London, South Kensington
6 December 2002
EINSTEIN, Albert. Autograph letter signed ('Papa') to his son Eduard, on board the Portland, Honduras, 23 December 1931, in German, illustrated with a drawing demonstrating the corrosive action of an air bubble on a metal surface, 2½ pages, 4to. Provenance: Einstein family, and by descent.
EINSTEIN SENDS CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM THE TROPICS, on a voyage that will take him from Antwerp via the Panama canal to Los Angeles. He will be returning home in March. He has been reading a cultural history by a certain Fridell, which he recommends: 'The fellow is very wise and sensitive. He is an actor by profession'. Einstein notes news that a new treatment for malaria has been developed. He has had a funny thought whilst underway: the engineer was explaining to him that water with air-bubbles in it eats away at any metal surface it flows over. This can be explained by the capillary action of the bubble on the metal (a point Einstein illustrates with a drawing). The capillary membrane exerts a very strong pull on a very small area which is determined by the circumference of the contact circle and the thickness of the capillary film; this force loosens little crystals from the metal. During the voyage, he has demonstrated a curious theorem, 'which an Italian discovered a couple of hundred years ago: one can execute all constructions of two-dimensional symmetry with the circle alone (without a straight-edge)': he will show Eduard on his return.
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