The Cosmic View of Albert Einstein: Writings on Art, Science, and Peace

Edited by Walt Martin and Magda Ott

 

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

A joy to possess…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

the cosmic view of albert einsteinThis is a beautifully produced little book in which the editors have collected some of Einstein’s thoughts and writings on a diverse range of subjects and put them together with some wonderfully awe-inspiring pictures of the Universe he did so much to explain. But fear not, fellow scientific innocents – there is barely a mention of relativity and nary a formula in sight. Instead, this book introduces us to his convictions and beliefs – about pacifism, the social responsibility of scientists and his desire to see the replacement of the nation state with an overarching world government.

“Technology has also shortened distances and created new and extraordinarily effective means of destruction which, in the hands of nations claiming unrestricted freedom of action, become threats to the security and very survival of mankind. This situation requires a single judicial and executive power for the entire planet, and the creation of such a central authority is desperately opposed by national traditions.”

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But most of all the book concentrates on his spiritual views or, as he calls it, his ‘cosmic religion’. The tendency of atheists to quote Einstein’s discoveries as proof that there is no god angered him in his lifetime; and his writings, as given in this book, show that while he didn’t believe in conventional religion – a ‘personal’ God – he was a deeply spiritual man who felt that the harmony and perfection of the universe argued just as much against atheism.

“My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details we are able to perceive of the knowable world with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

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The writings the editors have chosen show him as a man who gave the subject of religion and religiosity much thought, and his expressed opinions, while they may not please either the very religious or the extreme atheist, are reasoned and coherent. The given extracts suggest that he believed in a Creator, but one who does not then involve himself in the individual affairs of man – does not punish or reward. As a consequence, man is responsible for his own morality; and that belief feeds into all his other views – of the responsibility of scientists to ensure that their actions do no harm, of the evils of war, of his hatred of militarism.

“Whatever there is of God and goodness in the universe, it must work itself out and express itself through us. We cannot stand aside and let God do it.”

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My cynical nature couldn’t prevent me wondering how carefully the extracts had been selected to support the emphasis the editors clearly wished to place on the two main subjects; that science and religion should be able to co-exist – are in fact co-dependant; and that all nations should give up their atomic weapons. There is an afterward revealingly written by two former co-presidents of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Ron McCoy and Gunnar Westberg. However I have no reason to think that Einstein’s views have been misrepresented and there is a bibliography should any reader wish to look further.

“The unleashed power of the atom bomb has changed everything except our modes of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.”

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But while the written content is interesting, (if occasionally a little repetitive), the illustrations are both lavish and superb. Nearly every second page has a glorious colour picture of some aspect of the universe, with a little explanatory note, and there are many double page spreads too. My photos do it no justice. The book is beautifully made, with carefully selected typefaces on gorgeous quality paper. I have no choice – I have to use the dreaded words ‘Perfect Christmas Gift’. A joy to possess.

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59 thoughts on “The Cosmic View of Albert Einstein: Writings on Art, Science, and Peace

  1. An awesome review. Space photos are always amazing. It’s unbelievable. The professor always thinks they must be faked, but they’re not, and it’s truly awe-inspiring.

    But you must have been a bit disappointed that there were no formulas!

    I’m not sure why space reminds me of Pink Floyd…

    • Thank you! Yes, I love space photos too…and I really am in awe of the scientists who have achieved so much over the last century.

      Well, fortunately I’ve just acquired a book that promises to explain relativity in a way that anyone can grasp. I reckon I’m the perfect test subject… we shall see! 😉

      Goodness! Pink Floyd! They’re nearly as old as Einstein…

        • I will be reviewing it but fortunately it’s not due out till next March so that should give me time to think of something intelligent – or at least intelligible – to say about it! It won’t be the first time I’ve tried to get my head round relativity… as far as I can gather, it means that if I’m in a train and you’re in the station, then as long as the train is going fast enough, I will be both slimmer and younger than you no matter how much chocolate I eat!! Sounds good to me… (That descripton comes from a poor Doctor of Mathematics who spent many moons trying to help my poor baffled mind reach enlightenment.)

