Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pondering over the life of a non-conformist!

Einstein-His life and universe
Today I set out to deflect from my usual pattern of writing-presenting a book review after I am done with reading a book. The book I am reading now is so engaging and thought provoking that I have taken an unusually long time to complete reading 170 pages of a 550 page hefty book. I will lay out the review in parts, jotting down all the musings I get on reading this book.

I now know Einstein only till he has submitted a paper on 'Special Theory of Relativity'. The present world is engaged in non-stop rant about 'non-conformist' attitude only to follow the coolest dude and big daddy of all non-conformists - Dr. Albert Einstein. Einstein was the epitome of non-conformity since his childhood taking pleasure in maintaining his independent streak of thinking and defying the blind acceptance of any received wisdom much less conceding to authority.

Einstein was a connoisseur of critical thinking from his childhood. In fact he had developed such lucid ability to think early on in his life that he had difficulty to put into words all the wonderful thoughts he had. The world around him thought that he was a slow learner and speaker not knowing the hidden genius inside him that would transform the way world thought of physics. Einstein had problems in keeping up with rote learning at school and was in bad books of almost all the teachers in his college. The child prodigy who went on to study further passed his graduation by being only second last in his class. Even after his graduation he had much difficulty securing a job and earned meagre amount of money by giving private tuitions. He struggled for quite some time to earn a doctorate degree and this uncanny genius of all times did not even secure a professorship anywhere. The great works by him such as providing proof of Brownian motion, ascertaining Galileo's concept of relativity to inertial reference frames through thought experiments, extending Max Planck's 'quanta' concept to the motion of light all came at a time when he worked as a mere third-degree patent officer at Bern, Switzerland.

The eccentric genius was made so by his relentless works in challenging received wisdom. His demeanour earned him many critics and admirers and as with all great men, Einstein too paid little heed to the criticism of either his nature or his works. Reading about Einstein makes one think about all the wrong notions society puts in a child's mind such as following authority, obliging to the old order with humility, never daring to defer et al. I understand the common wisdom that not everyone can be a genius. But wouldn't society benefit from a bunch of more geniuses? I have sworn in to never treat any kid with low expectations and neither curtail it's curiosity to explore. I myself will not shy away from differing with the common norms and doing what I truly believe in. After all the world needs diverse thoughts and not the factory manufactured similar thinkers.

I recently read Walter Isaacson's biography on Steve Jobs and did I get blown away by his writing! Reading another biography from Issacson has reaffirmed by belief that great tales when told by great writers truly create priceless saga. I am awed by the style of writing Isaacson employs in narrating stories of great men. There is a personal touch yet a descriptive life analysis prevails throughout the book. The moral messages author tries to send out are never too elusive and neither hackneyed. The attention to details, research and author's distinctive opinions all make the biography a catching read. Given my electronics background I understood Steve Jobs' biography and the Silicon Valley boom very well. Now that I am reading about scientific advances of the late 20th and early 21st century I am equally enthralled. I was not a staunch fan of scientific history as a student but now having read it in a story form, I have grasped the importance of knowing history in any category - scientific, political, industrial and even religious.

I will now go back to try and understand the remaining heavy scientific jargon of the book. I daresay "Geek is the new sexy".

P.S: I cannot help but make the comparison between Sheldon Cooper's eccentric intelligence and Einstein's diversified genius. I hope Sheldon wins a Nobel Prize soon. :P

The young and super-handsome Einstein
P.S: You can read the next installment of my review here.

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