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Edge 83
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"What else is there? Sex and physics."

A Talk with Dennis Overbye


Ten years ago at the AAAS, Dennis Overbye, author of the classic Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, found himself on a rainy Sunday afternoon in an auditorium watching a handful of historians and physicists arguing about whether Einstein's first wife Mileva had actually invented relativity. This was an eye opener to him, to put it mildly. He was astounded that there could be any mystery about either the origin of relativity or about Einstein's life. He had just assumed that he was so famous and so recent that everything that could be known about him was known.

What followed was a 10-year investigation in which Overbye immersed himself in Einstein's life and wrote his recently published book, Einstein In Love.

"Romantically speaking, Einstein always felt — and always told his girlfriends — that Paradise was just around the corner," he says," but as soon as he got there, it started looking a little shabby and something better appeared. I've known a lot of people like Albert in my time. During this project I have felt lots of shocks of recognition. I feel like I got to know Albert as a person, and I have more respect for him as a physicist than I did when I started, simply because I have more a sense of what he actually did — and how hard it was — than before. If he was around now, I'd love to buy him a beer ..... but I don't know if I'd introduce him to my sister."

— JB

DENNIS OVERBYE is Deputy Science Editor of The New York Times and author of the critically acclaimed Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos and the recently published Einstein in Love.

Click here for Dennis Overbye's Edge Bio page.

THE REALITY CLUB: Leon Lederman, Jeremy Bernstein

A Talk with Dennis Overbye

Edge: What was Einstein's big question?

DENNIS OVERBYE: Did God had any choice in creating the universe? This question, Einstein's favorite, was at the root of all of his science. I take the question to mean whether the universe, the laws of physics as we are finding and uncovering them, are logically necessary. Or can you imagine consistent alternative universes, not just with different values for constants like the speed of light and Planck's constant, but maybe with a whole different set of fundamental forces and particles. Is quantum mechanics really necessary? Is there an alternative to what we have now, or, if you really understood everything, would you know that it had to be the way it is? Einstein obviously felt very strongly that it had to be this way.


John Brockman, Editor and Publisher

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