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Einstein 1905: The Standard of Greatness

Hal Harris's picture
Fri, 07/01/2005 - 01:00 -- Hal Harris

This year marks a century since Albert Einstein published five of the most influential papers in the history of science, all submitted between March and September of 1905. That is the impetus for designating 2005 as the World Year of Physics, and corresponding programs of the Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers in this year. My friend John Rigden's short book focuses on the intellectual content of Einstein's 1905 work, including a description of the science in each of the papers in turn. The story is an astounding one. The March paper posited the idea of light as quantized, with energy proportional to the frequency. Often, this is called "the photoelectric effect paper", because that was the aspect that was cited in the resulting Nobel prize. A month later, the April paper provided an excellent estimate of the magnitude of Avogadro's number. In May he "predicted" Brownian Motion, with which Einstein had not been familiar, even though it had been observed at least a decade earlier. Special relativity was the subject of Einstein's June paper, and in September he extended those ideas to unify energy and mass. An Epilogue, which could just as well have been a chapter, describes some remaining highlights of Einstein's contributions: the General Theory of Relativity (1916), The Quantum Theory of Radiation (1917), Bose-Einstein Statistics (1924-25), and the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Hypothesis (1935). I think that most readers of "Hal's Picks" will enjoy this book; it emphasizes the amazing insight of the man, and describes the science in a manner that is accessible without being distorted.

Pick Attribution: 

John S. Rigden

Publication Date: 
Saturday, January 1, 2005
Price: 
$21.95