Every journey starts with a single step. Einstein’s career also started with a single book he read – it was a visual encyclopedia that shaped the way he thought of the universe.
What was at the beginning of it all? According to Walter Isaacson’s book, it was a compass. A five-year old Albert was lying in bed sick when his father brought him a compass to play with. Albert asked how it worked. And just saying that compasses work because of Earth’s magnetic field was not enough of an explanation. He wanted to know how it really worked. He wanted to visualize it.
Since that encounter with a compass, and many books later, there was one book that especially struck Albert’s imagination. So much that he started visualizing in his head everything he read in it. This book was People’s Book on Natural Science. The author specifically asked his readers to take an imaginary trip through space. And Einstein did. At 15, while walking in the Italian countryside, he first imagined what it would be like to ride along a beam of light. That was his first thought experiment, one of more that would later make him who he became.
About his thought experiments, Einstein famously said;
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
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