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Sometimes in history, ironically, the greatest contributions to society come from the most inconceivable places. Undoubtedly, Albert Einstein contributed not only innovative thought to his time, but also aided in revolutionizing science especially in physics. His efforts, however, would not have been expected by historians if only his childhood was examined. Einstein was born March 14, 1879 to Herman and Pauline Einstein. Albert was the first child born to this young, Jewish couple. After a year, the couple moved to Munich where Einstein would spend the remainder of his childhood (Schulmann, par.
Like many children during this time, “Einstein’s childhood was a normal one, except that to his family’s irritation, he learnt to speak at a late age” (Schulmann, par. 1). His childhood was fortunate in that he was able to receive a high quality of education. By the age of five he was enrolled in a private school and by six he was receiving a full scale education at Petersschule, a Catholic school in Munich (Schulmann, par.
1). Einstein never shined in school and when attempting to apply to ETH, a school in Zurich, he was turned down because his exam results were “insufficient” (Schulmann, par. 2).
Therefore, Einstein followed the advice of his rector and “attended the “Kantonsschule” in the town of Aarau in order to improve his knowledge” (Schulmann, par. 2). The remainder of Einstein’s early life was marked by disappointment in that he was rejected from various schools and jobs. In between jobs, Einstein tutored in mathematics and physics and out of this grew “Akademie Olympia,” an organization devoted to “scientific and philosophical questions” (Schulmann, par.
3). This organization may have been the major origin for Einstein’s transformation from “average student” to genius (Schulmann, par.3).
It is important to understand that Einstein’s innovations and theory’s came at a time when science and technology was booming. Scientific revolutions were occurring with uncanny frequency in the disciplines of biology, invention, and chemistry due to the devotion of numerous, professional scientists. Charles Darwin, in 1859, wrote “Origin of Species” a philosophical breakthrough in biology in the theory of evolution. In 1879, the same year as Einstein’s birth, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
Finally, in 1908, Ernest Rutherford received a Nobel Prize for his earlier work on illustrating the atomic nucleus (Scientific Timeline). However, Einstein’s innovative theology and contributions to science in quantum mechanics, the relationship between mass and energy, and the principle of equivalence may have advanced science further than anyone. Albert Einstein “didn’t invent anything. He didn’t discover a new planet or star. He didn’t produce something faster, bigger, or better” (Wishinsky p. 1). He did however, “see the world in a new way.
He asked new questions about light, energy, space, time, mass, and gravity. He formulated new answers. He made scientists rethink their old theories and see new possibilities” (Wishinsky p. 1). Einstein conducted many studies. A few of them are quantum mechanics, the relationship between mass and energy, and the principle of equivalence. Quantum mechanics is defined in Albert Einstein: the Rebel behind Relativity, by Jake Goldberg, as “a theory of matter that describes the behavior of subatomic particles based on the idea that they have properties of both waves and particles.
” A man by the name of Planck researched this idea before Einstein. But, Einstein elaborated more on the idea that “energy is emitted and absorbed by objects in tiny chunks called quanta” (Goldberg p. 38). In Einstein’s first paper that he wrote, he agreed with Planck’s ideas (Goldberg p. 38). “Einstein said that light is actually made up of quanta whose energy content, or ‘size,’ depends on the frequency of the light. When the light on the metal was made more intense, the metal was bombarded by more quanta of the same size, none of which had the ‘push’ to knock out electrons any faster.
But when the frequency of the light was increased, ‘bigger’ quanta were created that could knock out electrons at higher speeds” (Goldberg p. 38). Even though, Einstein agreed with Planck, he did surpass him in the end because he “was suggesting not only that energy is emitted and absorbed in tiny bundles, but that the light waves themselves are made up of energy bundles” (Goldberg p. 39). Another study Einstein performed was the relationship between mass and energy. He discovered that the two are equivalent (Swisher p. 41).
