“Many of [Einstein's] ground-breaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious misconceptions in physics to blatant errors in mathematics”.
So says a promotional blurb for Einstein’s Mistakes: The Human Failings of a Genius, a new book from the American physicist and author Hans C Ohanian that will be published in September by W W Norton.
Ohanian has posted an eight-page taster of his work on the arXiv preprint server, in which he presents a “critical examination” of how Einstein went about proving his most famous equation E = MC2. All of these proofs, claims Ohanian, “suffer from mistakes”.
This is not the first time that Einstein’s proofs have come under scrutiny, with various detractors and supporters arguing since at least 1908 — three years after the equation was first derived.
Elsewhere in the world of Einstein biography, a letter on religion written in 1954 by the physicist to the German philosopher Eric Gutkind has come up for auction in London. “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness…”, wrote Einstein who died the next year — and has presumably discovered whether or not this letter was a mistake.