100 Years: Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity

Though we might not know what it means (we are wordsmiths and bookish types after all), we’ve all heard of “E = mc2”.

Albert Einstein’s famous equation proposed that energy and matter were interchangeable, and re-defined mankind’s ideas about the Universe.

And precisely 100 years ago this week, Einstein presented his Theory of General Relativity to the Prussian Academy. It described how mass and space were related to each other, and explained how, due to the effects of gravity, matter can bend and warp the fabric of space and time.

Confusing, eh?

To explain Einstein’s theory, watch this nifty little video put together by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. (Bonus – it’s narrated by the one and only David Tennant)

Souvenir Press publishes Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, the definitive collection of his writing. Drawn from his books and letters, speeches and articles, it reveals the thinking, personality and philosophy behind the world’s most famous scientist.

Ideas and Opinions cover

Einstein was unique among scientists in the affection the public felt for him, as famous for his personality as for the theories that helped to create the modern world.

“He was unfathomably profound – the genius among geniuses who discovered, merely by thinking about it, that the universe was not as it seemed.”
– Time

Ideas and Opinions is as close to Einstein’s autobiography as we will get, and captures his witty, anarchic, but thoughtful personality.

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people – first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy.”

Albert Einstein, from ‘The World As I See It’, included in Ideas and Opinions.

Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein is available in paperback (ISBN: 9780285647251), £14.99.

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Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

Published today, Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War follows the previously unknown stories of five survivors and their families, in the aftermath of the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki.

On August 9th, 1945, the US dropped ‘Fat Man’ on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, only three days after a similar attack on Hiroshima.

“The five-ton plutonium bomb plunged toward the city at 614 miles per hour. Forty-seven seconds later, a powerful implosion forced its plutonium core to compress from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, generating a nearly instantaneous chain reaction of nuclear fission. With colossal force and energy, the bomb detonated a third of a mile of above the Urakami Valley and its thirty thousand residents and workers, a mile and a half north of the intended target.

At 11.02am, a superbrilliant flash lit up the sky – visible from as far away as Omura Naval Hospital more than ten miles over the mountains – followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of twenty-one thousand tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed.”

It killed a third of the population instantly, and the survivors, or hibakusha, would be affected by the life-altering medical conditions caused by the radiation for the rest of their lives. They were also marked with the stigma of their exposure to radiation, and fears of the consequences for their children.

Susan Southard spent ten years interviewing and researching the lives of the hibakusha, raw, emotive eye-witness accounts, which reconstruct the days, months and years after the bombing, the isolation of their hospitalisation and recovery, the difficulty of re-entering daily life and the enduring impact of life as the only people in history who have lived through a nuclear attack and its aftermath. Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War captures the full range of pain, fear, bravery and compassion unleashed by the destruction of a city.

“A year after the bombing, tens of thousands of survivors remained severely injured and ill from radiation exposure. Others, like Wada, had significantly recovered. Following his grandmother’s bidding, he had continued to drink her persimmon tea each day. Eventually his gums had stopped bleeding and he no longer observed blood in his urine. Still, overall weakness caused him to miss work sometimes – and his hair would not grow back. “I was nineteen years old, and I was embarrassed,” he said. At times he thought it might be better to die than to live through any more hardships.”

Published for the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, this is the first study to be based on eye-witness accounts of Nagasaki in the style of John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

Nagasaki cover

Praise for Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

“Politicians debating the nuclear deal with Iran would do well to spend some time with Southard’s ‘Nagasaki’. It does not tell us what to do. It only reminds us of the stakes.”
Washington Post

“Susan Southard’s remarkable book… This is indeed a topical but enduringly relevant testament and one that should be read as widely as possible.”
Jeremy Corbyn

“Our time to understand the survivors’ experience of nuclear war is running out. Only they can tell us what it was like and their lives are coming to an end.”
New York Times

“Does for Nagasaki what John Hersey did for Hiroshima… Takes us beneath the mushroom cloud with harrowing, damning, eloquent intimacy.”
John W. Dower, Pulitzer-winning author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII

“It is the personal accounts that speak loudest.”
The Economist

“Moving as an intimate chronicle of individual lives: like a good documentary film-maker, Southard allows her subjects, with all their attractive and quirky qualities, to speak for themselves.”
Financial Times

“Provides the material and personal stories of one of the darkest days in human history… One of the definitive histories of the end of World War II. Essential.”
Library Journal

Quotes taken from Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War by Susan Southard, now available in hardback (ISBN: 9780285643277) and eBook (ISBN: 9780285643284), £20.

POGROM: The Editor’s Speech

To mark the publication of POGROM – NOVEMBER 1938: TESTIMONIES FROM ‘KRISTALLNACHT’, an event was held at The Wiener Library on Wednesday 11th November.

