COMMENDABLESnCelestial Science & TerrestrialnTroublesnAbraham Pais: Subtle is thenLord…: The Science and thenLife of Albert Einstein; OxfordnUniversity Press; New Yorlc.n”It would surely be better if 1ndid not live at all,” wrote a disheartenednyoung Albert Einstein,nbut in this unscientific pronounceinent,nas in many others,nthe wisdom of the 20th century’sngreatest physicist is questionable.nIndeed, as the masterful portraitnoffered by Abraham Pais makesnclear, it is very fortunate for thenworld of theoretical science thatnhe did live, even if his private lifenwas at times diflScult. Because henhimself is a physicist, Dr. Pais cannunderstand and analyze Einstein’snprofessional accomplishments farnmore completely than can mostnreaders. In fact, those portions ofnhis book devoted to- Einstein’snscience will prove largely impenetrablento anyone not trainednin calculus, non-EucUdean geometry,nand quantum mechanics.nDr. Pais has, however, deliberatelynprovided the layman “annontechnical tour” through anninterwoven “nonscientific biographynof Einstein,” and here thenaverage reader may easily follownPais’s lucid exposition. No specialnexpertise is required to appreciatenthe concise but revealingndepiction of the sensitive,nretiring, and sometimes eccentricnman behind the legendary mask:nthe solitary adolescent who sangnhymns to himself on the way tonschool; the absentminded groomnwho forgot the keys to his honeymoonnquarters; the shatterednhusband and father who walkedn40inChronicles of Culturenweeping from the train stationnafter his wife and sons had leftnhim; the sophisticated man ofnculture who relaxed with thenpoetry of Heine and the music ofnMozart. Mercifiilly, derivationalnrigor goes no further than doesnEinstein’s science: Pais does notntry, as too many modem biographersndo, to interpret the detailsnof his subject’s life, especiallynhis repeated failures in marriage,nwithin some pseudoscientificnpsychoanalytic framework. Einsteinnwas, after all, his friend, andnpostmortem psychiatry easilynbecomes the crudest of betrayals.nIt does seem curious, though,nthat Dr. Pais has not identifiednthe rather obvious philosophicalnrelationship between two importantnstrands of Einstein’s nonscientificnthought: his repudiationnof Judeo-Christian religion andnhis frequentiy radical commitmentsnto pacifism and leftistnvisions of Utopia. As the title ofnPais’s book indicates, Einsteinnoften employed the language ofntraditional religion, but for him itnwas void of transcendent con­ntent. Einstein perceived hisnsearch for cosmic harmony asn”religious,” yet his was a religionnwithout the God of Abraham,nIsaac, or Jacob; without, Paisnavers, any God at all, exceptnperhaps the naturalized, pantheisticnGod of Spinoza. But whennmen crave perfect order, thenclean and beautiful stasis ofnmathematics, while denyingntranscendence, they are inevitablynbafiled by the fellen world ofnimperfect men and institutions.nUnable to find a solid, scientificallyndemonstrable link betweennthe is and the ought, they are in­nIN FOCUSnSlipping & SlidingnJohn McPhee: In Suspect Terrain;nFarrar, Straus & Giroux; New Yorlcnby Fred WestnThe 1960’s produced morenthan a fair share of causes andntheories, from the glandular reactionsnto the Vietnam War to transformationalngrammar. Includednin this packet was the theory ofnplate tectonics, which, given thenpropensity of Americans to waxnenthusiastic over newness fornthe sake of newness, generated anlot of unqualified zeal amongngeologists and related scientists.nJust as the transformationalntheory was supposed to supplynall the answers to the workingsnof language, so the theory ofnplate tectonics was supposed tonexplain all the whys of geology.nUsing the theory of continentalndrift posmlated in 1912 bynthe Austrian geophysicist AlfrednWegner, plate-tectonic theorynDr. Wesfs background rangesnfrom practicing forestry tonteaching English.nnnvariably confounded by whatnthe Apostle Paul called “the mysterynof iniquity,” and consequentiynthey end up, like Einstein,nadmiring cant-spouting villainsnlike Lenin and issuing naivenand shrill demands for universalndisarmament. (Fortunately, Einsteinntemporarily mollified hisnpacifism during World War H.)nBecause his rare mind couldnfathom stellar forces, Einstein’snphysics is of incalculable value;nbecause his skeptical soul beheldnnothing in the heavens but stars,nhis politics is merely a dubiousnsurrogate religion. (BC) [Hnhas it that earth’s outer mantle, anthickness of 60 miles or so, is irregularlyncracked into nearlyntwo dozen enormous plates thatnsup and slide about the globe at anrate of one or two inches a yearnlike vast, driverless sleds in a demolitionnderby. On thefr broadnturtlebacks they bear continentsnand oceans, and, through aeons,nregions which were once polarnbecome equatorial and vice versanThe Pacific plate, inexorablyngrinding against the Americannplate, has done a number ofnthings, including creating ournmost titUlatingly dangerous geologicalnphenomenon, the SannAndreas feult. Farther south, itncrowded and slid beneath thenSouth American plate, peelingnoff much of its own surfacenwhich buckled upward and becamenthe Andes mountains. Asnone plate slides beneath another,nit deposits some of itself on thenother, which accounts for thenpresence of paleozoological fossilsnnative to Asia in the mountainsnof British Columbia. And asnthe submerged plate dives evenn