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A Stubbornly Persistant Illusion: The Essential Scientific Writings of Albert Einstein [Hardcover]

Steven Hawking (editor)
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

3 Oct 2007
From the work that "made" modern scientific thought and his important discoveries, to his later musings on his landmark findings and his philosophical essays on Zionism and other important issues of the 20th Century, "Einstein" is the most extensive anthology of the scientist, and the only one to provide the wide breadth of his work. The works included in the anthology include: "The Principle of Relativity" (1920); "Space-Time" (1929); "About Zionism" (1930); "Cosmic Religion" (1931); "The World As I See It" (1934); "The Evolution of Physics" (1938); "The Meaning of Relativity" (1945); and, "Out of My Later Years" (1950) At the beginning of each chapter, Stephen Hawking gives a short summary of the work, highlighting its significance, followed by an unabridged reproduction of Einstein's original essay.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (3 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762430036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762430031
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.4 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,064,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"(n)ovice readers will be surprised at how readable much of it is, and everyone will feel the thrill of reading Einstein's own words. As you manoeuvre through his symbolic world of clocks, rods, trains and light beams, you come to understand not only his physics, but also how he thought about physics. If nothing else, read Autobiographical Notes, a powerful combination of physics, philosophy and memory, in which both the sage and the rebel in Einstein shine through." --New Scientist

"By bringing many of (Einstein's writings) together in a single volume, combined with a few words of introduction by Stephen Hawking (who earns a cover mention in a typeface three times the size of Einstein's), Running Press has done us a signal service It is not a relaxing read, I grant you, but one in which effort brings proportionate reward." --The Times

"(Stephen Hawking is)the ideal man to edit the essential scientific works of Albert Einstein ... Hawking s introductions to each section are insightful and provide historical context. --BBC Focus Magazine

About the Author

Stephen Hawking is, like Sir Isaac Newton before him, a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books, including the phenomenally successful A Brief History of Time which has sold over 10 million copies in 40 different languages.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book consists essentially of a series of reprints of Einstein's classic papers on relativity, bound in glossy covers and dressed up as having a "commentary" by Stephen Hawking. But you soon discover that the alleged commentary, and Hawking's name prominently displayed on the front cover, is little but a marketing come-on.

I received this book as a present from a well-meaning friend who knows my interest in popular accounts of physics and who was misled by the marketing flannel. The obvious thought is that Hawking will have done for relativity what he did for time, and provided an understandable account, or at least a series of illuminating commentaries, on the classic papers by Einstein.

If you thought so, you have been fooled. There is an introduction to the book by Hawking, which presumably is just enough to allow the publishers to evade prosecution under the Trades Descriptions Act, and then you are left with the papers themselves, with no commentary, no explanation, nothing.

The saddest thing is that someone of Hawking's gifts really could have made his mark with this book. An object lesson in what is possible is Charles Petzold's recent book "The Annotated Turing", where he takes the reader step by step through Turing's 1936 paper in which he essentially laid the theoretical foundation for modern theories of computing.

Someone somewhere may take up the challenge. Meanwhile, it is hard to see whom this book can possibly satisfy. The serious student will want a proper modern textbook, and can download the original papers online. The average reader will be flummoxed by all but the most basic of the papers. What a waste of trees.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Einstein's seminal works commented on by Stephen Hawking 6 Jan 2008
By Roy E. Perry - Published on Amazon.com
The most highly celebrated and recognized scientist alive today, Stephen Hawking has assembled, in this volume, highlights of Einstein's groundbreaking scientific works, such as his Special Theory of Relativity (1905) and his General Theory of Relativity (1915).

Also included are Einstein's thoughtful views on politics, religion, the history and development of physics, and the interplay between science and the world.

In a chapter titled "Selections from Out of My Later Years," Hawking discusses Einstein's reservations concerning quantum mechanics: "Einstein pointed out that if we were able to investigate microscopic phenomena on the smallest scales, we would be able to find deterministic relations." In other words, Einstein had serious doubts about the validity of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and rejected the fundamentally probabilistic nature of reality espoused by those who held to the workings of chance and randomness at the quantum (microscopic) level. "God does not play dice with the universe," he famously opined; "God is subtle but he is not malicious." He held adamantly (some would say stubbornly) to his belief that physical reality is, at bottom, deterministic.

Hawking gives brief introductions to each of Einstein's papers, thereby providing helpful historical and scientific perspectives.

Einstein once said, "Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." Yeah, right! Einstein is much too modest.

In a sense, however, Einstein is correct. Although this volume is replete with mathematical equations, one can read between the lines and gain an improved understanding of his revolutionary theories of spacetime and gravitation.

Einstein makes us smile with his wry humor: "Today I am described in Germany as a 'German savant,' and in England as a 'Swiss Jew.' Should it ever be my fate to be represetned as a bete noire, I should, on the contrary, become a 'Swiss Jew' for the Germans and a 'German savant' for the English."

