On December 23rd, 2016, I bought a few books, as I am accustomed to do every year in the holiday season. One of those books is a second-hand copy of Brian Green’s “The Elegant Universe“. I have already read some of his other books, and I am – since a long time – quite interested in the origin and evolution of the universe as well as fundamental physics. So this buy was a no-brainer.
For some reason I could not put the book down once I started reading (although I had not yet finished William Gibson’s “The Peripheral“, but that one has to wait). Green writes about the development of superstring theory from an insider viewpoint, and that makes the story much more interesting. Even if your mathematics isn’t that great (like mine) this book can help you understand the essence of string theory, so I recommend it strongly.
To start his story, Green clearly explains Special Relativity and General Relativity. As it should, Albert Einstein features prominently in his exposé. From there on, Green explains, one after the other, the problems encountered by theoretical physicists and the solutions devised to solve them. Einstein is mentioned regularly in most of the chapters.
And then, a few days ago, an online news site extensively mentioned Einstein as an author on a completely different subject: politics. Hence I discovered that Einstein was more than “just” a brilliant physicist. Already in 1909 (!) Albert Einstein wrote:
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?(Source: Monthly Review)
I have not yet found the time to read more about Einsteins views on politics, but it says something about the man that he was already quite outspoken on this subject even before he rose to fame (after all, his paper on Special Relativity saw the light four years later, in 1912). At the same time, I can only see that we have not yet found an answer to his questions, let alone a solution to the problems posed…