POGROM is a major contribution to Holocaust Studies, and is published in association with, and drawn from the archives of, The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide, founded by Alfred Wiener in 1933.

POGROM is the first English-language translation of these powerful individual testimonies, which reveal the experiences of ordinary Jewish people during, and after ‘Kristallnacht’. Some are angry, some beg for help, others are defiant; their voices vividly bring to life the destruction that followed.

Pogrom cover

Its 784 pages feature contextual historical information, images and a bespoke glossary, that will also be available online. The purpose is to remove the language barrier and enable historians, researchers, students, teachers and others internationally to understand and use information in English about this crucial milestone on the road to the Holocaust. 

Here is the speech given by Dr Ruth Levitt, Research fellow at The Wiener Library, and editor of POGROM, at the event:

“On the night of 9-10 November 1938, 77 years ago, in hundreds of towns and villages in Germany and Austria, thousands of Jews were simultaneously terrorised, persecuted and victimised.

This was neither a spontaneous event nor was it without roots in earlier anti-Semitic persecution and mistreatment. Since at least 1933, the Nazi regime had been imposing increasing restrictions and disenfranchisement upon Jews in Germany and Austria.

For example, in September 1935 the first Nuremberg Laws were adopted by the Nazi Party. The official title was the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour:

  • Jews were deprived of citizenship
  • Jews were barred from flying the German flag;
  • Jewish families employing a Christian household servant under the age of 45 could be convicted of racial contamination;
  • any couple circumventing the law by marrying abroad could be convicted of racial contamination;
  • mixed marriages and all sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews, which were said to contaminate the race, were forbidden;
  • related regulations defined a Jew as someone with three or four Jewish grandparents
  • regulations removed Jews from all spheres of German political, social, and economic life.

In March 1938 Nazi troops marched into Austria and it was annexed to the German Reich – this was the Anschluß.

Later in March 1938 the legal status of Jewish community organisations in the Reich was abolished.

In April 1938 Jews were obliged to make a detailed declaration of their property over the amount of 5,000 marks. This measure preceded the seizure and expropriation of their property.

In June 1938 there was a wave of arrests of men categorised by the Nazi regime as so-called Asoziale [asocial] and Arbeitsscheue [work shy], mostly unemployed or with a criminal record; about 20% of these men were Jews.

On 17 August 1938 German Jews were required to add to their passports the first name “Israel” for men and “Sara” for women.

On 12 September 1938 Hitler demanded the restitution of the Sudeten German territories in Czechoslovakia.

On 30 September 1938 Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini and Daladier signed the Agreement in Munich that ceded the Sudetenland to Germany in return for Hitler pledging peace.

On 3 October 1938 an order confiscated all Jewish property and regulated the transfer of Jewish assets to non-Jewish Germans.

On 5 October 1938 a Polish decree announced that all passports issued to Jews living abroad were null and void.

On 27 October 1938 Germany expelled Jewish Polish nationals to the Polish border but Poland refused to accept them; 17,000 people were stranded in a no-man’s land near Zbąszyń, Poland, including the Grynszpan family.

On 7 November 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, studying in Paris, went to the German Embassy in Paris and shot Ernst vom Rath, third secretary. Vom Rath died in hospital in Paris on 9 November 1938.

On the night of 9-10 November 1938 a centrally orchestrated attack was unleashed upon the Jews in Germany and Austria:

  • over 1,200 synagogues were desecrated, looted and burned
  • thousands of Jewish shops, businesses and homes were damaged and looted
  • countless individuals were attacked, abused and beaten
  • well over 90 people were killed
  • over 25,000 men were arrested, deported and detained in the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen for months, where they were brutally tortured and mistreated; many more died there.
  • a tax of RM 1.2 bn, the so-called Judenkontribution, was imposed on the Jews in 1938-9 for the cost of the Novemberpogrom damage.

The 356 testimonies published here in English for the first time provide a uniquely frank source of information about these events, unmediated by later interpretations, history-writing and the effects of memory. The testimonies were mostly collected in November and December 1938 and then for some the weeks and months afterwards.

Some are raw and personal, conveying unconcealed distress, despair or anxiety, expressing great misery, fear or desperation. Some beg for help. Others are angry or defiant or scornful towards the perpetrators.

Those that are written in a matter-of-fact, impersonal way, with little or no overt emotion or commentary, are equally chilling; some are minutely detailed, especially revealing about concentration camp experiences; several are bravely stoical; a few manage an ironic tone of gallows humour; one or two present hair-raising escapes or describe attempts to hide as exciting adventures.

