February 22, 2009

Genius at play

WHAT WOULD YOU call an amateur sailor who capsized, hit rocks, and ignored bad weather? Is there a name for a sailor who nearly collided with other boats, deliberately refused to wear a life preserver although he couldn’t swim, frightened his passengers with his recklessness, and neglected the upkeep of his vessel? Yes there is. That name is Albert Einstein.

Sailing was a passion for the lovable, spaniel-eyed genius with the wild white hair that floated in the wind. Einstein sailed as he lived his life — absent-mindedly. He was a dreamy kind of sailor, a man who was bemused and delighted by sailing. His was a true passion, undiluted by caution and unburdened by technical knowledge.

His mast fell down frequently. He often had to be towed home. He almost managed to drown himself and had to be rescued by a motorboat. He wouldn’t carry an outboard motor himself, though. He despised machines of all kinds. He’d rather drown, he declared, than permit a motor on his beloved sailboat.

Einstein was an instinctive sailor. A sailor, it is safe to say, the Coast Guard would have hated.

A relative cruiser
He had long been the most famous scientist alive when he settled in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1933. He sailed extensively in New England in a 17-foot daysailer called Tinef , meaning Worthless, but he was no conventional sailor.

He never strayed far from the shore. He certainly didn’t race. He had no desire to pit Tinef against any other yacht. His friend. Dr. Gustav Bucky, who sailed with him often, said: "The natural counterplay of wind and water delighted him most."

One has to conclude, therefore, that Einstein was a cruising sailor, relatively speaking.

Damage formula
Einstein’s famous formula, e = mc2, explains why hitting the jetty (or another boat) at 2 knots is so much less damaging than hitting it at 4 knots or 8 knots.

The formula for energy stored in a moving boat is simply mc2 divided by 2. Thus, if the damage at 2 knots is $200, the damage at 4 knots will be $800, and at 8 knots, a whopping $3,200.

Simply brilliant
Sailing gave Einstein an enjoyable sense of control. He never mastered any other kind of machinery. He never learned to drive a car, for instance. “It is too complicated,” his wife, Elsa, explained to a visitor. He was well over 50 before he learned to handle a camera. He used a typewriter with great difficulty and mostly wrote in longhand.

Today’s Thought
Success equals X + Y + Z, where X is work, Y is play, and Z is keeping your mouth shut.
—Albert Einstein

Notices we noticed: In a podiatrist’s office — “Time wounds all heels”

1 comment:

Oded Kishony said...

I played viola in a quartet that he also played in. I discovered this when I saw an autographed picture of Einstein on the mantle of the first violinist.

Evidently Einstein tried his hand in improving the sound of a violin. His fiddle recently surfaced in a shop where some crude work he'd done on the inside was discovered.