Einstein’s Birthday: last statement on nuclear weapons

On March 3, 2015, in a speech before Congress, our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned about Iran and urged the U.S. to take a tough stance in ongoing negotiations over nuclear program. Mr. Netanyahu argued that Iran’s “tentacles of terror” were clutching Israel and that failing to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons “could well threaten the survival of my country”. Acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran would be intolerable.

In 1954 Bertrand Russell gave a radio speech on the BBC on “Man’s Peril from the Hydrogen Bomb”. On February 11, 1955 Russell sent the text of this speech to Einstein and proposed that Einstein and a small number of prominent physicists join him in signing a public statement about the necessity of avoiding war: whatever agreements not to use nuclear weapons had been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered binding in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture nuclear weapons as soon as war broke out, for, if one side manufactured the bombs and the other did not, the side that manufactured them would inevitably be victorious.

Einstein immediately agreed to this proposal, and on April 5, 1955, Russell sent him the draft of the Manifesto. Einstein died on April 18, 1955. However, a few days before he died he wrote to Russell: “Thank you for your letter of April 5. I am gladly willing to sign your excellent statement”.

In 1960, in Einstein on Peace, Russell recalled: “I was among those who almost always agreed with him. He and I both opposed the First World War, but considered the Second unavoidable. He and I were equally perturbed by the awful prospect of H-bomb warfare. We agreed to make a joint pronouncement on this subject in conjunction with any eminent men of science who were willing to cooperate. I drew up a statement and sent it to Einstein. Before getting an answer from him, while travelling by air from Rome to Paris, I learnt of his death. On arrival in Paris, I found his letter agreeing to sign. This must have been one of the last acts of his life?”

Russell presented the Russell-Einstein Manifesto at a press conference in London on July 9, 1955:


Bertrand Russell at press conference to launch Russell-Einstein manifesto. Here.

Here are parts of Russell’s speech. It may be considered a reply to Netanyahu’s speech before Congress:

The Russell-Einstein manifesto:

….”Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire.

We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.

We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?

The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs. The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities. It is understood that the new bombs are more powerful than the old…

It is stated on very good authority that a bomb can now be manufactured which will be 2,500 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima…the best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with H-bombs might possibly put an end to the human race. It is feared that if many H-bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration….

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war…

People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited.

This hope is illusory. Whatever agreements not to use H-bombs had been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered binding in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture H-bombs as soon as war broke out, for, if one side manufactured the bombs and the other did not, the side that manufactured them would inevitably be victorious.

Although an agreement to renounce nuclear weapons as part of a general reduction of armaments would not afford an ultimate solution, it would serve certain important purposes. First, any agreement between East and West is to the good in so far as it tends to diminish tension. Second, the abolition of thermonuclear weapons, if each side believed that the other had carried it out sincerely, would lessen the fear of a sudden attack in the style of Pearl Harbour, which at present keeps both sides in a state of nervous apprehension. We should, therefore, welcome such an agreement though only as a first step”…


Leaflet of the Manifesto

The resolution of the Manifesto is the following recommendation:

“In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them”.





How many scientists did it take to make the discovery of Relativity – Special and General Theories? x

 Albert Einstein? or Albert Einstein, Michele Besso, Marcel Grossmann?… Read my latest paper

Besso, Special Relativity: Einstein ends his 1905 relativity paper by saying that he is indebted to Besso for several valuable suggestions. What could Besso’s valuable suggestions have been? Einstein’s biographer, Carl Seelig, wrote: “Later Besso […] used the following analogy: Einstein the eagle has taken Besso the sparrow under his wing. Then the sparrow fluttered a little higher: ‘I could not have found a better sounding-board in the whole of Europe’, Einstein remarked when the conversation turned one day to Besso. This way Einstein and Besso became inseparable”. x

In 1952 Besso recounted, “Another little fairy tale of mine concerning my view that I had participated in [the formulation of] the special theory of relativity. It seemed to me, as an electrical engineer, I must have brought up, in conversations with you, the question, within the context of Maxwell’s theory, of what is induced in the inductor of an alternator […]”: the Magnet and Conductor thought experiment that opens Einstein’s 1905 Relativity Paper. Maxwell’s theory was not yet on the official program of the Polytechnic School ETH (Einstein’s and Besso’s collage). It was probably Einstein’s self-reading about Maxwell’s theory, who explained to Besso about this theory. Only after such explanation could Besso within the context of Maxwell’s theory refer to his technical work and speak with Einstein or remind him about induction of which Einstein had already read about in books

Einstein and his closest friend, Michele Besso

Grossmann, General Relativity: When Einstein came back to Zurich in 1912 Marcel Grossmann looked through the literature, and discovered that the mathematical problem was already solved by Riemann, Ricci and Levi-Civita. Einstein collaborated with Grossmann and this led to the Einstein-Grossmann theory published in two joint papers. Just before writing the first paper with Grossmann, Einstein had struggled with these new tools in the Zurich Notebook. Einstein wrote Grossmann’s name and considered candidate field equations he would come back to in the first 1915 paper on General Relativity

In this paper Einstein wrote in the introduction, “I completely lost trust in my established field equations [of the Einstein-Grossmann theory], […]. Thus I arrived back at the demand of a broader general covariance for the field equations, from which I parted, though with a heavy heart, three years ago when I worked together with my friend Grossmann. As a matter of fact, we then have already come quite close to the solution of the problem given in the following”. x

Marcel Grossmann, Albert Einstein, Gustav Geissler and Marcel’s brother Eugen
during their time as students at the ETH- here

Besso, General Relativity: During a visit by Besso to Einstein in Zurich in June 1913 they both tried to solve the Einstein-Grossmann theory field equations to find the perihelion advance of Mercury in the “Einstein-Besso manuscript”. Besso was inducted by Einstein into the necessary calculations. Besso collaborated with Einstein on the wrong gravitational Einstein-Grossmann theory, and their calculation based on this theory gave a wrong result. In October 1915 Einstein abandoned the Einstein-Grossmann theory; he transferred the basic framework of the calculation from the Einstein-Besso manuscript, and corrected it according to his new 1915 General Relativity Theory with which he got the correct precession so quickly, because he was able to apply the methods he had already worked out two years earlier with Besso. Einstein though did not acknowledge his earlier work with Besso, and did not mention his name in his 1915 paper that explains the anomalous precession of Mercury

Einstein considered his best friend Michele Besso as a sounding board and his class-mate from the Polytechnic Marcel Grossman – as his active partner. Yet, Einstein wrote that Grossman will never claim to be considered a co-discoverer of the Einstein-Grossmann theory – a theory very close to Einstein’s general theory of relativity that he published in November 1915. He only helped in guiding Einstein through the mathematical literature, but contributed nothing of substance to the results of the theory. Hence, Einstein neither considered Besso or Grossmann as co-discoverers or co-inventors of the relativity theory which he himself invented

Read also this paper, “How many scientists does it take to make a discovery? The era of the lone genius , as epitomised by Albert Einstein, has long gone”. Prof. Athene Donald, the author of the paper writes, “Ask people to conjure up an image of a scientist and Albert Einstein is most likely to pop into their head. The iconic image is of a lone genius beavering away in some secluded room until that familiar equation – E=mc2 – crystallised in his brain sufficiently to be written down. I very much doubt doing science was ever quite like that, but it is even more unlikely to apply now”. What do you think? x