          Only Dark Side of the Moon – but they’re so ancient, they’re even a bit before my time. I’m amazed that someone as ageless as the Professor should know them…

          • 😆 A very good description! 😆 But I’m not sure how true it is. You see, we already know that you are younger than the professor, and as for slimmer–well, let’s not assume such things! 😉 (Your review will be great as always.)

            I told you the professor was very, very, very old. He’s timeless and ageless. They’re not that old anyway! Next you’ll be saying Joe Pass is old, dadblameit! (Do you like Pink Floyd?)

            • It did make me laugh as the poor doctor kept having to simplify and simplify in a desperate attempt to descend to my level! He was nearly as baffled by my inability to understand as I was by the whole concept! But for a brief moment, I really felt I’d nearly grasped it…a wonderful feeling! But sadly, the moment passed, leaving very little behind… 😉

              They’re ancient! Older even than BigSister!! Who on earth is Joe Pass? I can’t in truth say I was ever a big Pink Floyd fan, though I didn’t dislike them. But I haven’t listened to them in years and years and years… I’d listen again but the only copy I possess is vinyl! And I don’t have a deck. If I get time later I might check them out on youtube… (Is the Professor ageless enough to remember vinyl records, I wonder…?)

            • I would give anything to hear that conversation! If the professor were there, the doctor probably would have murdered him!!! I’m sure FEF did much better than the professor would have.

              This is interesting. I wonder what FEF considers old? You don’t know who Joe Pass is??!!! *double gulp* Dadblameit!

              I’m not sure that they’re that good–to listen again. Floyd is so strange… No, much better to check out Pass. 😀

              Of course. He’s ageless enough to remember the pyramids. (The PL is quite real.)

            • Well, I’m afraid I only got through three and a half minutes of Summertime before my jazz aversion kicked in…C-W-W is as unlikely to convert me to jazz as the doctor is to make me a scientist…

              FF’s definition of old is anything older than FF. Anything the same age or younger is very, very, young… 😉

              Goodness! You could just have told Einstein what it was like at the time of the big bang and saved him all that work…

            • I never liked Summertime myself…

              😎

              Yes! And I would have showed him how it was possible to get from a junkyard to a Vette! It would have boggled his mind. You see, all you have to do is let the junkyard sit for billions and billions of years (provided, of course, you’re lucky enough to start off with a junkyard)…

            • See, I love Summertime…when it’s sung. I should clarify that I quite like some sung jazz – it’s just purely instrumental jazz that doesn’t work for me. (Which is odd, since I hate most sung classical, and yet love orchestral…)

              Has the Professor been at the Sostiz Tea again? (May have spelled that wrong…too lazy to check). However looking round my room, I think it could be described as a junkyard (if you count books as junk – and I’m sure you do…) and it certainly feels as if it’s looked like this for billions of years…so I shall eagerly anticipate the arrival of the Vette – although…would the same process work for a Jag?

            • Interesting! The professor’s the opposite. But I do like Torme. What about more pop/jazz (I could get killed for saying this) like Kenny G? The professor does like Pavarotti too.

              (The professor is always to lazy to look too. But it’s like this: Sot-siz.) Not at all. Other books are junk, but FEF’s are prized: they make the best ripios.

              Yes! Exactly. Just wait for a very loud noise–sort of like a bang. Then you should instantly have a Jag–if you must.

            • Well, of course I’d never heard of Kenny G, so I youtubed…and once I’d recovered from the 😯 brought on by his flowing ringlets..hmm, yes I could listen to that. See, I would have probably classified that as easy-listening rather than jazz though. What makes it jazzy? But though it’s OK it’s not giving me that wow sensation and I should think it would begin to bore me pretty quickly…

              Again, I’ve generalised too much, ‘cos I do like a nice tenor – in fact, the male voice in general, and the lower range of female voices. It’s those screechy sopranos that drive me nuts! Unfortunately they don’t sing quite highly enough to be undetectable by human ears… 😉

              But one of my favourite classical pieces is RVW’s Sea Symphony – I can even tolerate the soprano sections of it. So I don’t hate all sung classical.

            • 😆 Yes, very shocking. No, no! Call it easy listening. There is an unbelievable debate in the jazz community about G. Jazz artists hate him, because they consider his music easy listening. Yet, Kenny G is always classified as jazz and is always topping the charts–earning him much disapproval. The professor would probably be laughed to scorn for calling Kenny G jazz. Please forget it!

