Posts Tagged ‘e=mc2’

What is the Theory of Relativity?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

When Einstein penned his Theory of Relativity in 1905 he probably did not realize the impact this would have on physics.  In particular, the notion challenged Newton’s theory of Mechanics which reined for 200 years prior.  Specifically the theory contended that all motion is relative.

The theory stems from two postulates:

  • The laws of physics are the same for all observers in uniform motion relative to one another (principle of relativity).
  • The speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, regardless of their relative motion or of the motion of the source of the light.

Using these two simple postulates Albert Einstein was capable of showing some very amazing facts including that mass and energy as equivalent.  This paved the way to the famous equation E = mc2.  E is energy, m is mass and c is the speed of light.  Hence the amount of energy stored in a given unit of mass is incredibly high!  Note that the speed of light is squared which is multiplied by itself.  This famous equation resulted in the development of the atomic bomb as well as the basis for deriving energy from nuclear fuel.


One interesting point to make about the theory of relativity is that all motion is relative.  Einstein used a number of interesting thought experiments to show that travelling clocks run slower for an external observer.  For instance, he theorized that a clock in possession by a person traveling at close to the speed of light would appear to slow down to an external observer.  For the person traveling it would appear normal.  This lead the way to theorize that the person traveling would in fact appear to be traveling in time.  A person (let’s say) on a rocket traveling close to the speed of light may appear to have traveled for about 10 minutes, however a person back on earth may see the event as having taken place after many thousand of years!

Another interesting fact is that as a body travels close to the speed of light its mass gets larger.  In theory you couldn’t travel at the speed of light because based on the mathematical model your mass would go to infinity.  As you would approach this infinity it would take more and more energy to bring you closer to the speed of light and hence this energy would also approach infinity.

Scientific Evidence

The theory of relativity has been shown in many experiments. Traveling clocks have been show to slow down.  In effect airline pilots do in fact experience time travel.  Although their speed is not at all close to the speed of light – however their faster than normal speeds coupled with the many hours of flight do result in a slowing of their “clock”.  Although this has been shown in experiment, the amount of time travel is limited to perhaps a few seconds a year.

Other experiments using particle accelerators show that as a particle is accelerated towards the speed of light their mass increases.




Can Anyone Become an Albert Einstein?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

In today’s rapidly evolving world and the influx of information hitting us from every direction, is it possible for another Albert Einstein?  That is, can we expect to see someone as influential as Einstein in changing not only the knowledge and understanding in physics, but in any other field?

To answer this question one has to put yourself in Einsteins shoes. Intellectual knowledge of basic sciences were very well understood.  For instance, Calculus discovered hundred of years earlier by Isaac Newton had already been put into practice.  Chemistry was also very well understood although the fundamental knowledge of the atom were still relatively unknown.

The “time” for an Albert Einstein were perfect.  All sciences were coming together to form just the right proportions to allow a brilliant scientist to formulate the theories that were created.  One question that pops up is whether the theories would have otherwise been discovered if Albert Einstein were not around?  The answer is “yes” perhaps not so elegant as Einstein did but they were poised to emerge – perhaps not for several years or decades later.


Incredibly, the E-MC2 formula was already there.  For instance, given a little bit of ingenuity one could derive the equation from Maxwell’s Equations.  In addition, an Italian Olinto De Pretto published a paper in June 16, 1903 which suggested the relationship of matter with energy.  Even Isaac Newton suggested that ”Gross bodies and light are convertible into one another…”.  What Einstein did was make the solution elegant enough for everyone to stop and take note.

The Atomic Bomb

Although Einstein did not create the atomic bomb his theory suggested that a small amount of matter could effectively give off an incredible amount of energy.  His theory could have been made more popular by the military forces that were in pursuit of a invincible advantage over the enemy.

Today’s World – Collective Efforts

In today’s world we see truly collective efforts in science.  Science has evolved from the macro discovery to the minuscule and molecular and subatomic one.  No theory discovered today will make its way to the headlines of the New York Times.  Either because the theory is too irrelevant  to ordinary citizens or because the the practical application is not something that is visibly acknowledge.

Does anyone care whether the universe exists in 9, 10 or eleven dimensions?  What does that mean?  Although incredibly elegant as such theories are, we are all prisoners of the main stream media – who today (more than ever in history) choose (sometimes by personal agenda) the direction the news will go.  If we’re lucky any such discovery may make it to page 20 – just behind the “funnies Page”.