His genius reshaped the laws of nature. His theories changed scientists? perception of the Universe. His ideas led to the most destructive and lethal weapon known to man. Albert Einstein hypothesized some of the most complex theories of all time, The Special Theory of Relativity and The General Theory of Relativity.
He was a pudgy first child of a bougesois Jewish couple from Southern Germany. His father was an unsuccessful Engineer and his mother was a talented musician. His mother often encouraged his interests in Bach and Mozart. In his early years he received a toy compass, a gift from his father, that provoked his first “thought experiment.” He was curious as to why the needle always pointed North (Golden 21).When he was fifteen he quit prep school, renounced his German citizenship, and entered the Swiss equivalent of MIT. There he fell in love and married a classmate.
The marriage lasted a short three years (Golden 21).While coping with his loss, he moved in with a divorced cousin by the name of Elsa. She cooked and cleaned for him while he was discovering his, soon to be, theory of General Relativity. Elsa and Albert were wed a short time after (Golden 21).At the peak of World War I he risked his wife?s life, and his own, and signed an anti-war petition.
When the Nazis came to power prior to World War II, he was forced to leave Germany. He moved to Princeton, where they built a physics program around him. A Hungarian scientist warned him of the Germans? attempt to make an atomic bomb.
Einstein then wrote a letter to Franklin Roosevelt and warned him of the Nazi threat. Shortly thereafter, The Manhattan Project (the program which was responsible for the designing, building and testing of the atomic bomb) was organized, in which Einstein had no part in (Hawking 66).Albert urged for a ban on nuclear weapons after he learned of the explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He tried to convince Americans that McCarthyism (false threat of communism reaching North America) was a hoax, and called for an end to racism (Golden 22).Shortly after graduation Einstein began to ponder about the universe.
While living in Germany, he composed his first of two relativity theories; The Special Theory of Relativity (Golden 23). “The Special Theory of Relativity deals with phenomena that becomes noticeable near the speed of light, and reference frames that are moving at a constant velocity” (Gundersen 386). Einstein suggested that speed, length, and time are not constant, they are relative to one?s perspective (Sagan 544).
To clarify this Einstein would consider this thought experiment: A train is moving at a constant velocity. There is an observer, A, standing in the embankment. He has two colleagues, B and C, standing equal distances from either side of him. Both, B and C, have a flashlight, and turn them on. Observer A sees them at the same times and determines that they occurred at the same time, because light travels at a constant velocity and observers B and C are equal distances from him.
Another observer, X, is standing on the middle of the train and happens to be precisely at point A when observer A sees both flashes. Of course, observer X will see them at the same time too, but he wishes to calculate whether or not they were turned on simultaneously. He can do this with the aid of another observer, Y, who happens to be at point B when the light is turned on there. Observer Y sees the light, and marks on his ruler point Y. At this point neither observer X nor A has seen the lights turn on. The train continues moving and one moment later MovementY TrainXTrain MovementB EmbankmentAEmbankmentCobserver X arrives at point A, and they both see the light flashes (Bohm 56-58).
MovementY TrainXTrain Movement B EmbankmentAEmbankmentCEinstein concluded that, clearly, there is a discrepancy of distances. The train observers measured a shorter distance between the light and the observers, than the observers on the embankment (Bohm 56-58). Einstein concluded that, “Simultaneity is not an absolute quality of events.
Rather the meaning of simultaneity must be understood as being relative to the observers” (Bohm 55). Once we admit that simultaneity is relative to the speed of the observer, it immediately follows that measurements of length and time have corresponding relativity (Bohm 58).If length and time are relative to the speed of the observer, a few interesting consequences arise. If a spaceship were to pass overhead at the normal rate of spaceship of our time, everything would appear to be normal.
If an identical spaceship were to pass while approaching the speed of light, its height and width would remain the same, but the length would have been reduced significantly. The astronauts would not notice a difference, even if they measured their length and width. It is not an optical illusion, merely just two different frames of reference. If it were possible to measure mass at that speed, we would find that the mass had been dramatically increased. Once again, if the astronauts were to get out the balance scale and measure everything inside, they would not notice a difference from the mass of these objects on the ground. The duration between ticks of a clock increase at this rate of speed, causing the astronauts to age slower.
If it were possible to achieve the speed of light, from our frame of reference the astronauts would not age. If it were possible to exceed the speed of light the astronauts would actually travel back in time. Even though the astronauts disagree with observers’ perceptions, both groups have correct calculations, due to Einstein?s Special Theory of Relativity (Chaisson 64-66).Although it is interesting to imagine traveling at or beyond the speed of light, Einstein points out that it is not possible.
Light speed is the speed limit of the universe. Einstein?s equation,S=mc2, or Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, proves it impossible. As a spaceship?s speed increases, so does its mass. As the mass increases, so does the energy needed to make it accelerate. The mass and energy may go up to astronomical numbers, but it would take an infinite amount of energy and mass to achieve light speed (Feynman 51).”General Relativity deals with reference frames that are accelerating and Phenomena that occur in strong gravitational fields” (Gundersen, 386).
Einstein hypothesized that a person in an “at rest” elevator cannot differentiate between that and the same elevator accelerating through space without any outside influence of gravity. Albert suggested that acceleration and gravity are mathematically identical. From this he derived his concept of space-time.
According to Einstein, mass bends or warps the space-time continuum (Laing,486). He considered another “thought experiment,” in which a pool table is composed of rubber. A weight is placed at the center of this rubber table, and as a result, a sinkhole or a dip is created in the surface of the table. It is now impossible for any of the balls to travel in a straight line. Their trajectories are warped by the bending of the surface.
This is precisely what Einstein envisioned happening to planets, the moon, and the rest of the cosmos. This is the reason that Earth orbits the sun and the moon revolves around the sun. “He (Einstein) maintained that gravity, as an invisible force that pulls apples and other things to the ground does not exist,” states Chaisson (99).Albert Einstein hypothesized some of the most complex theories of all time, Special and General Relativity. His Genius reshaped the way scientists think and the way we look at the universe. “I still can?t believe he thought of it.”?Marcel Grossman (Feynman 49)Bibliography:Bibliography1.
Bohm, David. The Special Theory of Relativity. Routledge: NY, 1965.2. Chaisson, Eric. Relatively Speaking.
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3. Feynman, Richard P. Six Not-So-Easy Pieces. Addison-Wesley: Reading,1997.4.
Golden, Frederick. “Person of the Century.” Time 31 Dec 1999: 21.
5. Gundersen, P. Erik. The Handy Physics Answer Book. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1999.
6. Hawking, Stephen. “A Breif History of Relativity.
” Time 31 Dec 1999: 66.7. Laing, David.
The Earth System. Fort Kent: Wm. C. Brown, 1991.
8. Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. Random House: NY, 1980.