              I completely agree with you. The professor just listened to RVW’s Sea Symphony–that was really, really beautiful. I’ll have to listen to more.

              😆 Sometimes that sax just gets too much! But nothing Angel can’t fix!

            • I must say I think jazz artists have a point. I may not like jazz, but to call that bland stuff jazz sounds like a travesty even to me! And since I quite enjoy a bit of easy-listening, I have to say I didn’t even think it was terribly good easy-listening…

              😀 Delighted you enjoyed the Sea Symphony – I’m a little obsessed by RVW, especially the early symphonies (1-5) and some of his choral work. The 3rd symphony (Pastoral) never fails to reduce me to tears.

            • Yes, you’re right, dadblameit. If you don’t mind, what easy-listening do you like?

              I really did. I think the professor is going to have to look into RVW. Very nice. As soon as I get a moment, I’ll listen to the the 3rd symphony! 🙂

            • I don’t listen to much since I discovered a liking for classical a few years back, but really just fairly ancient middle-of-the-road pop stuff – Annie Lennox, Natalie Imbruglia, etc (FF imagines professor sobbing with despair…) – and a smattering of the old-time crooners – Sinatra, Cole and the like (influenced by my dad, there). I tend to lump everything I listen to that’s neither classical nor folk as easy-listening, which is probably unfair.

              But these days I mainly listen to classical and a smidgen of folk and celtic. And honestly I don’t know much about music or have very wide tastes – I don’t experiment out of my comfort zone very often.

            • No, I actually wasn’t. The professor has never heard of either artist.

              The professor likes the crooners too. Sammy Davis Jr. is my favorite. And I bet Louis Armstrong doesn’t count. 🙂

              Well…the professor will help you experiment! But you seem to have great and wide tastes to me.

            • Oh dear…I think it might be even worse that you’ve never heard of them…must think about updating my collection into this millenium sometime… 😉

              I rather love Louis Armstrong, as it happens! What a voice! More than I love Sammy, TBH – he was never a favourite – don’t really know why. I think it may have been his tendency to wear giant medallions and try to look groovy…crooners should wear suits…or sweaters when recording their Christmas hits…

              I shall look forward to it! But I fear you may find I’m a hopeless case… 🙂

            • Surprising! He was also a great trumpet player.

              Sammy’s golden medallions were nice; the professor should get some.

              Or they should wear an Elvis’ suit.

              Not at all! You’ve just introduced the professor to a great new listen! Usually, I listen to long movie soundtracks while…professorizing…but now I’ll listen to RVW! (Plus, you like Angel now. 😀 )

            • He was… and I liked him. I wonder why? Maybe he catered to a more mainstream audience? Or maybe it’s modern jazz I don’t like?

              No, the Professor really shouldn’t! 😯

              It’s going to take me a long time to get rid of the image of Ol’ Blue eyes in white flares and spangles… 😆

              Really? 😀 Well, I hope you enjoy him! And yes, I do…

            • Maybe you’re right. Or maybe FEF like jazz deep down in! The professor might make you a fan one day. Then you can call yourself JazzFan…

              Hmm…and why not? It would be nice, I think…

              😆

              Yes, really! It was awesome. Thanks, FEF, for introducing us!

            • You might have to make me drink one of the Scientist’s potions to make that happen…anyway then my nickname would be JEF, and I’m not sure I like that so much…

              No, no, no, no, no, no, NO!!

  2. FictionFan – What a lovely review! And those illustrations are to die for! I am always so happy when editors and authors can make scientists and their work accessible to the rest of us. This definitely sounds more than worth a read.

    • Thank you, Margot! It really is a lovely book – the feel of it, the layout and those incredible pictures. And interesting too – inspirational even! Now if only relativity was as easy to understand… 😉

  3. Dear Sir/madam,

    I am writing as a long term reader of your excellent blog. I enjoy your reviews as does my cat, Ammy. However, due to the profanity used on your book review above I believe I can no longer allow myself to continue as a follower of your blog.
    I think it very disturbing that you use such language on your blog when there is the chance that children may well come across your book reviews and have their young minds warped by the use of the word ‘Christmas’.
    I am very shocked and appalled by such language as is Ammy. Unfortunately, Ammy saw the word before I could cover her eyes. She will now need to visit the vet and if the use of the above mentioned word has caused any permanent damage to Ammy you can assume most whole heartedly that a bill will be forthcoming.

