The Einstein Theory of Relativity
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The Einstein Theory of Relativity - Book and DVD
by Garrett P. Serviss
Movie animation by Max Fleischer, with book by Garrett P Serviss, special bonus Fleischer movie, "Evolution" including special effects by original King Kong creator Willis O'Brien.
For most of the last hundred years Einstein’s Theory of Relativity has symbolized the pinnacle of human conception. Thanks mostly to a journalist who couldn’t be bothered to investigate his story; most people were led to believe that the famous theory was only comprehensible to a handful of brilliant physicists. Nothing could be further from the truth, but back when this book was written this intimidating baggage had already been placed aboard Einstein’s wagon. The author, Garrett Putnam Serviss, was a popularizer of science and astronomy for the Hearst newspaper group. He wrote many excellent books and magazine articles and so, as you will see in Fadman’s introduction, he was the obvious choice to put together this companion piece for the proposed movie of the same name.
The movie was long believed to have passed on to that place where old nitrate movies go to die. A victim of a primitive evanescent technology. But I’m delighted to announce that it does still exist, and it holds a special place in the history of cinema. It first screened on February 11th 1923 and there are those who would contest Disney’s crown by making this a challenger for the title of “first animation ever made.” The only thing keeping Disney’s Steamboat Willie on the throne is the fact that this movie includes live action as well as animation. Another amazing first for this movie is that it has a "rocket-driven" space launch depicted, this is six years before Frau Im Mond. Even though the spaceship looks like a cannon it is not a shell that is fired but the whole darned cannon seems to take off with an exhaust behind it. This is three years before Goddard's first successful liquid launch and about eight years before the Germans launched one. The "astronaut" is also depicted putting on breathing apparatus. The only thing which seems to effectively precede this is HG Wells First Men in the Moon which came out as a movie in 1919 but they didn't use any kind of rocket or spacesuits, even on the moon.
Its companion piece, Evolution, also includes truly incredible animation of the formation of the solar system decades before the famous Film Board of Canada short Universe, attracted the eye of Stanley Kubrick for his upcoming space epic 2001 A Space Odyssey. The stop-motion dinosaurs were contrived by Willis O’Brien who went on to do King Kong ten years later. The astronaut in Relativity is a sight to behold.
The studio that produced these most esoteric movies was none other than Max Fleischer’s Out-of-the-Inkwell; famous for Betty Boop and Popeye. This combination of book and movie have not seen the light of day in over 80 years. Even though there are facets of both which could now stand some factual revision, they represent a brilliant opportunity to look back on a time when artists and scientists were not afraid to popularize the most profound subjects for the general public using little more than imagination and hard work. And don’t forget this was three decades before Disney’s man in space movies! I’m most proud to be able to offer these important scientific artifacts, which bring together Serviss, Einstein and Fleischer, as part of Apogee’s ongoing attempt to save and disseminate valuable space information from the past. So next time someone asks you about Relativity, reply,“Let me tell you about Einstein and Betty Boop...” Enjoy.
Robert Godwin (Editor - Apogee Space Books)