Skip to main content

tv   Matthew Stanley Einsteins War  CSPAN  November 24, 2021 12:20pm-1:38pm EST

12:20 pm
>> i know in the greatest country in the history of the earth, point of view does matter. >> to all the film makers out there, remember content is king and be as neutral as possible in your portrayal of both sides of an issue. c-span awards $10,000 in total cash prizes.
12:21 pm
entries must be received before january 20th, 2022. for rules, tutorials or how to get started, visit our website at student cam dot org. good evening and welcome to einstein's war a program with linda hall, library and the national world war i museum and memorial. two cultural institutions located right here in kansas city, missouri and we are delighted to be able to stand up at intersection of signs and history and bring you great conversations like this one. now, it's my pleasure and my honor to introduce the president of linda hall library, lisa bower. >> thank you. we're also pleased to present the program in association with the world war i museum and memorial. our institutions have worked
12:22 pm
together to provide programs illustrating the role played by science in the first world war. tonight's event, einstein's war, how relativity triumphed and discusses the effects of the war on the global science as a community and the obstacles that one member of the community, albert einstein, had to overcome. on behalf of everyone at the linda hall library, thank you for joining us this evening. and now i'll turn it back to laura to introduce tonight's distinguished speaker. >> lisa, thank you very much. it is truly my honor to introduce dr. matthew stanley. he is a professor of the history of science at new york university. he obtained his ph.d. from harvard, the author of einstein's war and the vicious
12:23 pm
nationalism of world war i. how it led to a scientific revolution. and the church and maxwell's demon, which explore the comp lex relationship and potentially my favorite introductory remarks, she is a mooegs of what the f. a podcast you can find on all of your streaming services. so, go to your streaming service of choice. it's a podcast you might enjoy. you have an hour ahead. we welcome your questions and even more so, we welcome you. dr. matt stanley. >> thanks, laura and thanks to
12:24 pm
the national world war i museum and memorial and the laura hall library for putting this together. i'm delighted to be here. i think i'm supposed to say i'd rather be there in person. but as i'm watching the location that people are putting into the chat, i have to say it's extraordinary that i'm going to get to talk to people from coast to coast and literally around the world. so, it's better than if i had been there in person. here to talk about einstein tonight. let me get my screen going properly here. it's what we all know. his name is synonymous with genius. the icon of science.
12:25 pm
literally the image you think of when you think of science and scientists. what i want to talk about tonight, the story i want to tell is how that came to be and how extraordinary and unusual it was that, in the space of a few weeks, einstein goes from an obscure academic to literally being recognized all around the world. one of the assets that is particularly fascinating is he didn't have much to do with this budding change. it wasn't just because he was a genius. he became famous because he was a in particular place at a particular time and specifically, that was in berlin during the middle of the great war. he was block aided and starving. this doesn't sound conducive to a scientific evolution. but one thing made all the difference and that is einstein's friend.
12:26 pm
there was a whole network of people he was working with. and we're going to begin the story, not with perhaps old einstein we all know, nor the young heroic einstein. but rather the middle aged einstein. he's not a patent circ anymore, he's held a couple of professorships. and picking up the story in the summer of 1919 and he's moving to berlin from switzerland. he was born there in the southern town of ohm to a secular jewish family and became to dislike german forms of authority and classroom instruction. he became what he describes as a social international. switzerland was a comfortable place for him and moving back to germany was a matter of some emotional discomfort.
12:27 pm
he remembered his difficult childhood there. but he had been sought after, recruited by some of the finest minds in german science, in particular because of his contribution to what will eventually become the theory of quantum mechanics. even though he's being recruited for the job, he's not yet famous. certainly no one outside physics knew his name and most people in the physics wouldn't know his name either, unless they were working on this specific aspect of quantum theory. and while einstein was recruited, his baby, which he wanted to spend his time working on, was his theory of relativity and comes in a couple of different charts. the first is the specialty area of relativity that he published in 1905 and that applies to only specific and restrictive situations.
12:28 pm
it wasn't applicable to many different circumstances you might be interested in. so, what einstein wanted to do and he hadn't had it time to do this, even by 1914, is create what he called the general theory of relativity. this was to extend his conclusions from 1905. and all the conceivable situations. and he hopes that moving to the new position in berlin, he has very few teaching responseabilities. very few administratorival responsibilities. it turns out he had been having an affair with the woman for some years. so, upon moving with his family, instead of being able to throw himself in a science, he had to deal with extremely rocky relationship issues. and in fact, his first wife, leaves him and takes the children.
12:29 pm
einstein is devastated by this. he had very deep connection to his children. of course. the immediate thing he has to do is find a place to sleep. he crashes on his friend's couch for a while. and hobber helps counsel him through the emotional wreckage at the end of his marriage. but eventually einstein is able to settle down and, as i said, he's hoping to work on his theory of general relativity. general relativity is the idea that the way to understand the universe is not as a universe made of space and time but rather a third dimensional conglomeration of space and time, in which we three dimensional creatures don't experience the universe in the right way.
