Joel Achenbach


Joel Achenbach (born December 31, 1960) is an American staff writer for The Washington Post and the author of seven books, including A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea, The Grand Idea, Captured by Aliens, It Looks Like a President only Smaller, and three compilations of his former syndicated newspaper column "Why Things Are". He is a contributor to many publications, including Slate and National Geographic, where he is a former monthly columnist. Mr. Achenbach has been a commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, and does occasional lectures and other speaking engagements. In addition to his work in the print version of The Washington Post, Achenbach was one of the first Post writers to have a significant presence on the Internet and formerly wrote the popular Post blog, "The Achenblog," which ended in March 2017.


  • Einstein cuts an appealing figure as a humanist and pacificist, but biographers describe him as rakish, sexist, and cold to many of his closest relations, including his wives and children. Fame did not protect him from criticism, and as he weighed in on social and political issues, he often incited controversy and tension among his friends and fellow scientists. In 1921 he was still getting his footing as a celebrity scientist, and after he returned to Europe, he wrote an article criticizing Americans for being money-obsessed, among other failings. That did not go well back in the United States. He also gave an instantly notorious interview with a newspaper reporter in which he described American men as “toy dogs” of their women, whom he derided as superficial spendthrifts. That drew a rebuke in The New York Times, which suggested that Einstein stick to physics.
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