Happy Birthday Albert Einstein

Albert EinsteinQuincy Jones is 80 today. Wolfgang Petersen, the director of Das Boot and other quite watchable films since, is 72. And Billy Crystal is 65, so he won’t be making anymore pictures. (I kid Billy Crystal!)

Horton Foote, who did such a great job with the screenplay to To Kill a Mockingbird, would have turned 97 today, but he died back in 2009 right before his 93rd birthday. And I just learned that Casey Jones was a real guy born this day back in 1863. Of course, he died young or else the Grateful Dead never would have done a song about him.

All these fine people fade to the back of my mind because 134 years ago, Albert Einstein was born. I’m the first to note Einstein’s ideas were in the air. If he hadn’t been born, other people would have come up with them. But that does show his brilliance: it would almost certainly have been “people” and not “person.” He is mostly known for five pieces of research, but in fact he did a lot more than that. Although really, it is general relativity that is most important. It completely changed our conception of space. I struggle with it to this day.

Last night, I was talking to a young college student about Einstein. He mentioned that special relativity didn’t make much sense. I told him about my trials as a young man trying to understand it. In the end, I came to this: it doesn’t make sense. It is about phenomena that are totally outside our experiences. You just have to accept it and then everything falls into place. But it won’t ever be like Newtonian gravity: you drop an apple and it falls.

Happy birthday you magnificent bastard, I read your books!

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