Thought for the Week – 01.10.18

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character”


Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”, a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Near the beginning of his career, Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics was no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This led him to develop his special theory of relativity during his time at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern (1902–1909), Switzerland. However, he realised that the principle of relativity could also be extended to gravitational fields, and he published a paper on general relativity in 1916 with his theory of gravitation. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe.

Einstein lived in Switzerland between 1895 and 1914, except for one year in Prague, and he received his academic diploma from the Swiss federal polytechnic school (later the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH) in Zürich in 1900. He acquired Swiss citizenship in 1901, which he kept for the rest of his life after being stateless for more than five years. In 1905, he was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. The same year, he published four groundbreaking papers during his renowned annus mirabilis (miracle year) which brought him to the notice of the academic world at the age of 26. Einstein taught theoretical physics at Zurich between 1912 and 1914 before he left for Berlin, where he was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

In 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, Adolf Hitler came to power. Because of his Jewish background, Einstein did not return to Germany. He settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the potential development of “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” and recommending that the US begin similar research. This eventually led to the Manhattan Project. Einstein supported the Allied forces, but he generally denounced the idea of using nuclear fission as a weapon. He signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto with British philosopher Bertrand Russell, which highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons. He was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, until his death in 1955.

Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers and more than 150 non-scientific works. His intellectual achievements and originality have made the word “Einstein” synonymous with “genius”. Eugene Wigner wrote of Einstein in comparison to his contemporaries that “Einstein’s understanding was deeper even than Jancsi von Neumann’s. His mind was both more penetrating and more original than von Neumann’s. And that is a very remarkable statement.”


Thought for the Week – 24.09.18

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings”

SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Dalí de Púbol (11 May 1904 – 23 January 1989), known professionally as Salvador Dalí, was a prominent Spanish surrealist born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.

Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painting skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in August 1931. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, at times in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

Dalí attributed his “love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes” to an “Arab lineage”, claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.

Dalí was highly imaginative, and also enjoyed indulging in unusual and grandiose behaviour. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork, to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem, and to the irritation of his critics.


Thought for the Week – 17.09.18

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”

RONALD REAGAN (1911-2004)

Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician and actor who served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Prior to the presidency, he was a Hollywood actor and trade union leader before serving as the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975.

Reagan was raised in a poor family in small towns of northern Illinois. He graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a sports announcer on several regional radio stations. After moving to Hollywood in 1937, he became an actor and starred in a few major productions. Reagan was twice elected President of the Screen Actors Guild—the labour union for actors—where he worked to root out Communist influence. In the 1950s, he moved into television and was a motivational speaker at General Electric factories. Reagan had been a Democrat until 1962, when he became a conservative and switched to the Republican Party. In 1964, Reagan’s speech, “A Time for Choosing”, supported Barry Goldwater’s foundering presidential campaign and earned him national attention as a new conservative spokesman. Building a network of supporters, he was elected Governor of California in 1966. As governor, Reagan raised taxes, turned a state budget deficit to a surplus, challenged the protesters at the University of California, ordered in National Guard troops during a period of protest movements in 1969, and was re-elected in 1970. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1968 and 1976. Four years later in 1980, he won the nomination, and then defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter. At 69 years, 349 days of age at the time of his inauguration, he became the oldest president-elect to take the oath of office (a distinction now held by Donald Trump, since 2017). Reagan faced former vice president Walter Mondale when he ran for re-election in 1984, and defeated him in a landslide with the largest electoral college victory in American history.

Soon after taking office, Reagan began implementing sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed “Reaganomics”, advocated tax rate reduction to spur economic growth, economic deregulation, and reduction in government spending. In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, spurred the War on Drugs, and fought public sector labour. Over his two terms, the economy saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5% to 4.4%, and an average annual growth of real GDP of 3.4%. Reagan enacted cuts in domestic discretionary spending, cut taxes, and increased military spending which contributed to increased federal outlays overall, even after adjustment for inflation. Foreign affairs dominated his second term, including ending the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, the Iran–Iraq War, and the Iran–Contra affair. In June 1987, four years after he publicly described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, Reagan challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!”, during a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. He transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Gorbachev. The talks culminated in the INF Treaty, which shrank both countries’ nuclear arsenals. Reagan began his presidency during the decline of the Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall fell just ten months after the end of his term. Germany reunified the following year, and on December 26, 1991 (nearly three years after he left office), the Soviet Union collapsed.

When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of sixty-eight percent, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era. He was the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve two full terms, after a succession of five prior presidents did not. Although he had planned an active post-presidency, Reagan disclosed in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease earlier that year. Afterwards, his informal public appearances became more infrequent as the disease progressed. He died at home on June 5, 2004. An icon among American conservatives, he is viewed favourably in historical rankings of U.S. presidents, and his tenure constituted a realignment toward conservative policies in the United States.


Thought for the Week – 10.09.18

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”

VINCE LOMBARDI (1913-1970)

Vincent Thomas Lombardi (June 11, 1913 – September 3, 1970) was an American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League (NFL). He is best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls at the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons. Following his sudden death from cancer in 1970, The NFL Super Bowl trophy was named in his honour. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, the year after his death. Lombardi is considered by many to be the greatest coach in football history, and he is more significantly recognised as one of the greatest coaches and leaders in the history of any American sport.

Lombardi began his coaching career as an assistant and later as a head coach at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey. He was an assistant coach at Fordham, at the United States Military Academy, and with the New York Giants before becoming a head coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1967 and the Washington Redskins in 1969. He never had a losing season as a head coach in the NFL, compiling a regular season winning percentage of 72.8% (96–34–6), and 90% (9–1) in the postseason for an overall record of 105 wins, 35 losses, and 6 ties in the NFL.