Albert Einstein Saw the Beauty in Life's Great Mysteries
“The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover. The daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.”
By Gavin Aung Than / zenpencils.com
Nov 1, 2016

Albert Einstein was desperate. After graduating from the Zurich Polytechnic with a teaching diploma in 1900 he was having a hard time finding a job as an assistant professor. He sent his resume to the top physics professors of Europe but wasn’t get any responses (wanting to make it easier for them, he began sending applications on reply-paid postcards in the hopes of any reply. Nope, didn’t work). With a child on the way, Einstein survived with the help of his parents and the odd tutoring job. Finally, after nearly two years of jobless despair, a friend managed to hook him up with a job at the Swiss Federal Office for Intellectual Property assessing patents. It wasn’t the academic job he was hoping for, but at this point, Einstein was just happy to have found work.

In that humble job, Einstein would have the seven most creative years of his life. The patent office duties were a breeze for Einstein and he could complete a full day’s work in 2 or 3 hours. That allowed him to work on his own physics ideas for the rest of the day. “Whenever anybody would come by, I would cram my notes into my desk drawer and pretend to work on my office work.” In 1905, the 26 year-old patent clerk and unknown amateur physicist produced the greatest MVP season in science history, publishing four papers that changed the world, including his theory of Special Relativity. It’s now known as Einstein’s ‘Miracle Year’.

Einstein getting the patent office job turned out to be one of science’s most fortunate twists of fate. Instead of working in academia, where far-out thinking was not compatible with climbing the Professorship ladder and where Einstein would have felt pressure to publish safe papers, the patent office job gave Einstein the freedom to play. He could follow whatever flights of fancy he saw fit and listen to whatever his creative intuition was telling him. Einstein, perhaps more than any other renowned scientist, stressed the importance of creativity and imagination in scientific work. “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge.”

Most of Einstein’s important discoveries came from what he called Gedankenexperiments, which were visual thought experiments. They were like focused daydreams: “What would it be like riding along a beam of light? What if two lightning bolts struck a moving train simultaneously?” It was in 1907, while still working at the patent office, where Einstein had this one: “If a person falls freely, he will not feel his own weight.” Scientific lore has it that Einstein actually saw a man fall while looking out his office window. The idea led him to a further thought experiment: If the falling man was in an enclosed elevator that had it’s cord cut he would experience weightlessness. But his experience would be no different from a man floating in an enclosed chamber in outer space. Also, if the elevator was stationery on earth, the man would be inside standing normally. But if the chamber in space was pulled upward at the same acceleration as Earth’s gravity, again, there would be no difference felt by the man inside. Therefore there was no difference between the effects of gravity and acceleration. This idea, which Einstein called the Equivalence Principle, led him to his theory of General Relativity in 1915. Later, Einstein would recall the image of the man falling as being the ‘happiest thought of my life’.

It’s important to remember that Einstein was a theoretical physicist, not an experimental one. He never performed an actual experiment. All his theories and ideas were a result of him just thinking about things. He figured out all the complicated mathematics AFTER he had found inspiration from his imagination: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

The source of the quote used in the comic is from a short essay Einstein wrote in 1932 titled My Credo. By then his theory of relativity had made him the most famous scientist in the world and, as a result, he was the subject of constant interviews. Journalists had moved on from their favourite question of asking Einstein to explain relativity and instead moved on to a new favourite: “Do you believe in God?” Tired of answering it, Einstein set out to explain once and for all his religious thoughts and wrote the essay, which you can read in full here.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
How Comedy Can Disarm Bullies
3 min · 4,943 views today · As long as you're funny, it can get you out of almost anything - even getting mugged, as co-founder of Between Two Ferns Scott Aukerman recounts. Unfortunately, not everyone...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 2,688 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
How Independent is Hollywood?
4 min · 2,368 views today · A huge number of big-budget Hollywood films, especially those featuring war, conflict or terrorism, are influenced by Hollywood's close relationship with the United States...
Immigrants For Sale (2015)
33 min · 2,063 views today · The detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products. The Corrections...
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 1,770 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,558 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 1,325 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,173 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,034 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 762 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 649 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 576 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 521 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Compassion, the Antidote
Martin Doblmeier · 495 views today · Thich Nhat Hanh has published nearly 100 books and is one of the best-known teachers of Zen Buddhism in the world today. In the early 1960s his practice of what he termed...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 453 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 453 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 298 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 235 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 231 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 208 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Albert Einstein Saw the Beauty in Life's Great Mysteries