Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thoughts at the end of Einstein's Year

In 1905, Albert Einstein produced scientific papers that have revolutionised our view of the universe. This was his annus mirabilis (in English, wonderful year). In this year, he published his papers on special relativity and his doctoral dissertation on Brownian motion. In the latter Einstein gives us an empirical way to statistically measure the size of the atom.

From the annus mirabilis, we have 1) cellphones and 2) microwave ovens Of course, Einsteinian science has given us more techno gadgetry (digital cameras and MP3 players), but the two I listed are something that many people can't survive the day without.

But even if Einstein is one of the two most recognised faces (icons) on the planet, (He ranks with Jesus Christ as the second of the two most recognised faces), there are things that we normally don't know about dear old Albert unless if we are diehard fans.

One thing is that Albert Einstein two attempts at a PhD were unsuccessful. He was however able to withdraw his request to the university to confer the degree, so a big fat F was not on his academic record. But in his high school record are a lot of Fs. It's because he though that the Prussian academic system was stupid. As for the PhD, Einstein is recorded to have said "This comedy is beginning to bore me!" Einstein eventually got his PhD. By then he thought it was a bad joke.

So Einstein belongs to the brotherhood of the very few that flunked their PhD twice! (A lot of people flunked their PhDs a first time around). The moral of the story is that it is not the PhD that counts but what you do after the PhD.

Well, I have a confession to make, I belong to the same fraternity as greatgreatgranduncle Albert. I flunked my PhD twice! But it is what I need to do after the PhD. I have to live up to Einstein's name. I have to do and teach good science.

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