12:30 pm
in einstein's universe, space and time are warped by the presence of planets and stars. we talk about the fabric of space time being able to curve and stretch. and a lot of the strange things we associate with relativity. twins aging at different rates, energy turning to matter, matter turning to energy, all consequences of the grand vision that einstein has of the right way to approach the universe in a scientific and philosophical sense. unfortunately, for einstein, he discovers fairly on in the process of trying to develop general relativity that the mathematics necessary are extremely complicated. and einstein was not a very good student back in college. so, it turns out he skipped the mathematics classes he needed to develop his particular theory. in a rather extraordinary turn of events, he actually goes back to his friends' whose notes he
12:31 pm
copied so he could pass the class, who's by this time a professional mathematician, to ask for help learning the math mumattocks he was supposed to learn in college. as the story goes, einstein flings open grossman's apartment door and says you must help me or i'll go crazy. he helped einstein figure out the mathematical superstructure of the theory. einstein's been working on the physical meaning of the theory. he published very little on theories at this point but his draft version was pretty good. and by summer of 1914, he achieved a very important milestone. not just that he put the equations out there, but he got the theory to a point where it could be tested. which is an important thing for any scientific theory but particularly for einstein's
12:32 pm
theory because relativity is so strange, so alien to our ordinary experience, that he knew he needed an empirical test that he could point to and say this is why you should believe it's right. this is the one that's at hand in 1914. it's what is sometimes called the gravitational deflection of light. einstein's theory predicts gravity should pull, not just on heavy objects, like tables and professors, but on efemoral things, like light. so, the path of light should be bent by gravity in the same way a ball does. you need a strong gravitational force to observe it. so, the way einstein figured out you could see the effect was if you waited for a solar eclipse
12:33 pm
and looked for a star that was supposed to be right near the edge of the sun's disk. when the gravity of the sun, as the light beam came from that star, would be benlt. would be bent by the sun's gravity. and from our point of view on earth, whether you see that bending of light looks like is the star appears to be in the wrong place in the sky. a different place from where it should be and the effect is very small. you need sophisticated equipment. skilled observers to see it. and wait for a full eclipse. now, fortunately, for einstein, very soon after he arrived in berlin, there's a solar eclipse predicted to occur, specifically in the crimea, which, at the time, was part of russia. and one of einstein's aclites a fan of relativity is a trained astronomer who agrees to go to russia with a crew and all his sophisticated equipment and observe the solar eclipse and
12:34 pm
try to take a photograph of this tiny displacement to prove einstein's theory. in fact, there was something like a half dozen crews of astronomers in the crimea to observe the solar eclipse, not necessarily test einstein's theory but just for the eclipse at all. so, einstein is waiting in berlin to hear the results from this expedition. it doesn't care in the slightest. einstein's theory is of no interest to anyone except a tiny handful of people. what ever within else in the world, literally, is paying attention to in august 1914, is the long brewing political conflict, the arms race, the political tension and of course the spark with shooting the austrian heir to protest the
12:35 pm
occupation of bosnia for slovenia and changing the trigger of war declarations that initiate the beginning of world war i. scientists watch this happen as the rest of the world does. many scientists hope they can hold themselves above the fray. science is supposed to be an international enterprise, disconnected from human things like politics and conquest. in particular, as it began, the british association for the advancement of science was holding its annual meeting, an international meeting as it turned out, and many scientists say they declare science would be above all politics. this seemed like a great move frmt showing how scientists could rise above this new war. one of the scientists in attendance was arthur stanley
12:36 pm
edingten, an astronomer and professor at cambridge and a quicker, which meant he was a passivist and international. he was pleased that he found these international outreaches. his hopes were almost immediately dashed. the moment when he was supposed to observe the solar eclipse, he is actually arrested by russian police as a german spy and spends much of the war locked up in a prison. scientists on both sides go into hostile national camps, essentially. german intellectuals, have a famous declaration, declaring their solidarity with the german army. many of einstein's friends and mentors, including the one whose couch he slept on. germans can no longer be trusted to do science, which is a
12:37 pm
particularly famous hh turner, one of the great astronomers of british science says it's a fact the lithutania was sunk and german ideals are far removed from the inception of true named science. the german nobel prize winner calls for german scientists to no longer site english papers or use english scientific terms and says no german should use the term partition therm again. and accuses british scientists for taking credit for german work. and literally the trench is cut across the line that scientists use to communicate data back and forth. scientific journals are withdrawn, no longer sent to countries.
