liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Einstein Exhibit at OMSI

There are two ways to live:
you can live as if nothing is a miracle;
you can live as if everything is a miracle.

Admission was free yesterday and the museum was packed. The Einstein exhibit was medium sized, involving mostly plaques about his history and a few old documents behind glass. Einstein is one of my heroes. He was born a Jew in Germany and married his first wife, a Serb, after finding her in the physics department of his college. That marriage yielded a daughter (who disappeared from history) and a son. Einstein had many love affairs, and eventually married again, to his second cousin. She served as his hostess and buddy until she died. It seems he outlived most everyone in his life.

Of course Einstein's contributions to science are famous. He wrote four papers when he was just out of school that would have sealed his place in history even if he had died then. But he didn't die. He continued to work on the greatest issues that came to his mind. He gave himself mind breaks to allow unconscious revelations by playing violin (which he learned at 5), sailing, philandering, and who knows what other right-brained activities. He came to international attention after a solar eclipse verified what he had predicted: that light from distant stars was "bent" by the gravity of the sun. When he died he was working on a general unifying theory of physics, which is still unfinished and a hot topic in the field.

I hadn't realized the part that Einstein played in the use of nuclear weapons. He left Germany in the 1930's, recognizing that the Nazi's were increasingly dangerous, and came to the US. In the late 1930's he wrote a letter to FDR explaining that the Nazis were moving forward with science that could result in the atom bomb, and proposing that the US get on the ball and beat them to it. Two years after his letter the Manhattan Project was kicked off, and some 7 years later the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The quote given from Einstein when he heard the bomb was used: "Woe is me." He devoted much of the rest of his life to humanitarian causes as well as physics, working to minimize the risk of nuclear weapons ever being used again. I don't know for sure, but he may have been the first person to use the phrase "weapons of mass destruction".

Bertrand Russel penned an eloquent manifesto which became known as the Russel-Einstein Manifesto, expressing the shared human risk in the age of nuclear weapons. Very few people signed the Manifesto. Most German scientists of the day were, at least publicly, in support of the Nazis and the war.
Tags: german, heroes, judaism, nazis, nukes, physics, science, war

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