However, in the past, “scientists had thought energy and mass were separate and had developed separate laws for each. With this new perspective, Einstein reasoned that if a body, a mass of something, gave off energy, then the size of the mass would diminish, according to the amount of energy given off” (Swisher p. 43). “He thought that this idea would hold true for all forms of energy: heat, light, or electricity. To make a formula, he used E to symbolize energy and again he used c, the constant of light. His formula E/c^2 calculates the amount of energy given off…
Einstein realized that the reverse is also true, that all mass is equivalent to energy. With this discovery, he was able to calculate the actual amount of conversion with the equation E=mc^2” (Swisher p. 43). A different study he did was discovering the principle of equivalence. He found out that “the force of gravity was equivalent to the force produced by acceleration. ” (Parker p. 19). According to Einstein, there are two way to measure mass. “One is the force by which gravity pulls on it – the familiar ‘weight’ here on Earth. The other is the force needed to make it accelerate” (Parker p. 19).
These two ways are known today as gravitational mass and inertial mass. “Einstein reasoned that the mass of a large object such as the Sun would attract the energy in something ‘weightless’ like light” (Parker p. 19). Albert Einstein has been one of the few scientists to totally change man’s view of the world (The New Book of Knowledge pg. 104). “His face stares out from posters, mugs, and magazine ads-a somber, time-worn face beneath a wild mane of silvery hair. He’s a cartoonist’s dream-the model for the brilliant but dreamy professor, wrapped in complex thoughts, oblivious to the everyday world.
“(Heinrichs pg. 4) “During the first half of this century Einstein set forth a number of theories about the physical world. These theories dealt with everything from the inside of an atom to the farthest regions of the universe. “(The New Book of Knowledge pg. 104) Einstein’s theories were created to prove that elements such as gravity, energy, matter, light, space, and time are all related to one another (The New Book of Knowledge pg. 104). “Einstein worked out his theories in the laboratory of his mind. He had to use the most advanced kinds of mathematics to describe his ideas.
These theories were so unusual and complicated the very few scientists could understand them at first. “(The New Book of Knowledge pg. 104) After years of tests, experiments, and observations on Albert Einstein’s theories, they were proven to be accurate (The New Book of Knowledge pg. 104). “The theories not only explained what was already known, but they allowed scientists to predict what would happen. “(The New Book of Knowledge pg. 104) One of the scientist’s efforts dealt with quantum mechanics. “It aggravated Einstein that he could not figure out why light sometimes behaves like a particle and sometimes like a wave.
Other scientists devised some answers to the particle-wave question and moved ahead to develop the field of quantum mechanics. One of the basic ideas was the uncertainty principle-the idea that one could never predict when an atom would release a quantum of light. Einstein could never accept this. ‘I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the Universe,’ was his now-famous comment (Heinrichs pg. 29). As the years pass, scientists have used quantum mechanics to invent many advanced inventions (Heinrichs pg. 29). “Einstein for instance had shown that light could be amplified.
Further research in quantum mechanics produced the laser, a name that stands for ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. ‘ Now lasers have thousands of practical uses in medicine and industry” (Heinrichs pg. 29). Another one of Albert Einstein’s most famous efforts is the popular equation of E=mc^2 (Heinrichs pg. 6). “This equation means that energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Basically, it explains that physical material can be transformed into energy. This principle led to the splitting of the atom, which ushered in the nuclear age. “(Heinrichs pg. 6).
This effort especially had a huge affect on the world. This discovery led to the makings of nuclear weapons, the atomic bomb, during World War II. On the other hand, Einstein’s most well-known effort, that has probably had the biggest affect on science and the world, is his theory of relativity (Heinrichs pg. 6). “It’s the notion that space and time are not firm, fixed, and unchanging, but relative-swelling and shrinking with one’s point of view. “(Heinrichs pg. 6) There have been two different theories of relativity. Both have had big influences on science (Parker pg. 26). “Special relativity was accepted in a few years.
It was in the mainstream of scientific events, and it answered questions that scientists were asking. And it had many uses in the main areas of research being carried out at that time, such as nuclear physics and quantum mechanics. “(Parker pg. 26). Also, “… it is an everyday tool for physicists working on the makeup of matter and the forces that bind it together. “(Parker pg. 26). Einstein continued research for laws of the universe until the end (Freeman, pg. 106). “It will be many years before all his ideas can be followed through. But like Copernicus and Isaac Newton, he forced men to re-examine their world.
