Alan Alda Takes on the World Science Festival

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Alan Alda at the World Science Festival (courtesy of the WSF)

In "Dear Albert" - a staged reading of letters written by Albert Einstein - you get the impression of a man grappling with big ideas...and a complicated lovelife. Alan Alda, actor and co-founder of the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, discusses why Einstein's letters so moved him. He's joined by Brian Greene, co-founder of the World Science Festival and professor of mathematics & physics at Columbia University. They are both taking part in lots of activities this week, including the announcement of the winners in the "What Is Color?" challenge.



Alan Alda and Brian Greene

Comments [10]

Fred Jerome from Manhattan

Dear Brian Lehrer:

Brian Greene and Alan Alda are doing a grand job of popularizing science. But: While the "Dear Albert " letters were charming and cute, it seems important to note that they do not represent the views, the overriding views of Albert Einstein. Having published three books on Einstein's social and political views, I'm currently preparing a book of his letters with the working title: "Einstein -- the Radical Edge." Most of Einstein's non-science letters -- like most of his non-science essays and books -- have a definite humanist/socialist political slant which explains why J. Edgar Hoover and Senator McCarthy found him so "dangerous to America." (See my first book, "The Einstein File -- J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World;s Most Famous Scientist.")

Here, to cite just one example, is the exchange of letters between Einstein and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, after Douglas was one of only two justices to vote to grant clemency to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. (Douglas had also voted in vain to save the life of Willie McGee, a black sharecropper executed in Mississippi for a rape he did not commit)

Einstein to Douglas, June 23, 1953 -- four days after the execution of the Rosenbergs: "You have struggled so devotedly for the creation of a healthy public opinion in our troubled time."

Reply from Douglas, June 30: "You have paid me a tribute which brightens the burdens of this dark hour -- a tribute I will always. cherish."

While Einstein's other letters expand and reiterate his political views, simply a list of Einstein's correspondents tells a great deal: Maxim Gorki, Thomas Mann, Morris Raphael Cohen, Yehudi Menuhin, Bertoldt Brecht, John Hersey, Nikos Kazantzakis, Bertrand Russell, W. E. B. Du Bois, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and many many more. If anyone there is interested I'd be happy to send copies of some of the letters. Perhaps someone would even read a few on the air.

In any case, I thought you might be interested.


Fred Jerome

Jun. 12 2014 05:34 PM

-- scientific theories and musings are by definition liberal. You can tell the other side because they're the ones with their fingers in their ears.

@jgarbuz --"Pay no attention to anything Einstein wrote, except his scientific theories and musings. Everything else he wrote was typical liberal rubbish."

May. 29 2014 09:44 PM
pliny from soho

in light of the recent stoning death of a Pakistani women
for marrying outside of her clan
it would be interesting to know what Einsteins sophisticated mother
found so objectionable about his proposed wife

May. 29 2014 11:42 AM

Stargazing on the Intrepid....It would work better if they sailed the Intrepid up to Martha's Vineyard.

Big ups, Mr. Bad for providing the reference used on-the-air!

May. 29 2014 11:39 AM
Steven from Brooklyn

Looking forward to the future when we can argue over whether human activity is causing the universe to shrink (or expand too quickly)

May. 29 2014 11:38 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Is a flame...

(a) Oxidation
(b) Reduction
(c) Inflammation
(d) All of the above?

May. 29 2014 11:36 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Pay no attention to anything Einstein wrote, except his scientific theories and musings. Everything else he wrote was typical liberal rubbish.

May. 29 2014 11:35 AM
john from office

Einstein was well known to be a ladies man. Brains has its own attraction.

Did he ever father a child???

May. 29 2014 11:27 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Albert Einstein was a ladies’ man
When he was working on his universal plan
He was making out like Charlie Sheen
He was a genius.

— Warren Zevon

May. 29 2014 11:25 AM

I am so glad that the World Science Festival has more free, outdoors events this year. I have long felt that the event's high prices exclude those who need it most--young adults and teenagers with lower incomes. (As a cell biologist, I find reading papers and attending scientific conferences a better use of my time and money than the Festival events.) However, the Sunday fair in Washington Square Park is wonderful!

May. 29 2014 11:01 AM

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