Tag Archives: Einstein

If I Could Turn Back Time…

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No, it would not be to recreate a Cher song. Or maybe it would. I’m not sure at this point because I have the stupid thing playing on a loop in my head right now.

Writing for futurism.com, Chelsea Gohd published a piece called “We Can’t Alter The Flow of Time But, According to Physics, We Can Bend It” a few days ago, and I lapped up every word.

We’ve all considered the notion of time travel at one point in our lives. Don’t deny it. Ever since that excellent! film (not movie) Back to the Future II, when Biff steals a sports almanac and goes back in time to make himself crazy rich, we’ve all entertained notions of joining the Biffs of the world.

As far as I understand – and with much of what I learned at M.I.T. relegated to the depths of the Mariana Trench – Einstein conceived of travelling forward in time (assuming we could reach the speed of light), but never back in time. He did leave open one possibility that even he could only speculate about: wormholes.

Although I’m generally apathetic when it comes to sci-fi literature and movies, I’ve been thinking a lot about the space-time continuum lately because of a Korean novel I’m helping to translate, author Kim Hee-sun’s The Multiverses of Infinity (무한의 책).

It goes without saying that I’m ecstatic to be part of a project I truly believe in and helping breathe life into it for English readers one day. (Think Kafka meets Murakami Haruki in a dark Prague alley, somehow the two speak the same language, and after a quick meet-and-greet of sorts, they decide to stroll off together to a Harajuku jazz club, where they will discuss beautifully shaped ears and huge insects.) And since the plot of Multiverses involves a character going back in time, it’s got me thinking.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the central driving force for this character to go back in time is to help someone, not hurt them, and not to benefit in any selfish way like our friend Biff. If we as human beings ever do come up with a way to travel through time, I can’t help but wonder what our motivation would be.

Anyway, Ms. Gohd’s article on space-time is nothing short of fascinating and illuminating. And to quote Gohd quoting Stephen Hawking at the end, “Even if it turns out that time travel is impossible, it is important that we understand why it is impossible.”

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The Price of Happiness? About $1.8 million

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This is one of those stories about happiness you don’t hear every day. Mostly because it stems from the mind – and hand – of one Albert Einstein.

Rachel Siegel over at The Washington Post penned an article called “Einstein scribbled his theory of happiness in place of a tip. It just sold for more than $1 million,” and sums up the unlikely story of how a tip morphed into millions, and how one of history’s most influential scientists and thinkers imparted some advice we’d all like to know: the theory not of relativity but of happiness. Per the article:

“In November 1922, Einstein was traveling from Europe to Japan for a lecture series…News of Einstein’s arrival spread quickly through Japan, and thousands of people flocked to catch a glimpse of the Nobel laureate. Impressed but also embarrassed by the publicity, Einstein tried to write down his thoughts and feelings from his secluded room at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

That’s when the messenger arrived with a delivery. He either “refused to accept a tip, in line with local practice, or Einstein had no small change available,” according to the AFP.

Instead, Einstein wrote two short notes and handed them to the messenger. If you are lucky, the notes themselves will someday be worth more than some spare change, Einstein said, according to the seller of the letters, a resident of Hamburg, Germany who is reported to be a relative of the messenger.

Those autographed notes, in which Einstein offered his thoughts on how to live a happy and fulfilling life, sold at a Jerusalem auction house Tuesday…”

What was the advice and how much were these thoughts worth in today’s currency?

1. “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” ($1.56 million)

2. “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” ($240,000)

And to think, today with the Internet at our fingertips that advice is free!

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Quote of the Day

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Those of old who were competent

in ruling according to the Tao

did not do it by enlightening the people

but by keeping the people unknowing.

The difficulty in leading the people

comes from their knowing too much.

(Lao, LXV)

Today’s quote comes from one of the most famous extant texts from ancient China, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Although many people have heard of something call Taoism (pronounced “Daoism”), few of us have read this immensely important book or even know what Taoism is at its core.

The word “Tao” (,) refers to “the way,” and for Lao Tzu the critical challenge in life was to live a life according to the Tao, to be in harmony with nature, energy/life force, effortless action, and spiritual power. People sometimes confuse Taoism with Confucianism, but as all Koreans and foreigners who have lived/live in Korea can attest to, Confucianism distinguishes itself by its strict adherence to social order and rituals.

For centuries – in fact, even today – Westerners have a difficult time grasping the notions of Taoism and Confucianism (China), shamanism (Korea) and Shintoism (Japan), partly because we don’t take the time to educate ourselves and partly because we (mainly) come from a monotheistic faith background that dictates you are either with us or against us; you’re either a Catholic or a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian. Not so in East Asia.

As over a billion people will tell you from the old Silk Road of Central Asia all the way to the Ryukyu Islands of Japan, “religion” for them does not have to be mutually exclusive. There are Shinto Buddhists in Tokyo, Christian Confucianists in Seoul and Taoist Catholics in China. And really, why shouldn’t you take the best of both worlds? Who ever wrote in the rulebook of life that it’s an all-or-nothing decision when maturing as an adult and trying to find your way spiritually in this great big wide world?

Regardless, I chose today’s quote because, frighteningly enough, this seems to be right out of the Donnie T. playbook (not that he’s actually read any books).  It was also the precursor to the Bread and Circuses metonymic (the unofficial political policy of the Roman Empire) attributed to the Roman poet Juvenal, and which would later become the cornerstone of communist policy in 20th-century states such as the Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Cuba.

As a final point of interest, we may have had Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Theresa, Einstein, Hawking and Picasso as some of the greatest and most influential figures of the last century, but it’s astounding to think that Lao Tzu, Confucius, the Buddha, Socrates, Plato,  Aristotle and Pythagoras were all relative contemporaries as well. Yikes! That’s some serious brain power laying a philosophical, educational, religious and social foundation all at one time.

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