12:38 pm
british scientists in austria are arrested. and einstein finds himself horrified. in particular, he discovered that he is esengs that he will only fasfs among the science community in berlin. he joins peace organizations and is largely ignored because he is a person of no consequence at this time. he writes to a friend of his at the time saying i love science twice as much in these times and i feel so painfully for almost all of my fellows about their emotional misjudgments and consequences. we must foster international relations all the more and distance ourselves from the course emotions of the mob. unfortunately, we've had to suffer serious disappointments even among scientists in this regard. and einstein felt these issues essentially immediately. as soon as the war began,
12:39 pm
germany falls short on food within a week of the beginning of the war. and hundreds of thousands of germans die of starvation in that first winter. and einstein was nearly one of them. he's starving, very sick. he only survives because he's given food packages sent from his friends in switzerland. he loses 60 pounds in two months. complains that he can't write. so, much of the time he's bed ridden. he worked from bed in his pajamas. he writes the fundamental papers while under the blankets. he feels isolated politically and intellectually in berlin. one of the places he looks for intellectual is in the war. in particular, the three gentleman on the right side of the photograph are his dutch
12:40 pm
physics friends. and he enjoys being around other internationalists. people with left-wing politics. so, those are the people he discusses relativity with. they're essentially the only people in the world who know about his work on general relativity and this is because of blockades stops papers as well as armament. and who on the other side of the trenches would want to hear what a german scientist had to say in any case? one of his dutch friends, the tall man in the back with a pointy beard, astronomer, decides that the world should hear about einstein's work and so happens he speaks excellent english. so, he senlt a letter to the royal society in london and so happens that the secretary of the royal astronomical society, the one who opens the letter is arthur stanley adamson and i
12:41 pm
can't over emphasize how lucky einstein was that edingten was the one that opened it. this is because few bitter scientists were willing to think about a german theory or an any theory as many scientists talk about at the time. but he was a pacifist and thought international relations in science were critical. he was also one of the few people that understood the complicated mathematics. it so happens he'd chosen the one correspondent in britain who was both willing and able to think about einstein and grapple with relativity. so, eddington is excited and he, like einstein, is feeling isolated politically. there are very few people he can talk to in england within the scientific community who share his views.
12:42 pm
and edingten is worried. he knew -- he wasn't niceive. naive. suggesting that germans, as a people, could no longer be trusted to do science was absurd and would do damage in the long term. perhaps the moderate some of their antigerman hatred. he points out that the problems of astronomy are world wide. the longs of latitude and longitude don't care about national boundaries and they appear a philosophical and even spiritual concerns. the conviction at the pursuit of truth, whether the minute structure of the atom is a bomb transcending to indifferences. and to use it was a deg reigation of the science. and it's interesting to note
12:43 pm
what edington is doing is he's taking the pacifist technique used by the quaker and applying them specifically to the realm of science. these strategies including thes like humanizing the enemy, making contact across the trenches and showing that the world is a better place united than it is divided. he invites his colleagues, not of a symbolic german, but of your friends, the german scientist who has been attending conferences for decades. a baby killer tried to work up a little fury about the worship of a vampire in this perversion of science was a disaster. so, as he was grappling with these issues, einstein appears in his inbox and he sees an opportunity. so, einstein, for him, a symbol
12:44 pm
of science, reaching above the chasms, showing that world changing science depended on international cooperation. working with each other. and einstein was perfect for this, not just because he was a brilliant physicist but because since einstein is a pacifist too, he could be just what a quaker scientist needed to convince his colleagues of the error of their own ways. but as relativity could show what is lost as science gets consumed by this kind of wartime hatred. at this point, no one knew who einstein was or his skill. edingten dedicated the next couple of years of his life to learning relativity, popularizing it and getting the english speaking world excited about this and do it without any communication with einstein.
12:45 pm
the blockade is back on. they can't send letters because that would like like espionage. so, he's essentially on his own. he does manage to teach himself relativity but like einstein, he realizes that persuading people of the importance of the theory would require a testing. this physical assertion that the theory should be true. so, he wants to do that same eclipse test that had been attempted in 1914 and an eclipse was coming up in 1919 across the southern hemisphere but not at all clear he would be able to do tests. would the war be over? would he be able to travel? he'd have to go thousands of miles. could he get his colleagues to test the theory? all these are radically unclear to him in 1916, when he first
12:46 pm
begins the project of embracing relativity. he does have some success and as he's making progress convincing colleagues to support an eclipse expedition, he found himself of being in danger of being pulled from the observatory and taken to the front. as a quaker, he would refuse to fight. he would be a consciences objection and it was a legally allowed status but there was little guidance on what should happen to someone who does claim pacifist objection to the war. among the scientific community, he was essentially the only one. the vast majority were working on technical projects for the war or simply volunteered to go fight. it was essentially unprecedented. if what was going to happen to edingten is what happens to most people who claimed conscientious
12:47 pm
objection is they were sent to a concentration camp. the spies and treating extremely badly. many died in the camp. so, if he did not want to be sent to the camp and more importantly, to be able to continue to work on einstein and relativity, he had to appear in front of a tribunal to explain why he should be allowed to continue to work on science. in one of his major difficulties was getting people to understand he was both a scientist and a person of gen ws religious faith. this seems like a contradiction. so many put his suggestion on the ground. he got saved at the last second because he's good friends with frank dyson, essentially the top scientist in britain at the time. and argued that it is important for british scientific prestige
12:48 pm
to do the test. that is if he's allowed to do this test of einstein's theory, that would show english science is superior to german science. in a wonderful twist of irony, he's allowed to do his pacifist expedition on the grounds it would be good for the british empire. would the war allow it to proceed? as i showed the eclipse in 1919, as they were hoping to observe, arcs across the southern hemisphere from africa to south america. and not many astronomers are likely to try to run the block aide. so, in planning for this, they're hoping things will go as they had been.
