A character on the fringes of physics

 Texts by Dr. Antonio Moreno González

Einstein was a lover of knowledge, who never lost his sense of curiosity, with that insatiable "hunger of the soul" he considered to be the great spur for knowing more and knowing better. To his disappointment, however, he was often treated as a mere spectacle: he received proposals from a whole range of products that wanted to exploit his name and his image--unabashed proposals from prestigious commercial firms trying to bribe him with succulent economic rewards for advertising their products: hair tonics, soap, fountain pens, pipes, chocolate, shoes... He only had to express an interest in some product for the firm to present him with a gift and ask him to advertise it for them. With time, the tradespeople have won out and Albert Einstein's face and name can now be found on a host of products. He has given his name to streets, buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, work groups, clubs, parks and competitions.

That name has become legendary and his image iconic, both inextricably linked to relativity , that totemic word which transcends the bounds of science to become an emblematic term of the groundbreaking movements that rocked the foundations of society in the early twentieth century. "Everything is relative" has become a colloquial cliché, as gratuitous as it is lacking in foundation. Einstein's relativity, which he himself refused to call a "theory" (it was Max Planck who labelled it thus), is a theory of invariables, that is to say of that which remains unaltered in a physical phenomenon: in a way, it might be considered as a theory of the "absolute".

Although Einstein has long been the subject of caricatures, jokes, crosswords, puzzles and a host of events, objects and circumstances that have nothing to do with him or his work, he also earned his reputation through his behaviour. In a letter to Einstein's son-in-law and biographer, Rudolf Kayser, Thomas Mann wrote:

"His quasi-mystical fame throughout the world is very peculiar given that so few people understand anything of his achievements, but his moral and political attitude undoubtedly has much to do with the respect he enjoys"


 Jokes on relativity


Breakfast cup of the young Albert. Who would have known that, in time his picture would adorn the most diverse of objects?


Advertisements with Einstein as the attraction


"Einstein meets Monroe", a drawing by Quint Buchholz