8 June 2017 | likebox
Accurate and Insightful
This is a biography of a figure who is shrouded in hagiography and myth, so it is important that they are following the carefully researched semi-scientific biography of Walter Isaacson, which, for a refreshing change, actually bothered to READ and UNDERSTAND the entirety of what Einstein wrote. Einstein authored hundreds of scientific papers, covering about a dozen subjects, and several books, including one popular book on the history of the field idea.
The phrase "Mozart's metronome" in the series was singled out earlier by a likely anti-socialist or anti-Semitic negative reviewer. While a metronome is anachronistic for Mozart, Einstein wouldn't have known that. Einstein didn't have google, nor would he have cared to fact-check his pithy quotes. Unlike other made up Einstein quotes, this one, he actually could have said. Although he probably didn't. all the more credit to the writers. The dialog is true to Einstein's personality, and Einstein's rough and tumble working class sense of humor.
The early role of Mileva Maric as discussion partner, sounding board, proof-er and scientifically literate copy editor, is portrayed plausibly, although it is conjecture. Einstein's job, unlike the portrayal, often allowed him to go to the library ostensibly to research a patent. This allowed him to do much more work alone. Nevertheless, Maric was obviously one of the discussion partners in the early years, a role also taken by Besso and Grossman, and much later by assistants Peter Bergmann, Nathan Rosen and Robert Kraichnan. Einstein is neither portrayed inaccurately as stealing her ideas, nor is he portrayed as in a conventional marriage.
There are minor inaccuracies in the dates, the falling elevator idea is in 1907 at the patent office, not in 1910, although the fleshing out of the idea didn't come until later. The majority of the early work on molecules and statistics was started in 1902-1904, including two forgettable early papers. The relativity work was following Poincare closely, who was close behind.
The General Relativity part is remarkably true to the preserved history, and extremely illuminating. Einstein is shown living alone in 1915, like a hobo, in a small flat, without adequate food, with nothing but notebooks to keep him company, as he completes the calculations for the precession of Mercury and the field equations. The rivalry with Hilbert is given more dramatic license, but it was actually more intense than it was portrayed in emotional terms. Hilbert tried to steal General Relativity from Einstein (to "nostrify" it, in Einstein's phrase), because he thought he could do the math better. He couldn't. He did discover the proper action principle for Relativity right after, and Noether in Hilbert's school also contributed a major result on the interpretation of the symmetries of the action, but Hilbert just didn't have a knack for the physical aspects, the energy, the waves, etc. This was something Einstein's intuition was nearly a century ahead on, as revealed by the work on the stress-energy pseudo-tensor. This part is portrayed relatively scientifically accurately, although, the hole argument is left out except for an oblique portrayal through Maric's possibly fictional Serbian lover. The point that the 1914 theory was lacking covariance was known to Einstein, and bothered him a great deal.
The work on quantum theory and photon theory in this period is neglected, but it took up about half of Einstein's scientific time. The majority of his time was spent along, working, probably about 12-14 hours a day. The personal story, the relationships , are portrayed honestly and correctly according to biographies. His physical collapse from overwork toward the end of the GR work is underemphasized, it marked the end of his most productive period.
The only thing that sticks out is perhaps the over-bourgeois tone. Einstein was not only on a project of personal self-emancipation, he was pointedly demonstrating how to do so as a "new socialist man", and he became a role model for what a scientist should be in BOTH the United States, AND in the Soviet Union. This dual role, as both "emancipated bourgeois" and "new socialist human", the ambiguity, is what makes Einstein so interesting in human terms, and this part is portrayed mostly from the "emancipated bourgeois" point of view, due to the obvious fact that no socialists were consulted in the making of this series, with the notable exception of Albert Einstein.