12:49 pm
in 1918, the german offensive runs out of steam, over extends itself and could not hold against the counter attack. and eventually came clear the germans could not win on the battle field, and fired in berlin. on november 11th, the next day, famously the guns halt. there are headlines siting the journal for the day. frrt it's a short entry, he says "class was cancelled because of revolution." einstein's recently watched the collapse of the military state he had been resisting for four years and his socialist politics, which caused him so much trouble during the war, was suddenly a blessing under this new republic. he writes "i am enjoying the reputation of an irvokable socialist, and as a consequence, the heros are coming to me in the opinion i could break their
12:50 pm
fall. funny world." and in fact, it's a scary place immediately after the war. and einstein finds himself climbing over barricades. he has to negotiate for the release of deans that's being held hostage by revolution naries and petitions the new regime for a dramatic kind of academic freedom for professors after the war. so it's important to emphasize here at this point, even though there's an armistice, that is, the fighting stops. there's no piece treaty, so the black cade continue, so einstein is still starving and still can't communicate with his scientific allies in other countries. the british are maintaining the blockade with the explicit intent of making thing as difficult as possible for germany so that they can get the best conditions they can in
12:51 pm
negotiations. once this comes on, he finds himself working frantically because suddenly it's the end of 1918. it's going to take months to get to the southern hemisphere, if they're going to the observation, and they couldn't do any of the prep weighs during the war because they couldn't get materials and labor needed because of wartime restrictions. and they were going to have to leave in early march to make to it where they needed to go for the observation. he manages to get a government grant for this, quite extraordinary given the financial situation at the time. and the decision was made to send two expeditions just in case there was bad weather at one of the sites. one team would be sent to -- and another team led by eddington
12:52 pm
would be sent to the tiny island off the coast of africa. each team would take special cameras to take photographs of the stars hopefully during the eclipse, a special telescope called a astrographic. the way you would do an observation of this scope is you would get to the path of totality, that is where the eclipse is going to be, and you essentially build kind of an emergency observatory, wherever that happens to be, where you lay the telescope horizontally and the cameras on the right side side of the image, back of the tent, and in the front there's a round mirror, and its job is to reflect the image of the sun, or in this case, the stars down the photographic tube. that's driven by clockwork so to
12:53 pm
steadily capture the image without any motion. the hope at the end of all this was they would get a series of photographs they could then -- the stars around the sun, compare to what the stars were supposed to look like when the sun wasn't there. then they could measure how much the sun's gravity distorted the stars in the sky. they predicted the displacement was 1/60 of a millimeter. a mill meeter is very tiny. there's about 25 millimeters in an inch, so that's less than 1/1 thousandth of an inch. that's a vl small amount. many critics at the time said that's too small a measure. tyson says, no, astronomers measure in sizes like that all the time. it's not easy, but it's a perfectly normal thing for us to
12:54 pm
do. so eddington sort of work out the mathematics of the series. that is what we should expect to see, and the way he presented it was this. he said einstein's theory could -- the amount that the star move on the sky is 1.75 arc seconds. it's a small amount i'm talking about. for comparison, he said, newton has a theory of gravity, too. if we use newton's theory it should with a fraction less. then the third possibility is there's nothing at all, no deflection and that wouldn't be very interesting. at some point during the preparation, dyson is explaining these possibilities to a guy named codingham who's going along on the expedition. codingham got it into his head
12:55 pm
that given these three possibilities, the bigger the deflection the better. he asks dyson, what if we get double the einstein deflection? is that going to be better? he said then eddington would go mad. even as eddington and dyson are working hard through the logistical aspects of the expedition, they're working hard to groom reporters in london about the expedition and their significance. when they came back month later with the results there would be a public egoer and ready to hear about the titanic battle between einstein and newton. that's why he framed it that way. as soon as they have everything ready, eddington hops on one of the first post war passenger ships heading south. he notes how strange it is to be outside the rationinged that been normal in the uk, full bowl
12:56 pm
of sugar, large portions of meat. they arrive in princepe. he had never been there before. this was a long time before travel sites. and let's go guys. it's a speck in the middle of the ocean. there's a big mountain in the middle. it's part of the portuguese empire, and what it was known for at the time, somewhat ironically, is it was cover in the cocoa plantations that sold coco to the quaker chocolate factories back in britain. the plantation workers at the can koe plantation were the ones that carried the equipment by hand through to the jungle and set it up in the place where it needs to be. everything was set up by may 16th, not quite two weeks before the eclipse is predicted to happen, and astronomers have to
12:57 pm
begin practicing. these are very complicated systems they have to be able to operate essentially in the dark during the eclipse, and there will be no room for error. there's no do-over. they have to make sure they can carry out the experiment perfectly. it's hard to overemphasize how nerve racking the last few days before the eclipse were. years of planning, months of journeying, and all without knowing if the sky would be clear at the critical moment. one cloud could ruin everything, and in brazil, the day started off cloudy, but cleared at the perfect moment. that team telegraphed home, eclipse splendid. in principe, it was cloudy. astronomers watched and waited for a break in the clouds. the rain ended before the
12:58 pm
eclipse, but clouds remain. totality begins five second's 2:13 p.m. local time, with astronomers carrying out the machine process without knowing if clouds cleared you have. eddington described being so focus on the photography he wasn't able to watch the actual event. there was a marvelous spectacle above, and as photograph -- conscious only of the weird half light of the landscape and hush of nature, broken by the calls of observers and the beat of the metronome. by the end of the eclipse, 16 glass photographic plates sat cover in the a box, hoping the secrets of the stars could be scrutinized. when indeed, great efforts would be required before they were turn into the scientific dataing but eddington telegraphed home,
12:59 pm
true clouds africa, he has to develop the photographic plates. it turns out most of them are cloudy, and almost 6 of the 16 show the stars. the question was, were those six plates enough? so eddington spends each day hunched over the photographs with a special tool called a micrometer making these fine measurements. the effect he was looking for was, as we said, large by astronomers' standards. then they had to be reduced, that is mathematically analyzed to eliminate optical events and so forth before they became real data. eddington was legendary for how fast he could calculate things but this still took an enormous amount of time. in the end he wrote home to his mother, the one good plate i
1:00 pm
measured has agreement with the einstein and i think i got confirmation from the plate. so at some point in the week of june 1919, eddingtop put down the pen he had been using for calculation. perhaps he rested his head in his hand. a year after he had been freed from the conscription tribunal, he had his answer that einstein's theory was the best. he later called this greatest moment of his life. despite that, solemnity, he couldn't let it slip. he turned to codingham and said, quote, codingham, you won't have to go alone. this was a matter of persuading himself. persuading the world would take more work. once back in britain, eddington
1:01 pm
faced further measurements. 1.61 arc seconds, close to einstein's prediction of 1.75. once the result were enhanced, they did test runs, presenting the data with friendly and private audiences. these went well. dyson scheduled a joint meet of the royal society and royal astronomical society to present the results publicly. eddington sends word of the results to their mutual friends in the netter lands. still can't tell einstein. a dutch friend telegraphs einstein the news. he's delighted. he shows the telegram with the results to anyone who walks into his apartment, even when he was bedridden. there were many entertaining stories like this one, a student he shows it to.
