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The Assassin of Relativity

In his younger years--from the time they were students together in Zurich--Albert Einstein was good friends with Friedrich Adler. Adler, son of the cultured leader of the Socialist Party in Vienna, was, like Einstein, a physicist very much engaged with both epistemology and politics. They shared a fascination with Ernst Mach--Einstein and Adler even lived in the same building where their young children played together, and spoke often about their efforts in physics. They even competed for the same job at the University of Zurich. Adler wrote his father that he and Einstein had seemingly "parallel lives". Then, in the midst of World War I, on 21 October 1916, Adler assassinated the Prime Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Einstein rallied to Adler's defense and--between death row and Berlin--Adler and Einstein began an extraordinary correspondence about the meaning and validity of relativity theory: inter alia, the twin paradox and other paradoxes involving space and time. This presentation is an exploration of the heady mix of politics, physics and philosophy that followed--as the world stumbled deeper into war--and began grappling with the import of relativity.


MP3 recording of talk