Directly or indirectly, Einstein has already influenced many areas of the modern world-science, art, philosophy. “(Freeman, pg. 106) Albert Einstein has become a popular figure throughout the years, even though only few people understand his works (Heinrichs pg. 4). “His discoveries opened the door to the development of television, lasers, transistors, computer chips, nuclear power, and space exploration. “(Heinrichs pg. 4) Also, Albert Einstein encouraged many people to exercise their imagination. “Imagination,” he once said, “is more important than knowledge, knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
“(Heinrichs pg. 5) “Thanks to Einstein, science fiction took off in fantastic new directions. His theories paved the way for “what-if? ” scenarios about time travel, time warps, black holes, and voyages to distant galaxies. “(Heinrichs pg. 5) “Einstein was one of our greatest geniuses, period” according to Bran Ferren the cochairman and chief creative officer of Applied Minds in his statement in the September 2004 Discover, this declaration is extremely clairvoyant in its praise for Einstein; but, even geniuses make statements and errors that can send waves of controversy through the discipline.
Einstein was not immune to making errors or falsifying research as was most noted in his attempts to prove a paralyzed universe. According to Karen Hunt of Discover “In 1916 Einstein what he considered a glitch in his new theory of general relativity” (Wright 2004, 50). Instead of attempting to revise his newly presented theory he allowed pride to taint his new findings. To account for these new findings Einstein “So he invented a fudge factor, called lambda, that could function mathematically to hold the universe at a standstill” (Wright 2004, 50).
Einstein himself admitted that lambda was a fudge factor when he said in regards to the constant “was not justified by our actual knowledge of gravitation” (Wright 2004, 50). Albert Einstein is often attributed to quantum mechanics and few realize the science made more steps in his attempts to disprove it. “In the 1920s quantum mechanics became the rage, and it advanced by leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to Einstein’s persistent efforts to discredit it” (Wright 2004, 53) As the theory progressed one would assume Einstein would begin to support the theory he indirectly helped prove, but Einstein was never one to follow the normal.
He was quoted as saying “The more success quantum theory enjoys, the sillier it looks” (Wright 2004, 53). Einstein never gave his acceptance of the quantum theory but finally shifted focus to other things such as the unified theory. Although Einstein made many mistakes and even falsified data it was but to prove that he was human. Even in his errors he often made many discoveries and spurred on further research and investigation. In his opposition he would often be the primary contributor to the discovery as in the quantum theory.
Even when Einstein was wrong, in many ways he was still right and scientist today still envy his “ingenious” mistakes “Most scientist would give their eyeteeth to make even one of Einstein’s mistake” (Wright 2004, 50) according to theoretical physicist Fred Goldhaber. Who could possibly be such a mortal scientist yet possess the gift to be inspiring in his errors and revolutionary in his theories. Truly Albert Einstein was a remarkable scientist whose contributions to the scientific world continue to revolutionize the way we think.
Einstein, although not a renowned inventor, has influenced many modern day inventions including: smoke detectors, x-rays, GPS, roads, computer monitors, fiber optic cable, and many pharmaceuticals just to name a few (Bodanis 2004, 32). His theory of relativity stretched much farther then just the scientific realm according to Walter Isaacson when he wrote “Einstein’s theory of relativity not only reshaped physics, it also jangled the underpinnings of society” (Isaacon 2004, 14).
Albert Einstein contributed so much to the scientific realms but he has influenced our society with his image being associated with the term “genius” and his name being forever engraved into history. His examples of abstract thinking, unmovable resolve, learning from mistakes, and his desire for knowledge produce a near perfect formula for a revolutionary.
Bodanis, David. “Tinker, Thinker, Inventor of the Modern World. ” Discover Sept. 2004: 32-35. Goldberg, Jake. Albert Einstein. Danbury, Connecticut: Franklin Watts, 1996. Isaacson, Walter. “No Mere Genius. ” Discover Sept. 2004: 12-14.
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