1:02 pm
the student says, this is almost just as you calculated. quite unperturbed he said, i knew the theory was correct. did you doubt it? of course not what would you have said if there was no confirmation? i would have to pity our dear god. the theory is correct all the same. in his private correspondence he's a little more humble and grateful about the test of his theory. this is in writing to one of his mentors. how deeply and how heartily pleased i was about the news in the telegram. you have already said many time you personally never doubted the results but sit beneficial nonetheless now that fact is indoubtedly established for others as well. the public presentation of the results back if london was held at the royal society. one of the people present at the
1:03 pm
presentation of results was the mathematician alfred whitehead. there was a dramatic quality in the very staging. traditional -- now after more than two centuries to receive its first modification. nor was personal interest wonting a great adventure in thought. dyson's at the podium and announced after a careful study of the plates, i can say there can be no doubt of einstein's prediction. a definite -- has been obtained the onner is accusation teams described the expedition and explained their data. president of the royal society, j.j. thompson, who i should say was in the a fan of einstein during the war, announces this
1:04 pm
is the most important result in connection with the theory of gravitation, and it should be announced a meeting of the society -- with him. it sustained that einstein's reasoning holds good and withstood two serious testifies. this is a celebration of the one of the highest achievements in human thought. alternative representations were presented. one person rose and pointed to newton's portrait. now, the next day, the time of london presented the greatest scientific headline in history -- revolution in science. in fact this actually shares the page with the reminder of an upcoming observation of the first armistice day observance.
1:05 pm
remember, this was the first time that almost anyone in britain had heard of einstein. and he was presented exactly as eddington wanted to, as this peaceful genius who repudiated the wartime stereotypes. he protested against the german manifesto of men against science. very soon "the new york times" picked up on the articles and blaired lights all askew in heaven. we know this is only the second time einstein had been mentioned in "the new york times." he comes out of nowhere to the front page of the times. and then eddington begins this tireless tour to incite further interest to give public interviews and lectures, writes magazine cart kls, all celebrating the scientific
1:06 pm
observation made possible. everyone wanted to talk about einstein. it became possible for eddington and einstein to communicate directly. eddingtop writes, all england is talking about your theory. i do not nts pate an official reunion, but there's a big move forwards reasonable mind by scientific men, and that is more important than the -- or as he puts it, things turn out fortunately, giving a lesson in solidarity in a lesson of british and german science, even in war. but it wasn't just fortune. it was that eddington and einstein worked hard to portray this scientific event as a repair from the terrible years of the war. einstein himself praising, saying this is a wonderful tradition of science that they should devote their time and energy to a theory produced by enemies during the war. this begins also -- this is the
1:07 pm
moment when einstein becomes famous literally around the world. the beginning of what we called the relativity circus. unending press attention, hounded for autographs. mail piles up at his home literally by the basketful. everyone wants to know more about the mysterious sage that changed the universe. einstein found it ridiculous, because by an application of the theory of relativity, in germany, i'm called the german man of science and in england i'm represented as a swiss jew but come to be represented of owe bete noir. i'll be a swiss german, a german man of science for the english. noting that not all aspect of einstein's fame was positive. it drew the attention of the political right. this drew into more political work, specifically zionism, and
1:08 pm
this leads to him fleeing the country under the nazis and coming to the u.s. as a refugee. squarely due to the timing and context of the war, as described by earnest rutherford. it just ended. the types had been shattered and suddenly, a german scientist confirmed by astronomers. so einstein becomes a new scientific saint, airing a message of peace for a world tire offend war. but our image of einsteins a genius comes out of the devastating bloody year of war, and it's only in contrast to that that his discovery was so striking. at a time when civilization itself seemed to be in peril.
