Thursday, December 08, 2011

Advent calendar #8: Einstein's old envelopes

When Herr Professor Doktor Einstein and his wife visited Mr and Mrs Hubble at Mt Wilson, at one stage the two ladies were left alone to swap confidences. Mrs Hubble pointed at the great telescope and explained that her husband used it “to study the nature of the universe” whereupon Frau Einstein retorted that “my husband does that on the back of an old envelope!”

Submitted by Cormac O' Raifeartaigh. This anecdote is mentioned for example in “The Day We Found the Universe” by Marcia Bartusiak.


  1. Ah,
    thats where that "back of the envelope
    calculations" originate from!
    But it does not explain what physicits do on front side of envelopes. :=(

  2. Not sure if it was Mt. Wilson or (I think) Mt. Palomar. Einstein said: "If I make a mistake on a piece of paper, I throw it away, zo. If you make a mistake in steel...."

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  5. Hi Bee,

    Yet they didn’t mention Mrs. Hubble’s reply being, “However my husband's method serves as a constant reminder that envelops are sometimes not good enough and need to be pushed.” ;-)



    P.S. Sometimes I need a few cracks at it:-)

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  7. Official Truth says General Relativity cannot be more than an effective field theory. Offered in counterpoint are ineffective field theories.

    Given cartography, the Shroud of Turin must be a miracle. A kitchen oven can produce Shrouds of Turin at will. Let's have less Kirche and more K├╝che. GR says opposite shoes obey the Equivalence Principle. Fern-Parallelismus and Einstein-Cartan-Sciama-Kibble say they do not. Experiment is theory's waste disposal unit. Somebody should look.

  8. Tnx Bee!
    I haven't managed to find the source of this well-known story, though I suspect its Baneesh Hoffman


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