IT was out of character when the aloof, distant, emotionally unavailable Albert Einstein gifted his wife some artwork. She knew better than to get excited – it was simply a detailed drawing of his foot so she could tailor him the perfect sock. Ever the logician, this selfish gesture made perfect sense to Albert. He had feet and a wife who could sew. Socks or mc2, both are simply conclusions to cold calculations.

Perhaps Einstein had simply outgrown his brain’s empathetic static, that hunger for emotional reciprocation gifted to us by evolution to maintain social order. Despite his saintly posthumous persona, there is clear evidence that paints the young Einstein as a chap whose much-vaunted “humanity” was actually a wildly prejudiced, dispassionate study in societal anthropology.

Certainly, a dark disdain for his fellow man has been revealed in private diaries which finally went on public view this week.

Penned in the 20s, these jottings mainly detail the physicist’s tour of Asia and his highly questionable attitudes towards folk he observed on his travels. In particular, the Chinese. A great bunch of lads, according to Father Ted. Einstein disagreed. Like Ted, he preferred to group individuals as a collective and branded the entire Chinese population – 400 million at the time – “peculiar, herd-like … often more like automatons than people”. And, typical of Einstein, he was thinking of the future when he signed off with the zinger: “It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races.” The Bernard Manning of physics had spoken.

A spectacular level of conceit is also evident in a lame yet rather lyrical piece of “othering” which conveyed Einstein’s distaste for Chinese women. Unlike his foot sketch this critique was, assumedly, an attempt at humour – yet its laboured structure suggests a sentence squeezed out by the bowels of the mind as some sort of dirty protest against decency. Einstein wrote: “... how little difference there is between (the) men and women. I don’t understand what kind of fatal attraction Chinese women possess which enthrals the corresponding men to such an extent that they are incapable of defending themselves against the formidable blessing of offspring.” A simple “don’t fancy yours much” would have done, Albert. He certainly wouldn’t have been a fan of

The irony of having expressed such abhorrent views on racial superiority was likely not lost on Einstein when he was forced to flee Germany 10 years later. Dehumanising Nazi propaganda, echoing his own musings on Chinese inferiority, had stoked anti-semitic fervour to fever pitch in his homeland. Einstein was forced to face himself in the mirror and see the real-world consequences of casual stereotypes and generalisations when used as weapons by politicians.

And as his star rose and influence grew in America, a newfound devotion towards civil rights and race relations made it clear that this great teacher of the universe’s secrets had learned a powerful lesson of his own in humility.


IT’S especially ironic that the most forward-thinking of modern physicists chose China as his target for blinkered offloading of the id. Shame on the young Einstein if he was already aware that no civilisation on Earth has enjoyed a longer continuous tradition of astronomy and science than the Chinese.

Around 1500BC, China’s stargazers inprinted detailed depictions of complex cosmic events on to shells and bones – with one of these fascinating relics being the earliest known record of a solar eclipse.

The Chinese are far from done with their 4,000-year quest to unlock the secrets of the universe. In fact, they’re just getting started – having recently spent billions to build the Jehovah’s dinner plate of satellites – Earth’s largest-ever communication structure. It was created with the single objective of discovering signals from alien civilisations.

A government splurging so much of its new-found wealth on alien hunting may seem a frivolous waste of cash, especially one with appalling levels of socio-economic hardship, but a newly-revived China views such expenditure as an investment in the future.

Above all their myriad Earthly geopolitical ambitions, what China truly desires is “first contact”. Keen to solidify their superpower status in the eyes of the world, they’re too late to put the first man in space (Russia) or on the moon (Kubrick. Kidding, USA) so they have turned their focus on something even more seismic and culturally significant.

Of course, the Chinese also want extra-terrestrials to view them as Earth’s dominant nation – but whether aliens will recognise lines on maps as a viable way to draw distinctions between this lukewarm rock’s self-destructive, territorial hate machines is another matter.

Chinese ambitions don’t end at discovering extraterrestrial civilisations either – there are advanced plans for building an observatory on the dark side of the moon within the next few decades. They also quite fancy trumping the Americans by colonising Mars first too. Make no mistake, putting that first human foot on the red planet is presently the superpowers’ most highly contested prize, one desired beyond all other Earthly concerns.

Admirably, China has also raised a salutary two fingers towards the strain of xenophobic isolationism favoured by young Einstein, with plans to link up their alien-hunting satellite with countless other SETI projects across the planet. A vision of one big united skin condition itching Earth’s crust together to explore the great unknown – it’s a beautiful thing.

In fact, it’s the kind of progressive “strength in numbers” societal partnership that might one day save us all from being skinned alive by interstellar big game hunters from Zeta Reticuli that China inadvertently alert to our presence.


THE more hysterical media reports covering Einstein’s racist indiscretions were predictably light on the physicist’s attempts to confront the issue of civil rights in his adopted home of America – a lifelong crusade perhaps born of a desire to make amends for his rather prejudiced views as a younger man.

Yet, it’s not so easy to brush off Einstein’s mindset as simply a naive reflection of the prevailing attitudes of the era. Racism isn’t quite so clear-cut – one day, the dissonant turbulence left in the wake of a Trump presidency, Brexit and rise of the far-right across the globe will likely rank high among humanity’s most dangerously xenophobic eras – depressingly arriving just half a century after the Jewish holocaust.

Although humanity toils under the illusion of forward progress, human cultural norms and societal attitudes – as Einstein discovered with light – don’t always travel in a straight line.

Our perceptions of reality swim in a continual state of flux, adapting by expanding and contracting to fit the sociological, cultural and economical climate of the era. Evolution has evidently built our brains to be vulnerable to societal herdthink, and we only have to open our eyes to see our willingness to fall in line with hive mentality.

Prejudice certainly sharpens the hazy chaos of internal dialogue to a sharp point, giving the meaninglessness meaning and reinforcing the heady delusion of racial superiority. Reciprocated antipathy releases a highly addictive brain chemical cocktail of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins.

Territorialism is seriously addictive – quite likely a hardwired evolutionary hangover. Yet ironically, many individuals only feel that they truly exist when becoming anonymous in the echo chamber – with the hive validating their infected mindset.

Einstein’s own addiction to the rush of personal prejudice was clearly still evident during the twilight of his career, having mutated from blinkered racism to a stubborn refusal to accept new scientific ideas – most famously his denial of the reality of quantum physics.

It led to wasted decades of dead-end research, with Einstein himself acknowledging the relative uneventfulness of his post-fame career.

A fruitless search to find a unifying theory to marry the world of the very small with Newtonian physics once again showed that even genius is not invulner-able to that opiate of the human condition – the rose-tinted comfort of our own long-calcified mindsets.

As Einstein himself said: “Brief is this existence, a fleeting visit in a strange house. The path to be pursued is poorly lit by a flickering consciousness.”