1:09 pm
so the war and einstein's reaction to them, forged these intricate fragile networks. without those networks caused by the politic of the war, the relativity revolution would have never occurred. the theory didn't have many applications and without the war, relativity would have been just one more scientific theory, true but obscure. without the war, einstein would have been one more name for bored school children to memorize. instead his name is an idea, an icon, everything he wanted science to be. in addition to that, einstein's genius, einstein and his friend. thank you very much. this has been a real pleasure. you can reach out to me. not taking questions now, but feel free to email me or go to my podcast website for further discussion.
1:10 pm
>> spectacular. matt, thank you so much. i know i was laughing out loud at some of the comments, so i fully anticipate those across the nation and from around world were doing the same. thank you all for joining us. if you're joining national weather service zoom, do please add your questions, and there are already some good ones coming in in the q&a session. if you are joining us on the linda hall library facebook page or the national rover museum and me merle facebook page, please add your questions to the chat. we have educators from both organizations who are there and moderating. the first question actually came from tim a. quinn, and he asks the question, how did it come that people thought that
1:11 pm
einstein had no talent in mathematics? >>, so this is actually einstein being self-deppry kating. you can find a quote of him saying he wasn't very good at math. he does fine in mathematics in school. the anecdote is it wasn't because he was bad at math but because he hated going the classes. he felt like he had better things to do. when he describes hymn as not a good mathematician, he's comparing himself to literally the greatest mat ma tigss in the world at the time. so when he's explain yg he has to talk to marcel grossman and emmy noter. he'sen explaining it as, i don't understand these mathematics. i need your help. he's very good at math, it's just in comparison. >> from ty hunter. npr science friday had a story of a barber who brings the story
1:12 pm
to einstein that -- could effect light and curvature. is that true? i love we can be a sounding board. science, history, immediate i can't recollect all coming into one. >> di not hear that episode, so i don't know the specific reference, but that said, there's a certain cottage industry of finding earlier versions of einstein's prediction in other scientific literature, and in fact it was the case that way back in the 18th century, there were people who proposed the newton's theory chould affect light, and if you accept that idea, that light should bend. so there's a handful of people who make a similar prediction to just the general idea that gravity could bend light. i should say, though, there's a one thing i want to put here,
1:13 pm
there's a group of far right anti-semitic critics of einstein in the 1920s and '30s who use this to claim einstein plagiarized the theory, and that's not true. >> from benjamin davis, he wanted to know, what was the result of so lar eclipse study in brazil? >> that's a good question. unfair i passed over this for time purposes. the story in brazil is actually quite interesting. there are two telescopes there, unlike the one edton has in africa and the big telescope, the really good one, has a technical problem at the last second, sort of during the eclipse, so it produces photographs that at first glance are really bad, and everybody -- and by first glance i mean the scientists look at them and say,
1:14 pm
these are not good results. they then try to -- one of the things you can do with this particular problem is you can subtract the problem and figure out what results would have been. these are the things astronomers have been doing. if you do that, you get a result so close to einstein's prediction. the little telescope they brought as a backup at the last second captured the absolute best pictures of the entire eclipse, and those are smack on with einstein's prediction. so it's actually a wonderfully epic tale of near disaster. >> i feel like in your area of expertise, the history of science, it's probably just full of these near disastrous moments. one of our participants wants to know, was einstein himself qualified to carry out this type of test?
1:15 pm
>> this is a really good question, and the answer is a full no. so, this is an important distinction that we sometimes lose when we're outside science. einstein is a theorist. he's really good at equations and ideas and principle, and figuring out what's going on and making predictions, but he is not very good at actually going and doing the observation, doing the test itself, so that's a completely different skill set. einstein realizes this immediately. this is one of the thicks he realizes he has to do is find someone qualified to do the test. so actually, as i said, he has act colite friend who's interest in the theory of well at this time buck his boss won't let him leave to do the test. einstein is tearing his hair out looking for somebody to do the test bum it's really important that einstein is not to do the
1:16 pm
observation. >> a very specific question coming to us from guy raider. you spoke about a mirror that tracks the stars' movements via a clock work mechanism during the eclipse expeditions. could you share more about the relationship between astronomers, physicists and clockmakers? is that a strong venn diagram. >> it's a weak diagram. astronomers rely on clockmakers well into the 20th century because clockmakers can make precise instruments and robust instruments that can survive being carried from england to brazil. what particularly happens -- this is a good example of that -- astronomers and physicists have advanced
1:17 pm
degrees, but along the lines of what we were just talking about, don't often times have to skills to operate the machinery. so then there are paid employee of the observatory who have to operate the equipment in a way that the people with fancy degrees can't. eddington is an interesting intersection of the venn diagram because he's a physicist, trained astronomer, and his first job is at the observatory, so they does learn how the operate the mens in a way dyson or einstein never got to. >> from robinson, after the 1919 eclipse expedition, what were the divisions in the international physics community with respect to accepting einstein's general relativity versus continuing skepticism? >> this is a really interesting
1:18 pm
question. in sense because i feel like there's a real tension here. einstein's theory of relativity was generally accepted everywhere. there are holdouts but for the most part everyone look at the data, at the actual photographs, agrees there's a deflection of light and it matches einstein's prediction. then there are some people who say, maybe there's a reasonable explanation that's not such a weird theory. interesting things that happen is astronomers continue to test einstein's theory even though it is generally accepted all day. american astronomers go and test this again in the 1920s at a much better precision than eddington is able to do. but what i find interesting is they do the test even though they know what the answer is going to be. no one expects einstein is going to be overthrown at this point. throughout the 20th century and continuing to today, we continue to test einstein's theory, even
1:19 pm
though no one doubts it. it is amazing. we spend billions of dollar on projects to test relativity even though no one thinks we're going to get an answer that's wrong. i don't know why the scientific community is obsessed with trying to test relativity, but they really are. >> we have a lot of really good questions. i want to be sure to honor everyone's time. i'm going to ask one more, but before i do that, would you be willing at our kind of close time to stay on a little bit longer so we could explore more of these? because i personally would like to hear some of the answers. >> sure, i'd be delighted to. >> okay. the last official question comes from stacy quartry. i know your next book about predictions of the end of the world. can you say more about the project? sounds exciting. >> i certainly could. i wish i knew more about it.