I urge you to look closely at the testimonies and all the additional material in the book and on the website, and see for yourselves why these voices must be heard and understood now and in the future.

Finally, may I add my thanks to all those who made this project possible, and say again how generous and valuable their work has been.”

POGROM – NOVEMBER 1938: TESTIMONIES FROM ‘KRISTALLNACHT’ is now available in hardback (ISBN: 9780285643079) and online at http://wienerlibrarycollections.co.uk/novemberpogrom/home.

Broadcast from Biscuit Land

It’s certainly a busy time for Jess Thom, author of the best-selling Welcome to Biscuitland, at the moment!

Just last week, Jess appeared on the Russell Howard Show to discuss all things Tourette’s Syndrome and her popular show, ‘Backstage in Biscuit Land’.

And this Sunday (15th November), Jess will make her television debut, starring in ‘Broadcast from Biscuit Land’, a special version of ‘Backstage in Biscuit Land’.

It’s being filmed as part of a two-hour live broadcast, named ‘Live from Television Centre’, in association with Battersea Arts Centre and Arts Council England.

You can also read an interview with Jess about the broadcast on Disability Arts Online here.

In 2010, Jess set up Touretteshero, an organisation that celebrates the humour and creativity of Tourette’s without mocking or self-pity – it’s about reclaiming the most frequently misunderstood syndrome on the planet and changing the world one tic at a time.

Welcome to Biscuit Land follows a year in Jess’s life with all the ups and downs that go with having Tourette’s Syndrome. Educational and hugely entertaining, these excerpts from Jess’s personal blog show the whole spectrum of her experiences.

Moving, funny, shocking, tender, and inspiring, Jess’s words are courageous and optimistic in the face of the major challenges she faces.

“A role model for people across the country struggling to come to terms with the condition… Welcome to Biscuit Land has become an invaluable resource for families coping with Tourette’s.”
‘Evening Standard’

Welcome to Biscuit Land

Don’t forget to tune into BBC4 at 9pm on Sunday!

Jess is also now taking ‘Backstage in Biscuit Land’ across the pond in 2016! Learn more here.

Welcome to Biscuit Land by Jess Thom (ISBN: 9780285641273, £12, available in eBook and paperback)

Pogrom: An Editor’s Note

Does the 1938 Pogrom still matter?

“Most of us have heard of the November Pogrom of 1938, although I suspect that nearly all of us have a rather vague and unfocussed understanding of what it really was, why it actually happened and what its wider significance was. Even its name confuses rather than clarifies. We know it variously as Crystal Night, Night of Broken Glass, Kristallnacht and November Pogrom.

There is little consensus among scholars about what the point of it was. Was it the start of the Holocaust? Well, no, because no decision about the ‘Final Solution’ was taken this early. But did it mark a radicalisation of anti-Jewish policy with a much greater focus on violence? Not really, because much of the aftermath was about economic persecution, ‘Aryanisation’, ie property theft, and exclusion. So was it a policy wrong turn, one of many along a ‘twisted road to Auschwitz’? Or was it part of a turf war between agencies and political leaders? It is stubbornly and maddeningly unclear. Among the reasons for this is that little new archival research has been done on the Pogrom for many years. The basic facts and figures have never been revised: 7,500 shops and business destroyed and looted, 267 synagogues burned down, 30,000 Jewish men arrested and put into concentration camps. There is a likelihood that if someone combed through city and local archives around Germany and Austria, much would come to light. But scholars aren’t doing the work. Even a major scholar like Peter Longerich in his recent giant-sized biography of Goebbels (who was the driving force behind the Pogrom), made no effort to shed new light on things.

The outbreak of anti-Jewish violence organised by the Nazis across Germany in November 1938 remains poorly understood in terms of its significance for later developments. Was it the beginning of the Holocaust? Or did it have nothing to so with it? Was it the end of ‘wild’ assaults on Jews and the beginning of a ‘solution’ rooted in bureaucracy? Scholars have widely divergent views.

Are we even confident of the basic facts and figures? Or might a systematic investigation of city and regional archives change our understanding?

At the time, only one man thought to collect first-hand statements by those who were assaulted – Dr Alfred Wiener, the founder of The Wiener Library. The 350 testimonies he gathered have until now been inaccessible to all but German-speakers. Now they have been translated in to English and published – giving unprecedented access to these remarkable voices. Among the revelations is how frequently it was not the machinery of Nazism that attacked the victims but rather their immediate neighbours.

The publication of these unique witness and survivor statements marks a significant step towards gaining a fuller understanding of these complex, shocking and dreadful events.”

#Pogrom1938

Pogrom cover

Pogrom – November 1938: Testimonies from ‘Kristallnacht’, published in association with The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide is available in hardback (ISBN: 978-0285643079), £30.

