Friday, 22 June 2012
Einstein and Godel: Two great minds, two great friends
The institute for advanced study in Princeton sought to employ not just any great mind, but the greatest. It was a place which simulated the environment of English universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and aimed at revealing the universes mysteries through determined researchers.
It so happened that at the time when the institute was looking for its primary great minds, Nazi Germany was becoming ever more dangerous and hostile towards those who rebel and those that contradict its values. Einstein and many other physicists left Germany and took refuge in the United States, Godel soon followed after being attacked on the street by a Nazi thug, his wife feared for his life in Germany.
Einstein and Godel are somehow alike yet different, they are both solitary thinkers, theoreticians in their field, deep philosophers and very rationally minded. Yet Einstein was the optimist, the loud laugher who played the violin and wore unusual clothing. Godel however was slim, shy and looked extremely straight laced, he was more paranoid than Einstein and in later years his health started to deteriorate due to his obsessive nature.
Godel was invited round to Einstein's house, this seemed to be unusual for Albert. The two lone intellectual wolves finally found a comfortable friendship.
The two could be seen walking slowly and reflectively to and from the institute, many speculate that Einstein remarked that he would only go to the institute to have walks with his friend Kurt Godel.
The two did not collaborate explicitly on a paper but Godel did work on finding exact solutions to Einsteins general relativistic equations which somehow could make sense of the notion of time travel. This led to Godel (with Julian Schwinger... a mathematically minded physicist who would later win the Nobel prize with Richard Feynman) winning the Albert Einstein award.
Wouldn't it be fascinating to hear these two intellectual giants talk?
Such conversations are lost in time, could we somehow use Godel's relativistic solutions to retrieve them ? I doubt it.
Recommended book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Without-Time-Forgotten-Einstein/dp/0713993871
Einstein pictures: http://th.physik.uni-frankfurt.de/~jr/physpiceinstein.html