MONDAY, APRIL 4, 2016
Our search for coherence resumes: Starting next Monday, we'll be presenting a week in which Einstein will speak for himself.
Last week, we reviewed part of last November's PBS broadcast, Inside Einstein's Mind. During the hour-long program, Nova tried to explain the thought experiment which led to special relativity, the revolutionary theory Einstein unveiled in 1905.
In our view, Nova staged a major fail. In our view, it's all part of our ongoing "culture of incoherence," an artefact of the academic, publishing and journalistic worlds.
As we noted, Nova's segment was closely modeled on Chapters 8 and 9 of Einstein's 1916 book, Relativity: The Special and the General Theory. The historic book was Einstein's attempt at explaining his work for the general reader.
Was Einstein able to make Einstein easy? Starting next Monday, we'll review the two short chapters from Einstein's book from which Nova was working.
To peruse the whole book, click here. The chapters in question are short.
In our view, Nova's passage about special relativity was a classic non-explanation explanation. Next Monday, we'll quickly review Nova's work. For today, let's state this key point:
The burden is on a program like Nova when it undertakes a project like this. If Nova decides to produce such a program, the burden is on them to explain a statement like this:
"Simultaneity, and the flow of time itself, depends on how you're moving."
Simultaneity depends on how you're moving? We don't think Nova explained that key statement at all. And the burden is on them. It's not on anyone else.
The burden isn't on you the viewer to fumble around in the murk and the mire, trying to find a way to make that statement make sense. The burden isn't on you the viewer to assume that Nova must have established its point, but you must somehow have missed it.
In airing a program for general viewers, it's up to Nova to explain Einstein's revolutionary theory in a coherent way. The same burden goes to the professors who have chosen to publish Einstein-made-easy books.
We've never seen an Einstein-made-easy book which actually made Einstein easy, or even comprehensible. Remember, though:
No one makes these professors and broadcast orgs produce these Einstein-made-easy vehicles. They choose to claim that they can do it. You haven't signed up to attend a fantasy camp. It up to them to produce!
Starting next Monday, Einstein will finally speak for himself. He's one of human history's intellectual giants. To what extent was he, a giant, able to explain what he did?
After next week, the deluge: From there, it's on to the later Wittgenstein, king of the search for coherence! In due time, we'll be returning to our various Einstein-made-easy best-sellers.
Other topics cry for unpacking too. Once we start the search for coherence, our search can be good solid fun!