The book's title of comes from another Einstein quote, "People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very sobering and demystifying look at Einstein and his Contributions through his own Papers 17 Oct 2009
By Herbert L Calhoun - Published on Amazon.com
A very sobering and demystifying look at Einstein's contributions to the development of the Special and the General Theories of Relativity, his work on Cosmology (and his greatest mistake in positing the Cosmic constant), his unsuccessful quest for a "Final Theory of Everything," as well as his thoughts on politics, philosophy, history and religion. The substance of this collection of Einstein's papers we have seen before but not the lore and the deep understanding of Einstein the man and his technique as scientist, as it is so artfully annotated and portrayed by the holder of the Lucasian Chair of mathematics at Cambridge University, the renown Stephen Hawkings.

What Hawkings give us that is new here is a clearer understanding of where Einstein's true genius lay: It was it seems in understanding the full import and the subtleties of the theories that went on before him, both experimentally and mathematically, and then accepting and utilizing them all to the max; without, hesitation, doubt or reservations. With the single exception of the Quantum theory where he uttered the now famous sentence that "God Does not Play Dice with the universe," Einstein was confident in his approach even when he was not confident in his ability to carry his projects through to their conclusions. In short, Einstein believed deeply in the proven (and only in the proven) science of his day. For instance, he never believed in the "luminiferous ether," nor was he deterred by the profound implications of the constancy of light: that the rest of the universe of science would have to be rearranged to accommodate this new profound fundamental and underlying truth.

It is not just coincidental that both versions of relativity leaned heavily on the monumental work of James Clerk Maxwell's description of electromagnetic forces, or on Hendrick A. Lorentz mathematical transformations, and later on the new four-dimensional geometry of Hermann Minkowski as well as that of Bernard Riemann, but also, on the results of the Michelson-Morley experiments, proving once and for all the non-existence of the imagined ether. It seems that it was a signature characteristic of Einstein that he had the vision and the foresight to know that important discoveries were whirling about him. More than most of his contemporaries, he seemed to have had a "second sense" to know that he was in the midst, and was a key part of, a new scientific revolution. And thus, much to his credit (and much underplayed), Einstein did not care about "scientific orthodoxy," nor about the fact that the mathematical tools and talents that he came endowed with were often insufficient for the tasks he was undertaking. He simply, forged stubbornly ahead anyway, seeking help from mathematicians and fellow scientists more talented than he.

However the thing that really sets his genius a part from that of other scientists of his era was the fact that he could recognize a "foundation truth," and did not waver or allow scientific orthodoxy to cause him to alter his views. He was as tenacious as a foxhound onto the scent of a fox in pursuing the logical consequences of fundamental truths. That is what won him the Nobel Prize, for his work on the "Black Body" experiment and on Brownian Motion, rather than for the Relativity theories that he is most famously known for.

This is an engaging book. The more I see of Hawking's mathematical explanations the more comfortable I become with them. The book is supremely accessible for anyone who has mastered elementary calculus. Four stars
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WOW! This is a great read for amateur scientists and science readers. 29 Dec 2013
By Ronald D. Bruner Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Where to begin? Hawking covers the spectrum on Einstein in this book. There are thousands of books on Einstein and his works, but this is a rare one where it goes into practicality and the reasons for Einstein's curiosities. Hawking covers the Einstein basics while shedding new light and giving insight as well as breaking down into more digestible chunks of information. This book is a great introductory into Einstein theory, or as a refresher with new perspectives for those of us who are well versed in physics and mathematics. A very good read from Hawking.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential scientific works of Einstein 28 Oct 2012
By taogoat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you're looking for a good introduction to Einstein's discoveries, this is not it. I recommend Relativity Simply Explained, The Elegant Universe (chapters 2 & 3), and Einstein: His Life and Universe as great introductions to his life and work.

If you want the essential scientific works of Einstein all in one beautiful book, this is it.

Granted, this is a *selection* from his writings, so you could have a more complete collection by buying his other books individually. But at more than 450 pages, this is a generous collection. And if Hawking thinks these are the essential works, I'm inclined to believe him. It's a mixed bag of popular writings, scientific autobiography, lectures, essays, and original papers.

The contents are as follows, each with a brief introduction by Hawking:

1. Selections from The Principle of Relativity - 7 original papers by Einstein from 1905-1919, including the original papers proposing the theory of relativity and E=mc2.

2. Relativity: The Special and General Theory - the complete contents, with the exception of Appendix V.

3. Sidelights on Relativity

4. Selections from The Meaning of Relativity

5. Selections from The Evolution of Physics

6. Autobiographical Notes

7. Selections from Out of My Later Years

(Shame on the publishers for making Hawking's named bigger than Einstein on the cover and for putting "Hawking on Einstein" on the spine when in fact "Einstein on Einstein" would be more accurate.)

For anyone who wants to read Einstein's explanations of his greatest discoveries, this is the book to get.
3.0 out of 5 stars a lot of math 31 Oct 2013
By J. R. Mohr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have math phobia I thought this was a book with Mr. Hawking discussing his works, making it simpler. I might learn something anyway.
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