Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Duly quoted

I don't know about you, but I buy a lot of books. There is a quote attributed to Erasmus, "First I buy books...then clothes." Luckily I don't have to choose.

Typically these days the way I buy books is that I use Amazon, and put books in my shopping cart, then go back periodically and change their order, based on (for example) the "Surprise me" feature. It's a kind of bubble selection sort. And it really surprises me how many publishers have disabled or even just crippled this feature. You think I don't notice when the pages aren't sampled randomly? It always suggests to me that they're worried that I wouldn't buy the book if I had it in my hand.

So I'm thinking about this book about Einstein. And there's a wonderful quote in there, from one of my very favorite books: "The Ascent of Man," by Jacob Bronowski. Do yourself a favor and find a copy of that. It is exquisite. Here's the quote:

It is almost impertinent to talk of the ascent of man in the presence of two men, Newton and Einstein, who stride like gods. Of the two, Newton is the Old Testament god; it is Einstein who is the New Testament figure. He was full of humanity, pity, a sense of enormous sympathy. His vision of nature herself was that of a human being in the presence of something god-like, and that is what he always said about nature. He was fond of talking about God: "God does not play dice," "God is not malicious." Finally Niels Bohr one day said to him, "Stop telling God what to do." But that is not quite fair. Einstein was a man who could ask immensely simple questions. And what his life showed, and his works, is that when the answers are simple too, then you hear God Thinking.

Do yourself another favor and find a copy of the video of the (1974) BBC series. It's fantastic.

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