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Einstein’s ‘Blunder’

In response to:

The Case for Blunders from the March 6, 2014 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of Mario Livio’s book Brilliant Blunders [NYR, March 6], Freeman Dyson echoes Livio’s claim that Einstein never called his cosmological constant a “blunder,” and that the statement was the product of the imagination of physicist/cosmologist George Gamow. However, the late Ralph A. Alpher, a student of Gamow who worked with him on what became the Big Bang model, recalled in 1998 to a History of Astronomy Internet Discussion Group that he was with Gamow on the visit to Einstein and indeed the word “blunder” was used to characterize the cosmological constant. Alpher recalled the date as around 1952; Gamow first quoted Einstein in 1956. I discuss this in my book, How Einstein Created Relativity Out of Physics and Astronomy (Springer, 2013).

David Topper
Senior Scholar
Department of History
University of Winnipeg
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Freeman Dyson replies:

Concerning Einstein’s reported statement that he had blundered, David Topper has examined the evidence and I have not. I am glad to defer to David Topper’s judgment.

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