Saturday, February 8, 2014

The intellectual pettiness of Einstein

Not long afterward, though, relativity got away from Einstein, and here's where [the book] "The Perfect Theory" really gets interesting. Other scientists had their own ideas about the universe, distinct from Einstein's, and almost from the day he published his paper on relativity they started pushing "his" theory in new directions, prodding and twisting it until all sorts of unexpected things popped out—the Big Bang, black holes, time travel. ...

Did Einstein applaud these brave new developments? Not even close. Although his sacred intuitions had gotten him pretty far, these ideas violated his sense of how nature must work, and he loathed them. Here Mr. Ferreira shows us an Einstein we don't see often—a petulant and petty man, someone not above using his celebrity to squash "ugly" ideas. And, boy, he made some blunders. When Georges LemaĆ®tre, a Belgian cosmologist and priest, laid out the first evidence for an expanding universe, Einstein groused that, "although your calculations are correct, your physics is abominable." Eventually, Einstein's intransigence pushed him to the margins of general-relativity research, and he accomplished virtually nothing in the last decades of his life.
--Sam Kean, WSJ, on the imperfection of all humans