Do I have any special qualifications for giving this presentation? Well, both he and I ride bicycles, and, Einstein in German means "One Stone" while mine (German spelling: Glücksstein) means "Lucky Stone" :^).
My main source is Walter Isaacson's excellent 2007 book, Einstein, His Life and Universe. I also used Einstein's own The World as I see It (1949) and Out of My Later Years (1950), and a number of online sources including Wikipedia Einstein and Cosmology, Wikiquote, Marxists.org, and Einstein's 1427 page FBI FOIA file.
POLITICS: Was Einstein a Socialist?
Let us get this out of the way at the outset. Yes, he was a socialist. In Why Socialism? (1949) he wrote "I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils [of capitalism], namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, … the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. … guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. …”
However, in that same article, he cautioned "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?"
His FBI FOIA file concludes that he "was a member, sponsor, or affiliated with thirty-four communist fronts between 1937 and 1954." IMHO the FBI was justified in denying Einstein access to classified A-Bomb information and investigating him for possible disloyalty.
Although the FBI did not discover it while he was alive, letters that became public in 1998 prove that Einstein had an affair with a Soviet spy, Margarita Konenkova, from 1941 until 1945. [Image added 24 December 2010, from Filosophando, click for larger version.]
If Einstein was alive today, I believe he would have realized, based on the subsequent history of Communism (Russia, China, ...) that his cautionary words, quoted above, were more valid than he thought they were when he uttered them in 1949. However, I also believe he would be a "social justice" western liberal/progressive and definitely not in tune with my politics.
SCIENCE: His Great Contributions
His first published paper, on the capillary forces of a straw (1901), and his second, on the thermodynamic equivalence of heat, work or particles (1902) were a non-distinguished prelude to his four amazingly breakthrough miracle year publications in 1905:
- The Photoelectric Effect (showing that light was composed of quanta rather than continuous waves, and which later led to the wave/particle duality of quantum mechanics, and for which he won a Nobel in 1921),
- Brownian Motion (kinetic theory of heat),
- The Special Theory of Relativity (that uniform motion is indistinguishable from rest, and the speed of light is the same for moving or stationary observers), and,
- The Equivalence of Mass and Energy (e = mc², and, since c, the speed of light in a vacuum is such a large number, and when you square it, it is much, much larger, a tiny abount of mass, m, is equivalent to a tremendous amount of energy, e, witness the Atom bomb)
Between 1907 and 1911 Einstein considered the equivalence of gravity and acceleration. He reasoned that a person in a closed box on Earth would, of course, experience normal gravity. However, if the closed box were transported to space, out of the influence of any nearby mass, and then accelerated to 32 ft per second squared, the person would feel the exact same effects as those of gravity on Earth.
In 1915 he published his General Theory of Relativity, showing that matter causes space-time to curve, which we experience as gravity. He predicted that the gravity of the Sun would cause the light from a star to appear to curve and this was confirmed by Eddington, during an eclipse of the Sun in 1929.
The presentation includes animated Powerpoint charts for:
- Relativity and Speed of Light (A bullet fired from a Gun on a moving train goes faster than from a stationary vehicle, yet a light beam fired from a Laser on a moving rocket does not go faster than from a stationary vehicle), and
- Einstein's Cosmology (Static, Oscillating, and Expanding Universes, as well as speculation on how Black Holes, predicted by Einstein in 1915, may, via Continuous Creation be the key to something like his Eternal Universe)
COSMOLOGY: Blunders or (Yet Unrecognized) Genius?
Einstein had certain strong expectations of Nature and the Universe (which, see below, he regarded as equivalent to Spinoza's God as well as his own). That led him to expect that the Universe would be static, neither expanding nor contracting, so it could be Eternal in some sense. So, in 1917, he included the Cosmological Constant (Λ) to counteract gravity. When Hubble showed that the Universe was expanding (1929), Einstein said the Cosmological Constant was his "biggest blunder" and, in that same year, adopted what is called the Friedman-Einstein oscilating Universe, which is Eternal in that the mass/energy is constant. When that became untenable, in 1932, he adopted what is called the Einstein-de Sitter Universe, which expands forever, but the rate of expansion slows down over time.
Current accepted truth is that the Universe not only expands forever, but the rate of expansion is increasing, not slowing down. (OY!) And that the Universe had a beginning in the Big Bang (OY! OY!) and it will have an end as the density of mass/energy approaches zero due to the accelerating expansion, and entropy goes to maximum (OY OY! OY!) In my presentation, I speculate (along with Fred Hoyle, Roger Penrose, and others) that black holes and multiple dimensions we cannot sense, may allow an Eternal Universe, with matter/energy continually recycled between the dimensions we can experience and the hidded dimensions, with density and entropy refreshed.
RELIGION: From Moses to Spinoza to Einstein
Young Einstein was the product of a secular family that acknowledge their Judaism. He said "As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud." So, he knew about Moses and the Rabbis, but, early on, became more enamored of Science and Spinoza. The presentation includes part of his 1920 poem to Spinoza (and in the Notes below the chart, the complete text in English and the original German), and his 1929 statement "I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind." For Einstein, God and Nature were one, writing in 1921 "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not. … Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse."
His dedication to determinism, in defiance of mainstream physics and the quantum mechanics whose foundation he had personally laid, was based on religious conviction that "God does not play dice with the universe" (1926). He also said, in 1931, "I am compelled to act as if free will existed …[on the other hand, I know] ‘a man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills.’" [quoting Schopenhauer]
He thought scientists needed a type of faith that springs from the religious sphere: "science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. … the faith … that the regulations [for] the world of existence are … comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." (1941) In 1931 he defined three stages of religious belief, going back to his Jewish roots and how they led him to what he considers a higher form of faith: "Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of  fear to  moral religion … but there is third state of religious experience … which I will call  cosmic religious feeling … which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image".
He used personal terms for God, "Dear God (die Lieber Gott) ... The Old One (der Alte) ... Lord God (Herrgott)", yet he wrote in 1949: "the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. …[but] I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of Nature and of our own being." and in 1931 "I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one?"
Perhaps his best advice for scientists, and everyone else, is "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." (1950)