Tired But Wired?

It’s 11pm. You’ve just switched the lights off, and you’re primed for sleep.

“What did David say to me earlier?”
“I had so many emails to deal with today”
“I can’t believe Rachel got married a year ago”
“That sales report is due in at noon on Friday”
“I wonder what’s on the lunch menu tomorrow?”
“What bar are we heading to for Jake’s birthday drinks?”

*Looks at the clock again* It’s 3.30am.

We’ve all been there – with so much going on in our 21st century lives, it’s a wonder how any of us get a decent night’s sleep.

That’s where Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and author of TIRED BUT WIRED, can help.

Featured in this week’s Stylist Magazine, Dr Nerina listed five key tips for getting a great night’s sleep.

  1. Breakfast IS important.

“Make sure you eat within the first half an hour of getting up.” If you don’t eat breakfast, your body will go into “crisis mode”, where the stress hormone cortisol is produced. Eating breakfast helps to produce melatonin, which will help you to sleep the next evening.

  1. Think positive.

“The most powerful words you can use to make you sleep well are ‘thank you’.” Being negative, angry or stressed before you go to sleep will affect your sleep cycle.

  1. Take a break.

“Take a break, if you can, every hour and a half.” – it can be something as simple as taking “three deep breaths”.

  1. Say goodbye to health-tracking apps.

They’re sold to us as guarantors of a healthy lifestyle, but are they actually accurate? Looking at your sleep report and finding that you’ve woken 26 times in the night will make you more anxious that you’re not getting the seven to eight hours we’re told we need. According to Dr Ramlakhan, it’s a “myth that we all need seven to eight hours of sleep… And we all wake 10-15 times per night. So if you find yourself waking up in the early hours, it’s completely normal.”

“Tell yourself it doesn’t matter if you don’t fall asleep because you will use the time to rest and relax. And never check the clock. It will only make you more awake.”

  1. Eat and think differently.

What you eat and think about in the hours before you go to bed can have a huge impact on that night’s sleep. “Foods like tuna, celery and lettuce are good for sleep because they contain tryptophan which activates the part of the brain which produces melatonin.”

And early(ish) nights are good for you – in the 90 minutes before midnight “there’s an optimum amount of melatonin in your system which will help you sleep well.”

TIRED BUT WIRED describes the science behind sleep and how to find your natural sleep rhythms. It follows the methods of Dr Ramlakhan’s Sleep Toolkit, developed from her huge experience in the field, which has already helped thousands of people find a new balance.

Tired but Wired cover

Some 5 star Amazon reviews for TIRED BUT WIRED:

“This is without doubt the best book I’ve read on sleep. If you’re seriously struggling with continued sleep problems you will find comfort in this book, you’re not alone, and more importantly will find lots of solutions to getting back on track. Tired But Wired is thoroughly researched, written by an expert and incredibly insightful on both cause, effect and solution. If you’re serious about sorting a sleep problem this is a very good place to start.”

“This book tackles sleep problems that so many people suffer silently with. It takes a very positive approach and encourages small steps towards better sleep. Its not overly technical, but clearly founded in medical fact and allows the reader to self-assess their sleep problems and select from a variety of practical approaches. The use of case studies really helps to demonstrate how long-standing sleep problems can be overcome. Highly recommended.”

“The author has a lovely writing style. She is upbeat, inspiring and clearly knows her stuff. And I for one am immensely grateful she shared her wisdom with us. A pivotal read if you’re suffering from insomnia. Thank you!”

“I would really recommend this book to anyone having sleep problems. It’s very easy to understand and written in a very positive tone, giving hope to anyone experiencing sleep problems. Its packed full of really helpful ideas, many of which are backed up by scientific research (the author is a physician). Many ideas seem obvious but when put together and implemented consistently, they can really help. Its a great start to helping overcome insomnia”

“I would recommend this book to anyone who has sleep problems.”

“I’ve had sleep problems for about the last 4 or 5 years, but not anymore since I’ve read this book. It took me about a week to read, understanding the various “rules” that the writer establishes to help you learn how to prepare yourself for good sleep. Because getting good sleep is only 10% about what you do when you’re in bed, the other 90% of stuff is in your day to day life. And it makes perfect sense when you hear what she has to say, but they’re things that I would never have considered if I hadn’t read about them. Now that I have the ability to sleep well, I feel much more in control of my life.”

“If you’re suffering from insomnia and are desperate to get a good night’s sleep then don’t waste another second. Buy this book right now.”

TIRED BUT WIRED by Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is available in paperback (ISBN: 9780285638778) and eBook (ISBN: 9780285639300), £12.99.