The hollow Einstein face

We have an illusion that consists of a hollow face of Einstein which seems to be looking at you whether you are looking at the front of it or the back. It’s very impressive. I use it to remind students (and myself) that there is a heck of a lot out there that we still don’t understand, even if we like to pretend otherwise.
The illusion can be purchased from grand-illusions.com, one of the very best sources for all types of illusions.

So when New-Scientist posted a video on how this was being used to test for schizophrenia, I thought perhaps it was time to check it out again (apparently people suffering from schizophrenia don’t notice the effect).


Dear Wife: These are my demands


    1. That my clothes and laundry are kept in good order and repair.
    2. That I receive my three meals regularly in my room.
    3. That my bedroom and my office are always kept neat, in particular, that the desk is available to me alone.
    4. You are to renounce all personal relations and refrain from criticising me either in word or deed in front of my children.
    5. You are neither to expect intimacy from me nor reproach me in any way.
    6. You must desist immediately from addressing me if I request it.
    7. You must leave my bedroom or office immediately without protest if I so request.

So who’s the bastard?
None other than the great Albert Einstein; he made these demands of  his first wife Mileva, who actually agreed to the terms.
The marriage didn’t last much longer.

Taken from the wonderful book Quantum, by Manjit Kumar.

Ernst Mach: the problem with Science Education


1859 marks not only the 150th birthday of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, but also a somewhat less well-known occasion; It was the year Ernst Mach published the first of his 500 publications (his last was published five years after his death, in 1921).

Most will know of this man through his association with the speed of planes;  Mach Number is the speed at which an object is moving divided by the speed of sound.

But Mach has offered much more to the world of Science; he lived in a time when Philosophy and Science went hand and hand, and he made many contributions not just in these areas, but also in Psychology and Educational Theory. He wrote a number of text-books for school science, but was very critical of the tendency of cramming as much as possible into the syllabus.
This quote sums up so much of what is wrong with our schooling: 

I know nothing more terrible than the poor creatures who have learned too much . . . What they have acquired is a spider’s web of thoughts too weak to furnish sure supports, but complicated enough to produce confusion.

Mach was also an advocate of what are known as ‘thought experiments’, these later became famous through Albert Einstein and his idea of sitting on top of a light beam.  Indeed Einstein went on to give credit to Mach for his ‘philosophical writings’.  It’s probably no coincidence that Einstein’s views on education were not that dissimilar to Mach’s:

One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

Of course this was all over one hundred years ago. Obviously it’s all changed since then.
It would appear that we have some explaining to do.