    Angry of West Lothian.

  4. OK, here’s another one I’ll be buying. I think we’ll all (myself, husband, and son) enjoy this one. You’ve really must stop reading so many good books. Why not add some rubbish to the pile so I won’t be within temptation’s evil clutches nearly as often? 😮

  5. Well, you may have solved my book token problem. I have had one for a while and was waiting for something with illustrations to spend it on. I love Einstein – did you know he paid for his divorce with his Nobel Prize money? Now there’s class!

    • Haha! Class indeed! Yes, if you love Einstein, then this one will definitely please you. It’s one of those books that’s a lovely thing in itself – paper, fonts, opens up properly so you can see the double page spreads without cracking the spine…

      • As you know, Santa in the guise of ForeignFilmFan saw to it that this book appeared in my Christmas stocking, and I have just read it. I agree with everything you say about it – beautifully written, amazing illustrations and interesting content. So glad the authors finally managed to get it published.

  6. Wonderful review, my chocolate eating friend who only EVER eats choco on trains in order to get younger and slimmer by this happy combination. Except IT DOESN’T WORK when Network Rail say the train you are on is running late.

    I think this might have to make its way to a bookshelf somewhere near me. Satisfies my inner mystic as well as my outer desire things not be FLUFFY as well as mystic. I think yer man with the formula got it about right (except I can’t easily grasp the formulae – except when on a train, and with a bar or two of chocolate.

    • Ah, but if the train is running late and you’re running even later, then I think the theory still allows me to eat as much chocolate as I like – relatively speaking, that is…

      The previous book – Dreams of Other Worlds – tells us that the measure of background microwave radiation carried out by the WMAP mission shows it to be at exactly the temperature Einstein’s theories anticipated – hence both relativity and the big bang are proved. (Are you impressed by that sentence? I hope so…I am!! 😉 And I didn’t even eat any chocolate while typing it… )

      This is a beauty though, that would enhance your shelves!

      • You DEEPLY unkind woman, You KNEW I would be forced to say WMAP???? WTF????????? And be immediately sent Googlewards

        For the rest of us numclutzes, she is, I think, referring to Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe
        Obvious, innit?

  7. Thank you for mentioning my blog. Because of that kind act and your willingness to place a large Santa above any future reviews I shall continue to peruse your enjoyable blog. Ammy thanks you for your concern and your suggestions. However, she would never dream of eating anything other than Temptations. Ahoy Professor, good to meet you in a virtual reality way.

  8. I notice nearly all your commentators have cats…..hmm. Do all cosmologists have cats, or do all
    cats have cosmologists?
    And talking of cats, Ginge has just rolled of the couch in his sleep – he is fine: I, on the other hand, am a noivose wreck!
    (Spell checker doesn’t like “Ginge” or “noivose” – wish I knew how to turn it off.)

    • Haha! Poor Gingy – It’s a tomcat thing, really, isn’t it?

      Personally, I think it’s that cats only condescend to live with the most intelligent and sensitive people (just don’t mention Schrodinger…) 😉

  9. Just want to thank you FictionFan for such a lovely review of our labor of love. It only took us years and years to get our book published.

    Good thing that (like Einstein) we are as stubborn as a mule.

    PS: Know a good publisher who doesn’t think Albert Schweitzer is a has-been? Our next manuscript is about this great thinker and humanitarian. Unfortunately, we’re having a hard time finding an American publisher who doesn’t believe “Reverence for Life” is a slogan for a Pepsi commercial.

    The completed manuscript is endorsed by H.H. the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Mikhail Gorbachev, and about a dozen other prominent individuals.

    • How kind of you to leave a comment! As you’ll have gathered, I enjoyed your book very much – it’s very rare to get a book where the content and production quality enhance each other so beautifully.

      It’s sad that in an age filled with zillions of throwaway paperbacks, publishers can’t make a bit of space for something a bit more meaningful occasionally. You only have to look at the response of the people who’ve commented on this review to know that there is a market for books of this kind.

      Best of luck with getting the Schweitzer book published – it will certainly be on my wish-list.

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