Everyone knows about Albert Einstein. He is considered one of the most brilliant minds ever to be born on this planet. In fact, his name is used synonymously with the word ‘Genius’. But less is known about Einstein when he was a young boy. What were his experiences as a child, as a student? While it is difficult to fathom the abstract physics and mathematics in his landmark ‘Theory of relativity’, we can think about and do some of the things he did when he was young. That will give us insights into the making of an unusual and gifted individual that he grew up to become!
When he was barely three years old, Einstein had an ambition to speak complete sentences. So, he would practice what he wanted to say, before saying it! Most of us, most of the time, rarely think through what we want to say. Doing so would give us a different perspective on what we normally think and talk about.
Starting from the age of four, Einstein would walk alone on the streets of the city where they lived. His mother encouraged him, as she wanted her child to learn independence and confidence. While it is difficult to practice this in today’s cities, maybe, you could walk at least 10 steps ahead or behind your parent/guardian, just to get a feel of being alone in a public space!
Einstein started learning to play the violin at the age of six, and he played it all his life. He is known to have said: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my day dreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” Music is natural to humans. And many mathematics scholars and scientists are serious musicians. The two fields seem to belong together, though most people who are terrified of math will vehemently deny it! Next time you listen to your favourite piece of music or song, pay attention to the beats, the rhythm……how frequently do you tap your foot to the music? Working on those lines will lead you to fractions, ratios….. What about the patterns in the melody? The repetitions? If there is instrumental accompaniment, try and recognize which instrument is playing at what octave. All these are wonderful exercises that are proven to help our brains function better!
As a young boy, Einstein enjoyed building complex buildings … using just playing cards. He could build up to 14 floors! Use several card decks and see how high you can go!
Einstein did his high school in a village in Switzerland, where they emphasized on independent thinking and visualization. This had a very positive and lasting influence on him. He often said that he rarely thought in words, but used images instead. Visualizing helps promote imagination and creativity. You too can try and think in pictures, images and also rope in all your senses of touch, smell, sounds, to have a richer experience! Who knows where it will lead you to?!
In fact, it was visualization that helped Einstein do his famous ‘thought experiment’ when he was just 15 years old. He tried to imagine what the world around him would look like if he travelled on a beam of light! Work on this ultimately led to his Theory of special relativity. Thought experiments were Einstein’s bread and butter. He used them to develop his theories and explain his ideas to other people. Thought experiments harness the imagination to consider a situation and mentally explore all the consequences of the situation. Thinkers, mathematicians, scientists all use thought experiments to try and answer questions which begin with ‘what might happen if……..’
You too can deliberate with your friends on similar lines:
- Will you steal a costly medicine to save your brother who is seriously ill? Would you do the same for your neighbor’s child? How about for a stranger?
- Here’s a famous one: If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
- What is the opposite of ice cream?
- Can computers think?
- Play the ‘why’ game, responding with a why for every statement! (This is really enjoyable and at times infuriating!) See how far you can go!