Friday, January 06, 2012

Boy of Age 16 Asks Me about Relativity, etc.
7. Would Einstein Have Liked Harry Potter or High School Musical?


Albert Einstein in 1893 (age 14).
By Kenosis at en.wikipedia [Public domain],
from Wikimedia Commons.
A friend of mine on Twitter, Aaron (a pseudonym), is an overseas, 16-year old boy, who seriously admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist. He continually writes me (Ted, also a pseudonym) questions about the theory of relativity and related topics, and I am sending answers. In this series of blog posts, those questions and answers are reproduced with modifications. I am not an expert in the fields of physics related to relativity. So, my answers might contain errors. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to write a comment for the benefit, not only of the boy and me, but also of other readers.

Aaron: Would Einstein have liked Harry Potter or High School Musical, if he were alive now? What do you think about these fiction stories?

Ted: Oh, these are not questions about physics but fascinating ones. I have never been well acquainted with those. However, I believe that I would have liked to read the book of Harry Potter and to watch High School Musical on TV, if I were now at your age. This is because I hear that these stories contain some flavor of science fiction and because, at the age of fifteen, I enjoyed reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (in Japanese translation) and a science fiction series about space travel in a magazine for children.

As for Einstein, it is extremely difficult to assess whether he would have liked Harry Potter or High School Musical. In his childhood, Einstein is said to have read and discussed many books with Max Talmey, a medical student from Poland. Those books are reported to have included a series of popular science books (Ref. 1). Einstein's mother was a talented pianist and ensured the children's musical education (Ref. 2). From these facts, it would not be totally wrong to think Einstein would have liked Harry Potter and High School Musical, if he were now at your age.

Additional message written by Ted: Last evening, I was reading the book on the theory of time written, without using equations, by Sean Carroll (Ref. 3) and found that he, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, mentions Voldemort and Professor Trelawney from the Harry Potter books. So, this famous scientist seems to have liked Harry Potter as you do. Isn't this a happy report to you?

References
  1. Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein (New american Library, New York, 1972). p. 24.
  2. "Albert Einstein," in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (2 January 2012 at 19:05) footnote 1.
  3. S. Carroll, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time (Plume, London, 2010) p. 184.
(Originally written on March 2 and 9, 2011)

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