Dubious NY Times Op Ed of the Week. Here's what seems to be the gist of Simon Singh's argument regarding what he calls Albert Einstein's "greatest failure" (not really sure what Singh is saying--and if you thought the "failure" was E's inability to find the unified field theory you're wrong):
1. Albert Einstein published papers in the same year (1905) proving the existence of the atom, showing the validity of quantum physics and introducing special relativity. He was not a "perfect genius," however.

2. We can learn much from his greatest failure, which was hypothesizing antigravity to justify his stubborn belief that the universe neither expanded or contracted.

3. We now know the universe expands after the big bang; Einstein eventually admitted his error.

4. Except it turns out he called it correctly after all. Scientists now believe that a propulsive force called "dark energy" makes the universe keep expanding instead of collapsing in a big crunch.

5. Except Einstein wasn't talking about an expanding universe but a steady state universe, one that just sits there, making his notion of antigravity seem not very applicable to the current model.

6. So we actually don't learn much from Einstein's being wrong. The reason he's a "better than perfect genius" is he admits his mistakes, which is a very good quality.
Previous Dubious NY Times Op Eds:

1. The tsunami had nothing to do with restoring balance to the ecosystem but it's really cool to talk about Gaia.

2. We shouldn't do something because it's right but because scientists have learned monkeys do it.

- tom moody 1-03-2005 8:43 am

Yeah that premise is kind of hollow. He's relying on a straw-man genius myth for a narrative hook, which is kind of shallow. I looked up Simon Singh and found out that his brother, Tom Singh, is listed next to the Queen of England in the British National Sunday Times top 1000 rich list for 2003 (250m)(#133 on the list). The dude started New Look. Simon Singh has a degree in particle physics, and has just written a book on the Big Bang. He's also done a bunch of TV and other pop-science stuff.
- sally mckay 1-04-2005 7:34 pm

I noticed that the NY Times said this was the most emailed editorial that day. I didn't look, but I'd like to think it was a flood of people saying "What a dumb essay!"
- tom moody 1-04-2005 7:40 pm

well...it is the YEAR OF PHYSICS
- sally mckay 1-04-2005 9:44 pm

add a comment to this page:

Your post will be captioned "posted by anonymous,"
or you may enter a guest username below:

Line breaks work. HTML tags will be stripped.