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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Albert Einstein

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Did Einstein show any signs of future greatness as an infant?

His first impression wasn't one of fame, no. Born in Ulm, Germany, on March 14, 1879, Albert was the first child of Pauline and Hermann Einstein. And to say the couple was less than impressed with their newborn son would be an understatement; they thought his head was grotesquely oversized. His parents described Albert to the delivering physician as a "monstrosity." The doctor convinced them that all infant heads appeared larger than normal and that Albert's body would grow to become more proportionate to his cranium. Of course, once that happened, his grandmother clucked over him and complained to his parents that the boy was "much too fat!"

Was he really a slow learner?

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Yes and no. The youngster didn't start to speak until he was two years old, but when he did chatter, he skipped all that "mama, dada" bunk and started off using full sentences. In 1881, Albert's parents presented him with a new little sister, Maria (called "Maja" by family and friends). When two-year-old Albert saw her for the first time, he presumed that she was some sort of toy, and asked "Where does it have its small wheels?" Despite his original skepticism, Maja and Albert soon became best friends.

Did Einstein suffer from a neurological disorder?

Einstein's primary-school teachers reported that the child had a powerful and lingering distaste of authority. Coupled with his late-developing speech, some medical professionals have suggested this behavior as symptomatic of either autism or Asperger's Syndrome. Throughout his childhood and adult life, however, Albert did not exhibit any other behavior that would have been typical of such a diagnosis. He had no difficulty communicating with others, for example. He also demonstrated the emotional capacity to develop both close friendships and passionate relationships.

Is it true that Einstein failed math class as a primary-school student?

This "fact" has circulated for many decades, presumably as encouragement to those of us who actually did struggle with long division. In 1935, a Princeton rabbi showed Albert Einstein a Ripley's Believe It or Not! column that included the anecdote.

Einstein laughed and claimed that he'd been at the top of his class, even in primary school. "Before I was fifteen," he added, "I had mastered differential and integral calculus."

Aside from his theorems and formulae, did Einstein pursue anything else in his laboratory?

In a scenario fitting for a genius, love first bloomed for Albert in the physics lab at the Swiss Polytechnic School in 1901. There, he quickly attached himself to Mileva Maric, a brilliant young Serbian girl who was the only female physics student at the institute at that time. Soon, the two were inseparable. But Pauline, Albert's mother, did not approve of the girl. She felt Mileva was bookish and unattractive. Worse, she belonged to a different faith. "If she has a child," Pauline warned her son, "you'll be in a pretty mess." That was all the prompting Albert needed, and a year later, Mileva returned home to give birth to a daughter. They named the girl Lieserl and left her with Mileva's parents in Serbia, telling no one else of her existence. Some sources indicate that Lieserl was mentally handicapped at birth and then went blind after a bout of scarlet fever at age one. While her ultimate disposition is uncertain, researchers hypothesize that she was put up for adoption and ultimately raised by a friend of Mileva's.

Albert wasn't a particularly warm and fuzzy guy, then?

It doesn't seem so, based on a cache of letters and other papers he bequeathed to Hebrew University. He did marry Mileva in 1903, but continued to have extramarital dalliances throughout their time together. While the couple went on to have two sons, their relationship was a tenuous one. Eventually, Albert drew up a "contract" that required Mileva to keep his clothes and study clean, prepare and serve his meals, and renounce all personal relations with him. He openly discussed his various liaisons with other family members and confided that of all the "dames" he frequented, he liked the "decent, discreet, and harmless" ones best.

Was Al strictly business, or did he enjoy a hearty laugh now and again?

Einstein was known to have a downright bawdy sense of humor, and he enjoyed teasing his wife. While entertaining a group of esteemed and intellectual guests, he'd purposely try to shock Mileva by launching into a risqué story. This would prompt her to cut him off with a sharp "Albert!" followed by a coquettish giggle. He also treasured a gag gift given to him by an engraver friend "“ a tin nameplate inscribed Albert Ritter von Steissbein, which roughly translates to "Albert, Knight of the Backside." Einstein proudly affixed the tag to the door of his apartment.

Did he have any hobbies?

Albert Einstein worked in the Swiss Patent Office from 1902 until 1909. He studied for his doctorate degree during those years, and also published several scientific papers in his spare time. One of these demonstrated how radiation converts mass to energy: the Theory of Special Relativity. Einstein's years in the patent office resulted in a lifelong interest in inventions. He enjoyed tinkering with electronics, which led to a few patents of his own, including one for a noiseless refrigerator and another for a transistorized hearing aid.

What was Einstein's involvement with the Manhattan Project?

His only direct participation in developing the atomic bomb was to solve a theoretical problem posed to him by the bomb's developers, who requested his input on their key task of using gaseous diffusion to separate fissionable material. Einstein did write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, however, to encourage him to accelerate the development of such a bomb. Albert believed that the Nazis (who were responsible for his hasty emigration to the U.S.) were on the brink of unleashing their own nuclear weaponry.

Did Einstein show any musical aptitude?

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Yes, indeed. In fact, music was one of the few ways that he expressed himself artistically. His mother, a talented pianist, gave little Albert a violin when he was five years old. The young perfectionist was 13 before he finally felt that he'd mastered the instrument. From then on, the violin was his constant companion. Einstein's eldest son, Hans, recalled that his father would take refuge by playing the fiddle when he found himself "stuck" on a difficult challenge. After the session, he'd find a way to resolve the problem.

Did the man own a comb, for heaven's sake?

Yes, but his mind was so busy with other things that he regularly forgot to use it. Einstein's overall neglect of personal appearance began shortly after the birth of his first son, Hans. The baby would keep the entire household awake by crying throughout the night. Albert couldn't miss a day of work, of course. He had to support a family of not only a wife and son, but also his widowed, aging mother.

On an almost daily basis, as he made his way to work at the Swiss Patent Office, he would see his reflection in store windows and realize "I forgot to comb my hair again." In later life, the über-efficient Einstein's attitude was obvious. "Long hair minimizes the need for barbers."

Was he a snappy dresser?

Not so much. As a child, Einstein noted that his big toe would eventually poke a hole in every sock he wore. "Why bother?" the genius thought. He only "dressed up" when it was absolutely necessary.

Albert's typical head-to-toe attire consisted of an undershirt, baggy pants held up with a rope, and sandals.

His attitude was either people knew and accepted him, or they didn't. Case closed.

What's the deal with that tongue picture?

0101-cover.jpgThe photograph in question was taken on his 72nd birthday — March 14, 1951. Einstein was leaving an event held in his honor at Princeton University, and got into the back seat of a car along with Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the former head of the Institute for Advanced Study. The paparazzi were coaxing Mr. Einstein through the car windows to "smile for camera" for the umpteenth time that day. A weary Albert responded by sticking out his tongue. UPI shutterbug Arthur Sasse snapped the iconic image, which originally included the faces of Dr. and Mrs. Aydelotte in the car as well. The classic photo was cropped to its current format by none other than Einstein himself, who liked it so much that he sent his friends greeting cards decorated with the image.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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