05w01:1 05

by timothy. 0 Comments

Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 1 number 1 (05)


Name that Decade | Timothy Noah
“By not coming up with a name, society has created a serious rhetorical problem that spills over into the social sciences. […] Because there is no name for the present decade, people seeking to describe the spirit of the times often resort to substituting the name of the entire century (or, in extreme cases, the entire millenium). This is pompous and stupid. […] Imagine somebody attempting to define the 20th century in January 1905. He would know nothing about the rise of Soviet communism and German fascism, and therefore nothing about the butchery of Stalin and Hitler. He’d know nothing about mass production of the automobile. He would never have heard of Albert Einstein or his theory of relativity. He might resist having his home wired for electricity, out of the common fear that it was more dangerous than gaslight. He would likely consider the United States to be a lesser world power than Great Britain and France. He’d have no idea that the airplane would soon become an instrument of war and, eventually, a vehicle commonly used for ocean crossings. He would never have listened to a radio, or watched television, or gone to a movie theater and heard the actors speak. If he visited Philadelphia, he’d be dazzled by its wealth and sophistication. He would, in short, have none of the information he needed to describe accurately the coming century.”

Miraculous visions | The Economist
“Then, in 1905, a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein found the way forward. In five remarkable papers, he showed that atoms are real (it was still controversial at the time), presented his special theory of relativity, and put quantum theory on its feet. It was a different achievement from Newton’s year, but Einstein’s annus mirabilis was no less remarkable. He did not, like Newton, have to invent entirely new forms of mathematics. However, he had to revise notions of space and time fundamentally. And unlike Newton, who did not publish his results for nearly 20 years, so obsessed was he with secrecy and working out the details, Einstein released his papers one after another, as a fusillade of ideas.”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 02 January 2005 @ 5:08 PM

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