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Einstein and Eddington (2008)

Drama about the development of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, and Einstein's relationship with British scientist Sir Arthur Eddington, the first physicist to experimentally prove his ideas.

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5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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Frank Dyson
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William Marston
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Tennis Player 1
Gyuri Sarossy ...
Tennis Player 2
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Sir Oliver Lodge
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Jacob Theato ...
Callum Williams ...
Hans Einstein
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Lucy Briers ...
Librarian
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Storyline

Sir Arthur Eddington is a renowned physicist at Cambridge University and an expert in the measurement of the physical world. He along with all of his colleagues are also avowed Newtonians. Sir Oliver Lodge suggests that he read a new thesis put forward by a German-Swiss scientist named Albert Einstein who is suggesting that Sir Isaac Newton may have got it wrong. The expectation is that Einstein's theories will be disproven but Eddington admits that his General Theory of Relativity has merit. These are turbulent times as England and Germany are at war and Eddington's own loyalty is called into question when, as a Quaker, he refuses to fight. In the end, Eddington develops a series of tests to either prove or disprove Einstein's theories. For his part, Einstein has his own struggles during this period: the breakdown of his marriage, his integration into the university in Berlin and his own strident pacifism that led him to oppose German militarism and the First World War. In the end, ... Written by garykmcd

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TV-PG | See all certifications »

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23 November 2008 (UK)  »

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Einstein et Eddington  »

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1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Goofs

At the end of the movie, Einstein is shown getting his picture taken with his tongue sticking out. This photo actually happened much later in his life. On Einstein's 72nd birthday on March 14, 1951, UPI photographer Arthur Sasse was trying to persuade him to smile for the camera, but having smiled for photographers many times that day, Einstein stuck out his tongue instead. See more »

Quotes

[Einstein is trying to work out why Newton's Laws of Motion do not correctly explain the orbit of the planet Mercury]
Max Planck: May I ask you a very serious question? What if God were to say you were mistaken? If he said "Stop. Newton is right"?
Albert Einstein: Then I would thank God for his point of view, and we would agree to differ, and I would be left feeling very sorry for God.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Parkinson: Episode dated 5 May 2007 (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

 
BORING title, GREAT film!
24 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

What an extraordinary experience!

Both Einstein and Eddington wrote numerous books for the general public, and I read most of them when I was young. I was familiar with the famous 1919 astronomical expedition to test Einstein's General Theory of Relativity by measuring the position of Mercury during an eclipse, and even read old newspaper accounts from the archives, including the comments by Alfred North Whitehead. And I have read books on the history of science.

Yet I never knew about the context in which General Relativity was developed, both historical and personal. Now, in light of this program, it seems obvious: General Relativity was published in 1916, during the first World War. The Eddington expedition to measure Mercury occurred in 1919, shortly after the war ended. And yet, when we learn about science we assume that it rises above politics and conflicts like war and national pride, as though existing in another world.

What we see in Einstein and Eddington is that it does not. Politics and national pride played central roles, and it is only through individuals resisting social pressure that it does, actually, rise above transient political bias. Specifically, Britain's national pride was closely tied with Newtonian physics. Germany's national pride could be enhanced by having a scientist of their own overthrow Newton, namely Einstein. But both Eddington -- who, as director of the Cambridge Observatory was viewed as a protector of Newton's law of gravity -- and Einstein believed loyalty to scientific truth transcended national chauvinism.

These principles were put to the test as much as Einstein's theories because of the ongoing war between Britain and Germany. In Eddington we have a Quaker and true pacifist, and in Einstein we have a not terribly devout Jew who also does not believe in war, and wrote pacifist essays later in life. However, to say Einstein did not believe in God is mistaken, just not the anthropomorphic, personal God. This film brings out the curious parallels between the two scientists.

According to the film, it was a letter from Eddington prodding Einstein to use his Theory of Special Relativity to explain the anomalous orbit of Mercury that put Einstein on the road to writing his Theory of General Relativity, published in 1916. An examination of the dates of publication of his works in the intervening years suggests this is probably misleading -- say a literary device, though I am not sure; the chronology of events in the movie are vague. By 1911 he had already calculated that light from a star would be bent by the sun's gravity -- which was proved correct by Eddington's 1919 expedition. At any rate, Eddington should have had several other journal articles by Einstein to read.

This simplification of the story can be forgiven because the film does such a good job of conveying for the layman several concepts of relativity, particularly gravity bending space. An intelligent person should be able to follow this film. But a little more scientific context would have been helpful for novices.

There are many layers to this film, one being the invention of weapons by German scientists, which outrages both Einstein and Eddington's British colleagues. Yet, Einstein's General Relativity laid the foundation for the ultimate weapon.

I'm not sure the film precisely captures the character of the young Einstein, but it comes close. More recent biographies have told about Einstein's relations with women, and that he was sometimes, shall we say, manipulative. So it is good to show him as a human being. He was always a non-conformist, especially in his later years, when he could afford to be. The bit at the end with him going before the press looking disheveled was silly, and the shot of him sticking out his tongue was from many decades later. But chalk it up to literary license.

I was also annoyed by the snide comment about Eddington's irrelevancy at the end of the film. Eddington did solid, respected science and was very famous, the Carl Sagan of his time. It's been a century since the period presented in this film, and few scientists remain household names that long. Eddington was an early astrophysicist and one of the first cosmologists, so he was a pioneer who laid the groundwork for so much that we read about in the press today. It is a fine thing this film brought him back into public view.

It would have been nice if the actors could have pronounced Max Planck's name correctly. And why do the British kill animals on screen so often? It's very disturbing, especially for children.

What really bugged me about Einstein and Eddington was the goofy camera work by Julian Court. I can see hand holding the camera outside while moving, but inside while the actors are sitting at a table talking? If you can't hold a camera steady, put it on a tripod! It sure looked like they were jerking the camera up and down unnecessarily during static scenes, unless the camera had Parkinson's. This is not MTV or youtube; it is not even one of those wacky National Geographic documentaries.

This is an historical science drama, and it should have been treated with the appropriate polish. The jerky camera movement was distracting from the concentration needed to follow the ideas being presented. Aside from that, this docudrama really held my interest throughout. So one point off for the camera work, one point off for killing animals; otherwise, a 10.

Many of the works that Eddington and Einstein wrote for the layman are still worth reading today, and do not require prior science courses. Eddington's honest examination of philosophical questions related to science, particularly between consciousness and the physical universe, are still relevant. Eddington was among the best at explaining science and cosmology to the general public, and I think he would have been delighted by this film.


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