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I WAS SORTING THROUGH colloquium presentations of mine from the mid-1970s—Geez, was I ever scholarly back then—and I came upon these two Einstein anecdotes. Their source was Ira M. Freeman, Rutgers University; the first one, translated by him from Physikalische Blatter, 31, No. 9, Sept. 1975.
Einstein on Relativity: A lady in whose house Einstein was once a guest asked him if he could explain his theory of relativity in a few words. Einstein replied:
“On a hot summer day I was walking in the country with a blind friend and happened to mention that I would like to drink a glass of milk.
“Milk?” asked my companion. “I know what drinking means, but what is milk?”
“A white beverage,” I replied.
“”Beverage is a word I know,” said the blind man, “but what is white?”
“The color of a swan’s feathers.”
“Feathers I know, but what is a swan?”
“A bird with a bent neck.”
“I know what a neck is, but what is meant by bent?”
At this point I lost my patience. I grasped his arm and extended it in front of him.
“That’s straight,” I said. Then I flexed his elbow. “And this is bent.”
“Oh,” he beamed. “Now I know what you mean by milk.”
What Physicists Do. In the same vein, Freeman related an incident experienced by his wife before World War II.
Her hairdresser asked, “What does your husband do?”
“He’s a physicist.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
His wife told her, in effect, that physicists are scientists who study the laws of nature.
The hairdresser insisted, “But what does he do?”
“Well,… do you know what Albert Einstein does?”
“Why, of course! Now I know what your husband does.”
And, by analogy, now you know what I used to do as a mathematician. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022