the battle that ensued for the remainder of their lives. In this final point of engagement, Einstein suggested that Quantum Mechanics was inherently flawed.
When launching these attacks, Bohr would become visibly irritated and flustured, but Albert would continue to push him. He told Bohr frankly that Quantum Mechanics had it wrong because of particle entanglement.
Basically, this extension that Einstein made suggests that under special circumstances 2 particles can become "entangled" or intertwined so that even when they are separated, they are still connected. After becoming entangeled, a researcher could move a particle to one extreme of the universe and the other to another extreme, and they would still be connected, intertwined.
Entanglement proposes that if particle 1 changes in any way, particle 2 will change in the exact same way, regardless of distance. If the rotation of particle 1 changes, on the other side of the universe, particle 2 would match this rotation in the same instant.
Uncle Al told Bohr that this is impossible, and yet quantum theory indicates that it is a fact. Entanglement violated one of the fundamentals of the theory of relativity, the principal of locality, that a particle cannot influence another if it is removed physically to another location. So, if two particles are far enough apart, they cannot influence each other. They have to be local to affect one another. Entanglement violates this principal, said Albert.
Because Quantum Mechanics implies that, under certain circumstances, locality does not apply, therefore it must be wrong. Quantum Mechanics entailed entanglement, according to Albert, and entanglement was clearly impossible. The field of Quantum Mechanics was suspect in Albert's eyes.
Einstein the god
The dust settled and later both geniuses passed. Einstein died believing that he generated a hypothesis that dismantled Quantum Mechanics. However, in his effort to prove something wrong, he was actually revealed a great truth of quantum physics. The entanglement Einstein imagined but could not believe does exist and is one of the most bizarre quantum truths.
Years later, John Stewart Bell, in a 1964 paper, proved mathematically that entanglement does exist, and even beyond that, they have now generated particle entanglement in labs (only for brief moments).
Albert, on is deathbed, believed that Quantum Mechanics was plagued with "the problem of the total renunciation of all minimal standards of realism." Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein remained good friends until the end.
In trying to prove prove an error, Einstein accidentally came up with a bizarre and wonderful fact of quantum physics. Only a god can get something wrong and right simultaneously, and such was the power of Albert Einstein.
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Now, share with me your own thoughts. What does this story suggest about Albert Einstein's personality and mind? Share you comments, critiques, and questions.
By Darin L. Hammond
Writer for ZipMinis and owns ZipMinis Freelance Writing.
Darin Publishes across the web on sites like Technorati and Social Media Today.