1:20 pm
it is a new project, right? so, the question that kind of struck me about this is that once upon a time, predictions about the end of the world were something that you asked prophets and preachers about. this is a religious prediction. nowadays we ask scientists instead, and they have a lot of them to describe. i'm interest in the how that shift came to be, that is how do scientists take on the duty of having to predict the end of the world? and at the moment, i'm deep into one particular kind of prediction, scientific prediction of the end of the world, and that's the idea that an asteroid might catch the earth and destroy us all, the same way it destroyed the dinosaurs. what i find interesting about this is when i was a kid, that was a ridiculous idea.
1:21 pm
the idea that we had to literally lashed out of scientific conferences. but nowadays we have an office of planetary defense, so how did that come to be? how did we get such a change in the way we think about a specific problem? >> dr. matthew stanley, on behalf of the world war i museum, memorial and the linda hall library, what whom we are so pleased to partner with on this and many other lectures. if you're interested in the future or demise of our future, pay attention to the website you see right there. start listening to his podcasts. whatthef.com. if you like history and science, i believe we have it on our website, the world war og if you
1:22 pm
haven't picked up his book yet, and learn more by reading the week einstein's war. of course also support your local libraries. if you want to stay on, please do. for those of you who need to leave, thank you so much for your time. it is one of your most valuable commodities. we truly appreciate learning with you. all right, matt, there are so many other really great questions that are located here. >> all right. >> if you got one go for it. >> charles keller asked an interesting question about einstein's relationship to other socialists, in particular, h.g. well. ♪ it was said that wells helped einstein escaped germany. i don't know specifically if wells was involve in the that or not. einstein was traveling abroad when the nazis come to power and they sack his home, so einstein
1:23 pm
never goes back. i think wells does help einstein get safe in goaltend, and then einstein travels around and ends up in new jersey of all places. and he -- actually it's quite extraordinary how political networks like international socialism help people get out of germany and the axis powers. and einstein spends the first few years of his time trying get out. he spend time writing letter of recommendation, making phone calls trying to get as many people of jewish heritage and liberal politics out from underneath the nazis as they can. those refugees that come to the united states, sort of on einstein's watch, those are the people that build the atomic bomb. it's an amazing kind of thing
1:24 pm
that the persecution of the nazis gives rise to what eventually becomes -- makes america win the war and become a superpower. it's a wonderful lesson in why that's not a good thing to do. >> that also comes a little bit full circle, if folks in the audience are unaware, h.g. wells is the one who termed the phrase, the war to end all wars. charles keller, associated with the h.g. wells society, and i believe there's a lecture that he has done there. so again, this intersection of history and literature and science is a wonderful space to be. nancy vogt, i hope i said your last name correctly. what happened to the astronomers to went to russia? >> this is interesting. they are arrested as spies, and you can't blame the russian for this, because they set up their
1:25 pm
equipment right over the russian naval base at sevastopol, which made sense when the war wasn't going on, because there's railroad tracks, and but once the war begins, they're arrested. whether they're tortured is unclear. they're released in a prisoner of war trade relatively early. they're the first germans to come back bum their equipment stays in russia for almost 100 year afterward. doesn't come back until after the collapse of the soviet union. so the germans couldn't have redone the test even if they wanted to. edison has a very specific question on sort of how one draws the diagram of light deflection. this is a pretty important question, and another example of me hand-waving for presentation
1:26 pm
purposes. nelson points out it's more proper to draw the bend in the light after the light beam goes past the edge of the sun than before. just sort of the diagram i have. you're completely right, that is more technically correct. i find people get confused by that because they're not used to thinking about image formation in that way. that is, they're not used to thinking about how light rays form images. it gets confusing. but you're quite right and i'm happy to be connected on that. let's see here. who else do we have? >> this is fabulous math, and thinking about the anti-german and anti-semitic rhetoric. can you speak about the anxieties of scientists at this time that they would have to capitulate to popular discourse? what, scientists had to
1:27 pm
capitulate to popular discourse? do you notice any similarities with the pandemic today. fabulous question. >> that is a terrific question. really glad. we have -- when i put some of these clips up here, the israeli also thinks the english scientists say about german scientists and french scientists say it about british scientists -- they felt the need to say things like that because they were under public pressure, and that's a real possibility. we have private letter of many of these astronomers as well. so we may have some better sense of what is actually going on in their heads. and my sense of it, at least in the british case, which i know better than the german or french
1:28 pm
case, is that they actually felt quite strongly. they were not feeling like they needed to change what they had to say in terms of political or social pressure. for instance, they laid plans for after the war of setting up youth international scientific organizations where they wouldn't have to deal with the germans and austrians would be forbidden from joining. he's a case because he doesn't make anti-german political statements but his correspondence shows he was actually anti-german. he's upset his son isn't old enough to go fight. he really hopes the germans leave the war and are punished for it. but then he goes along with eddington on this interesting
