Einstein's Miraculous Year: Five Papers That Changed the Face of Physics Hardcover – 19 Apr 1998
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"In these excellent new translations of Einstein's papers, the economy and freshness of Einstein's style come through with undiminished force. . . . To re-read these papers is to relive perhaps the most dramatic year in the history of physics."--Werner Israel, Physics World.
"Read this beautifully translated and edited collection and enjoy an encounter with one of the greatest minds at work and five of the greatest physics papers of [the twentieth] century."--David C. Cassidy, American Journal of Physics
"I find myself thrilled by these papers. Why? Because through the original choice of words and arguments, through the simple but profound ideas and thought processes . . . I have been able to gaze into the mind of this great scientist in a way that no distillation or restatement or commentary would allow. In these papers one can see an enormously gifted human being grappling with the nature of the world."--Alan Lightman, Atlantic Monthly
"Drawing heavily on his subject's autobiographical reflections about the relationship between thought and language in his struggles to understand deep physical problems, Stachel paints a not-unfamiliar picture of Einstein as a solitary genius whose driving ideas were entirely his own."--David E. Rowe, Times Higher Education Supplement
"John Stachel devotes several pages to rebutting recent claims that Einstein's first wife, Mileva Maric, co-authored the 1905 papers. . . . [R]elativity and the quantum revolution sprang from the subtle gray matter of Einstein's brain alone."--PD Smith, The Guardian
"Einstein's Miraculous Year provides a well-considered look back at the seminal ideas that eventually helped make Einstein a household name. . . . [I]t's never too late to take a closer look at the century-old work that revolutionized [physics]."--Ryan Wyatt, Planetarian
From the Back Cover
"It is particularly remarkable that a single physicist--Albert Einstein--has such extraordinarily deep perceptions of the workings of Nature that he laid foundation stones of . . .[the] twentieth-century revolutions [in physics] in the single year of 1905."--From the foreword by Roger Penrose, Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford
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Top Customer Reviews
Here are these papers from that miraclous year all collected under one roof.
I have done this review today on Einstein's birthday, 14th March. A curiosity is that, in American chronology this is "3/14". But 3.14... is the number Pi. How strange.
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(1) "A new determination of molecular dimensions". Which is Einstein's dissertation.
(2) On the motion of Small particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat. This is what is referred to as Brownian Motion.
(3) On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. This is what is referred to as the special theory of relativity. This paper is to some degree a synthesis of work done by H.A. Lorentz and Henri Poincare, which is common in science (and Lorentz is given his fair due).
(4) Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content? This is essentially E = mc² and is an extension of the aforementioned paper.
(5) On a heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light. This is his paper on the photo electric effect and the quantum hypothesis. This is what Einstein got his Nobel price for. However, both (2) and (3) above are often considered to be Nobel Prize work.
The way I see it, these papers are of great historical value and it is awesome to be able to read the originals. However, I do not recommend this book as a good introduction to any of this material. As an engineering physics student I encountered most of the content of these papers in a more complete and clearer format. For example, the special theory of relativity is explained better in many text books on physics. Remember these papers are research papers not educational texts. That does not mean that I endorse the many non-mathematical popularizations of the topic that often end up misleading the reader. I should add, however, that in many texts on the special theory of relativity its foundation in electrodynamics is lost or downplayed, so reading the original will remind the student where it really came from.
I was surprised to see how the formula K0 - K1 = Lv²/ (2V²) was derived. This formula states the change in the kinetic energy of a body emitting radiation with energy L/2 in each direction. An implicit approximation (K = mv²/2, classic kinetic energy) was cancelled out by a MacLaurin/Taylor expansion and a corresponding approximation (when dropping terms). This is not wrong, and the proof is still valid, but it seems unnecessary to use approximations from classical mechanics when it is just as easy to make do without them. In any case from this formula it is concluded that when a body that emits the energy L in the form of radiation, then its mass decreases by L/V², or E = mc² ("V" is "c" plus classic formula above).
However, the formula E = mc² can be easily derived directly from the special theory of relativity without any approximation, which he did at a later date. You integrate E = F S (where S is distance) using the relativistic formulas for force and mass. In any case the paper proves the genial insight that "that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content", which is worth perhaps yet another Nobel Prize. It is also short paper.
I can add that Einstein's opus magnum, the general theory of relativity, came much later 1915/1916. Some other huge achievements were "stimulated emission" the principle behind the laser, Bose-Einstein statistics, and relativistic cosmology. In addition he also did the following, critical opalescence, the geometrization of physics, unified field theory, the EPR paradox, the Einstein refrigerator, a refrigerator without any moving parts, and much more. So 1905 was a very good start, a miracle year, but still just the beginning.
Anyway, reading the originals is thrilling. It is recommended reading to anyone who is literate in physics, and also recommended to anyone who would like to have these master pieces in his library.
The material that is provided in addition to the papers actually occupies more pages than the papers themselves and is definitely a very welcome addition. In fact, I think that they are a primary reason to get his book. Einstein's papers, while generally quite short are not the easiest to follow (at least I found this to be the case), so the notes preceding and following each paper defiantly helped me understand the papers and the context in which they were written. This is happily a case where I got much more than I had expected.
I highly recommend this book to those interested in Einstein, the history of science and the development of his physics. A reader will find some prior understanding of physics to be very helpful, but there is enough general historical material to make the book interesting to those without such a background.
As for the papers themselves, they still serve as pedagogically excellent introductions to the fields they created. And they provide stunning insight into the workings of one of the most amazing intellects the world has ever seen.
This book should be part of any science library worthy of the name.
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