It’s All Relative

3 minute read
Nick Easen

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity and the 50th anniversary of his death. Both events are being commemorated by a bid to spark fresh interest in the Nobel-prizewinning physicist, who was named TIME’s Person of the Century in December 1999. “Einstein was not only a brilliant physicist, but also a lateral thinker, pacifist, cosmopolite and visionary,” says Gerd Weiberg, head of Germany’s Einstein Year celebrations. Here are some highlights of Einstein-related happenings around Europe:

Einstein, who was born in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, in 1879, lived and worked in BERLIN for 18 years before migrating to the U.S. in 1933. And from May 16 to Sept. 30, “Albert Einstein—Chief Engineer of the Universe” runs in Berlin’s Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace), now a museum. “Chief Engineer” is an interactive exhibition that uses films and touch-screen PCs to help visitors learn about Einstein’s theories. For more info, call (49-30) 22667 344 or visit

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The scientist did not want his final residence at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, New Jersey, to become a memorial, and the house is privately owned. But his former flat in BERN, Switzerland, where he lived as a young man for nearly two years, is open to visitors. Einstein resided at Kramgasse 49 in 1905, during his annus mirabilis—the miraculous year in which he devised theories to explain Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect and special relativity (E=mc2). The then 26-year-old described it as the time when “a storm broke loose in my mind.” The museum features original furnishings and some turn-of-the-century physics-lab equipment, along with photos of Einstein and copies of his notes and speeches. Tickets are $4; tel: (41-31) 312 00 91,

Britain hosts a touring, hands-on exhibition called “Move over Einstein,” which will be at the Science Museum in LONDON from April 16 until June 12, and then departs for Edinburgh and Belfast, among other locations. Targeted mainly at 11- to 14-year-olds, the show profiles some of the projects that Einstein’s successors are working on, such as an electronic nose that can sniff your breath to make a medical diagnosis, and tiny robots that may soon navigate your bloodstream. Tel: (44-870) 870 4868;

“The detail of Einstein’s physics can be tricky, but you don’t need to understand it to appreciate the effect that his work has on our lives,” says Caitlin Watson, program organizer of Britain’s Einstein Year events. “Computers, iPods, mobile phones all came about because of Einstein’s work on the photoelectric effect; gps and satellite navigation systems are only possible because of relativity.” Einstein saw the world differently; check out these events if you want new insights into his weltanschauung. —

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