Einstein’s Imaginations

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” said Einstein; the man who endured years of telescoping into the unknown and meddling in the invisible fabrics of the universe, the mathematics and physics. We often disconnect math and the arts; the pure and the imagination; the objective and the subjective. Yet math, in the hands and minds of Einstein, came a bit like this: after hours and hours of rumination on math, he took violin breaks, and a little mathematical blessing comes in between the sweeping notes of music.

To anyone who assumes that different study fields are in separate pedagogical boxes; bless them, because they need to know Einstein’s idea of combinatorial creativity.

Einstein himself was never a child of prodigy. He not only skipped classes but grew to lament the German authoritarian school system that later defined his philosophies in learning. From elementary school to his university life, he picked and chose what he wanted to learn from the system. And the rest, he diligently studied at home by himself. Indeed, Einstein loved and much preferred self-learning and self-exploration ever since his uncle brought him books on math and sciences. In fact, he started tinkering with the idea of moving as fast as light –the seed of his groundbreaking special theory of relativity — at the tender age of 17 years old, when he had access to one of the best physics lab and a generous support from the more relaxed education environment in Switzerland.

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The Mythical Pythagoras

“Numbers rule the universe,” said Pythagoras. Living 500 years before Jesus, 900 years before the concept of zero was invented, and 1,700 years before the Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) was brought to the West, Pythagoras laid out the critical foundation of geometrical connections – that a2 + b2 = c2 – and concluded the fundamental relationship between a right triangle and a square. Yet he is also most memorable for his conviction that numbers are separate beings that unlock the true nature of the universe; a kind of wonder that still rings true until now, if not stronger.

Just recently, I learned how the Indians and Sumerians used more practical math to solve mundane day to day problems, like trading issues and counting wages, the opposite of some Greek thinkers and philosophers who tend to glorify numbers as god-like. Yet what the Indians and Sumerians produced were maths that are more straightforward, cleaner, and accurate. The discovery of a Babylonian tablet gives us trigonometric table more accurate than any today and preceding Pythagoras’ by a thousand years. And it was these people who built ancient architectures that still blow our mind away and really tempt us to assume they’re aliens-made. An Indian science historian writer concluded that the Greeks complicate the practical and in doing so, missing the answer. It’s a controversial statement and even a bit bogus.

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