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B ook Review

The Bible According to Einstein: A Scientific
Complement to the Holy Bible for the Third Millennium

634 pp., Jupiter Scientific, New York,
$34.95


By Doctor Kang Zhao

During the 20th century, scientists have discovered so many new things about the world and life. This knowledge ranges from the practical, such as how to manipulate genes for new medical therapies, to the philosophical, such as how we, Homo sapiens, achieved our existence through evolutionary processes. We now are aware of our place in the universe: we live on the third planet from a star called the Sun in a galaxy named the Milky Way, which is just one of tens of billions of such galaxies in a vast universe. At the small scale of things, chemists now understand the inner workings of the atom, with its cloud of electrons swarming about a nucleus, all in conformity with the counter-intuitive laws of quantum mechanics.
    We often take for granted the extraordinary benefits of modern technology, forgetting that they originate through scientific discoveries. From the light bulb to the microchip, it is the ability to exploit the electric-magnetic force that runs our world today. We should thank the physicists of the nineteenth century who, through experiment and theory, understood this fundamental force of nature.

This book promises to do for science
what the Holy Bible has done for Judeo-Christian religions.

    As a research scientist, I appreciate the beauty of the world in a special way. The universe, like a giant clock of gears, is driven by four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism and two subnuclear interactions) and is comprised of two generic kinds of basic microscopic particles (quarks and leptons). It is wonderful to see how "nature's gears turn and interact." And now a book has appeared that allows anybody to enjoy these things too. It is called The Bible According to Einstein.
    This book promises to do for science what the Holy Bible has done for Judeo-Christian religions. Indeed, it is even organized like the Holy Bible with an "old testament" and a "new testament." The old testament narrates the wondrous history of the universe, earth and life. The reader discovers not only how we humans arose but how the earth, the sun and stars were made. Even the birth of the cosmos, which is perhaps the most glorious event of all time, is depicted. It is an enlightening experience to witness this great story of creation.
    How did human spirituality and intelligence come about? What are the laws of nature? How is matter assembled in terms of smaller constituents? The new testament of The Bible According to Einstein answers these fundamental questions and many others.
    The Bible According to Einstein is a very special work, written in an almost poetic language and in the simplest possible terms. A reader is able to obtain some understanding of even the most esoteric scientific subjects, such as Einstein's general theory of relativity: It takes just two pages of the book to reveal how gravity is a remarkably natural phenomenon, a consequence that physical space is dynamic, being able to bend and stretch. This deforming of spatial geometry is caused by massive bodies such as stars and planets. As The Bible According to Einstein explains through a metaphor, the situation is analogous to placing a bowling ball on a bed. Such a heavy object causes a depression in the bed's surface. When a marble is thrown onto the bed, it naturally moves toward the heavy ball. This attractive effect is what physicists call gravity. To translate the metaphor, the bed's surface is like space, the bowling ball is like the earth, and the marble is like an apple thrown into the air. Einstein's gravity theory supersedes the one of Newton that explained the falling of an apple in more mechanical terms.
    One extraordinary consequence of general relativity is that the stretching of space has been occurring throughout cosmic history. This phenomenon, first observed by Hubble in the late 1920s, is called the expansion of the universe.
    I cannot emphasize enough the need to educate ourselves about science and nature. How can one properly address issues such as human cloning, nuclear power, ozone depletion and El Niño if one has a vague understanding of biology, medicine, physics, chemistry and geology? Unfortunately, for many people these subjects as well as many natural phenomena remain mysterious.
    Scientific knowledge helps us to make intelligent decisions that can improve our lives. As evidence of this statement, look at what can happen when one does not have a good sense of the physical world. The Heaven's Gate group's beliefs that a spaceship was in the tail of comet Hale-Bopp and that the Earth was about to be recycled contributed to their decision to commit mass suicide in March of 1997. Less dramatic examples can be noted such as basing one's actions on astrology or consulting a psychic to decide how to continue a personal relationship.
    As biologists begin to decipher DNA (the codes of life created during three billion years of evolutionary history), amazing new achievements will transpire in the 21st century. A cure for cancer, a significantly prolonged human life expectancy and the ability to manipulate our own evolution will be realities. Some of these developments will raise polemical moral issues. Science can provide us with the knowledge to help us make rational decisions. This is one reason why, as the third millennium approaches, we need a "bible of science," a book about the physical world that is enjoyable to read, clear and simple in its explanation and that puts into perspective humanity's place in the cosmos.
    Reading The Bible According to Einstein is an excellent way to achieve a better awareness of the natural world. In this regard, I concur with the physics Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting of MIT who said that he learned a great deal from the book. I too discovered many fascinating things.
    The Bible According to Einstein is very interesting. It is an all encompassing work full of scientific wisdom. I strongly recommend it. I do have one piece of advice: Don't try to read the whole book at first and don't hesitate to the skip around. Simply pick and choose the subjects that interest you the most.

(Dr. Kang Zhao currently holds the position of W. M. Keck Foundation Early Career Professor at New York University.)


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