Secrets of the Old One: Einstein, 1905

Jeremy Bernstein, Author . Springer $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-387-26005-1

In just one year, 1905, Albert Einstein published four papers that transformed the field of physics and ushered in the modern world of science. Veteran science writer Bernstein (Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma ) examines each of these papers, attempting to explain their significance and provide a social and cultural context for them. Bernstein's task is a complex one given the nature of the physics involved, and his efforts come up short. On one hand, the book is peppered with mathematical formulas. Additionally, Bernstein provides minimal background in physics. making it unlikely that readers will be able to grasp either the import of the papers or their scientific context. On the other hand, while Bernstein does a better job of providing the social setting for Einstein's remarkable work, here, too, his minimalist approach leaves much to be desired. For example, Bernstein gives only the briefest discussion of Michele Besso, the sole person Einstein acknowledges in his paper on relativity. And Bernstein can natter on at length and irrelevantly about himself. Bernstein's title comes from Einstein's calling God "the Old One," but very few secrets are revealed in this short and frustrating volume. B&w illus. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/26/2005
Release date: 00/00/0000
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