1:29 pm
plan, which could have been a total basher along the way. so it's interesting to see how scientists navigate these sort of treacherous political and social waters while also trying to hold to what they see as the proper way to do science. in terms of the comparison to the modern day and the struggle that scientists have had talking to the general public during the pandemic, i think one of the lessons we should take away from the einstein and eddington story is that that was when -- it's not so much that people trusted science more, although i think that's true, but whether scientists were more concerned with talking to the public and making clear, making legible their ideas in a way that people could understand, right? so eddington really takes years off from doing his technical work in astrophysics to help
1:30 pm
people understand relativity better. that's a society of skills not many scientists today have. the reason is we don't train scientists to have who he has skills. . we teach them to do experiments and get tenure. we don't teach them how to teach people. it would be nice if we, the some time out of training our scientists in teaching them how to actually teach -- or how to talk to nonscientists out there. >> i already know one of the sound bites that's going to be coming from the talk right here. there are two more questions. the first is about a specific date, if you might know it off the top of your -- >> let me google that! the nice thing is google exists for things on that line. while you are googling that --
1:31 pm
>> there's a whole wikipedia. august 21, 1920. >> all right. sherry, you got your answer. and then beth walsh brings us back to questions about media and reporting. >> yeah. she says, the media -- the story of the 1919 eclipse as a media event was a wonderful way, if you think about it. there's a sense in which the first big media event of the post war period. some radio and international telegraph lines. so everybody is stunned at how quickly the news spread around the world. nobody more than einstein. he hears about this when reporters show up at his door, and he's like, why do you people care about what i have to say at all? much less following him around everywhere asking questions. in terms of the accuracy of the
1:32 pm
reporting, this is kind of interesting. so there's the origin. story in "the times," which in a sense is sort of plant bid eddington and dyson. that is re-recruit a report to have come to the announcement of the results. so that's pretty accurate. but then "the new york times" gets the requested times of london" article and writes their own article based on that reading, on the article. they're not talking to edton and dyson, much less einstein, so inaccuracies begin to creep in. so famously, einstein -- i don't know if i'm still sharing my screen here. i'll go back to the article. then there's the famous line here, a book for 12 wise men. in the article they say no more than 12 people could understand it. that's totally fabricated by
1:33 pm
"the times." that's not true at all. lots of people understood relatively at this point, but interestingly you'll hear that sometimes, even a variation of it. you know, four people really understand einstein's theory. no, four people in the building i'm in understand his theory. that's not true at all. then it gets picked up by newspapers so you can track inaccuracies creeping in with time. some of the inaccuracies include things like einstein's nationality, which i think is an interesting one people begin to forget. the fact he's jewish drops off the map fairly quickly as well. and his two expeditions, one to africa, one to brazil, get deflated quickly and the mathematical -- disappear almost
1:34 pm
instantly. goodness knows what would have happened had the blogosphere existed. >> dr. matthew stanley, thank you so much very much. it has been a true delight to be in conversation with you this evening, and it is a delight at the national world war i museum and memorial be the at the linda hall library to stand in that space of trying to keep inaccuracies away from both history and signs, and to be bringing conversations like this to you in your homes. right now if you're watching live and in the future, you have enjoyed this, want to sherritt, you can find it on our youtube page. the easiest way to get there is go to theworldwar .organize. you can share from there later on. so if you want to find out more,
1:35 pm
of course you should pick up the book or be following along with dr. stanley at any of his other spaces where he is teaching. again, dr. stanley, thank you so very much for being in conversation. >> thanks so much for having me. it was really delightful. >> and thank you all for being here. >> american history tv, saturdays on c-span 2. people and events that tell the american story. at 11:00 a.m. eastern on lectures in history, abram van bingen explains how the pilgrims became part of the founding story in 19th century textbooks. then at 1:00 p.m., president nixon's senior policy adviser gives a behind the scenes view of the 37th president's domestic agenda, which included guaranteed family, in a national health insurance program, and support for children's
1:36 pm
nutrition. on the presidency, watch the weddings of two favors daughters at the white house. at 2:00 p.m., president lyndon johnson's daughter linda marries u.s. marine captain charles roth, december 9, 1967. at 3:10 p.m., president nixon's daughter trisha marries edward cobb june 12, 1971 in the first rose garden wedding. >> mr. gorbachev, tear down this wall. >> at 5:25 p.m., the hoover institution and ronald reagan presidential foundation and institute post a look back at the evolution of president reagan's tear down this wall speech and its importance three decades later. the writer participate in the event. american story. watch american history tv
1:37 pm
saturday op c-span 2. or watch online any time at cpan.org/history. . welcome. thank you for joining us for the reading festival. we're excited to bring the program back this year

22 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on