Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Brandon R. Brown's "Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War"

Brandon R. Brown is a Professor of Physics at the University of San Francisco. His writing for general audiences has appeared in New Scientist, SEED, the Huffington Post, and other outlets. His biophysics work on the electric sense of sharks, as covered by NPR and the BBC, has appeared in Nature, The Physical Review, and other research journals.

Brown applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War, and reported the following:
I’m surprised to find that this test works well for my little book, Planck. On page 99, we find the friendship of Max Planck and Albert Einstein in play, and we find the structural calling card of the book: a frothy blend of history, physics, personality, and politics. On page 99, the narrative is fixed in 1920. As Germany wobbles in the aftermath of WWI, Einstein finds for the first time that his emerging worldwide fame will have a real cost. Right-wing factions are merging with certain disgruntled scientists to start the Deutsche Physik movement, aligning themselves against what they now label “Jewish Physics,” an allegedly misleading, confusing, and overly-mathematical brand of science emerging from people like Einstein and his elder, Planck.

A conservative industrialist and proto-Nazi Paul Weyland organizes the first major anti-Einstein event, and as I write on page 99...
Against the advice of friends, Einstein decided to attend, thinking it might be worth a laugh. But he was shocked at the vitriol, as he heard himself alternately described as a plagiarist, a seeker of fame, and a purveyor of scientific Dadaism.

Planck made no public statements after the event, but he wrote to Einstein that Weyland had spewed “scarcely believable filth.”
This is a pivotal moment in the book, as Germany has set course for 1933 and the ugly rise of Hitler, while the great Max Planck, defender of Einstein, sets his policy moving forward: fighting the good fight privately, but keeping mostly quiet in public.
Visit Brandon Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: Planck.

Writers Read: Brandon R. Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue