You are on page 1of 4

ALBERT EINSTEIN

Hi kids! You've probably all heard of Albert Einstein before. You may know that he was a scientist. You may know that he discovered something called "relativity" and has something to do with the equation "e=mc2." You may know that he looked kind a funny, and spoke with a German accent. You may not know any of this, but you will learn all about this amazing man in this article. You will learn about his character, or personality, and about his science. You will get to have a better understanding of relativity and you will know the meaning behind "e=mc 2." To start off, think about science. When I say "science," what pops into your mind? Do you create pictures of crazy-looking men in white lab coats speaking in funny German accents? Do you get images of dark laboratories crammed with bubbling liquids, curved glassware, test tubes, beakers and strange machines that gather electricity? Do you think of rocket ships and robots? Do you think about traveling into the past or the future? I'll bet at least some of these images come to mind. Perhaps you've seen these things on television or in movies, or read about them in books. These things are certainly all part of the world of science, but they are simply the results of science. Science is really more of a quest. Scientists are people who are questing to understand the world around them. Scientists are not crazy people who want to create death-rays that will help them to take over the world. They are not necessarily "nerds" who speak with high nasally voices, and who awkwardly knock things over. Scientists are really smart people who wish to know why things in the universe work.

This isn't what all scientists look like In the 1600s, people used to think that the Earth was the center of the Universe. Two men named Copernicus and Galileo disproved this theory though. They took measurements of the stars and the other planets using telescopes, and discovered that the paths of the planets and stars were traveling around the Sun, not the Earth. This was completely against all conceptions for the time. It meant that the Earth was not the center of the Universe, which was a big part of religious thought for that time period. Earth was no longer as significant as it once was. As scientists are finding out today, the Earth occupies a really tiny place in the universe. This is science in action. People were curious about how things worked, so they decided to figure it out. Now, you may be saying, "That's really nice, mister, but this is supposed to be about Albert Einstein, right?" Indeed, you are correct. This article is about Albert Einstein. I just wanted you to clear all of your old notions about scientists out of your head before I started talking about our friend Mr. Einstein. Mr. Einstein indeed looked like a "mad scientist," but he was not mad at all. Sure, he had long, white hair that he rarely combed and spoke with a German accent, but he certainly wasn't mad. Albert Einstein was always a thoughtful person. He always loved to think about things. As a boy, he constantly wondered what made things work. His father, Hermann, and his Uncle Jacob had a business that installed electrical equipment. In their shop, Albert would think about electricity and be amazed. Once when he was sick, his father gave him a compass. Albert was mystified when his father told him that the needle of the compass would always point to the north. This started him on the path of questing for scientific knowledge. Albert's father explained that there were magnetic forces that drew the needle to the north pole of Earth. It was puzzles like this, ones about the way things worked in the world, that puzzled Albert and held his attention throughout his lifetime. He was driven by a desire to unlock the mysteries of the universe, and to discover the secret order that he was convinced existed in the universe. It was this desire that began him on the path to discovering relativity. Relativity is a very complex issue that I will try to simplify. To understand Einstein's theory of relativity we must first go back to Sir Isaac Newton. Sir Isaac Newton was a very intelligent man who made many important discoveries and advancements in the world of physics and mathematics. He discovered and named "gravity," for instance. Newton had come to create three parts to the universe that worked together, sort of like gears in a clock, to keep the universe running smoothly: "Absolute Time which was the same all over the universe; Space, where every object had its own rigid size and position; and Mass, which did not change." It was very important to Mr. Newton that none of these things ever change, because it would destroy all of his models of the universe. What Einstein did with his theory of relativity was to question the ideas that Newton had set forth. He wondered whether time, space, and mass were truly unchangeable. Albert Einstein took a theory that was concocted by Galileo called relativity and fashioned his own Special Theory of

Relativity." When people say, "relativity," they mean that there are different points of view that make things "relative." Let's begin with an easy example. If I'm standing far away from you, and you see me, I look really small, don't I? That's because my size is relative to you. In my point of view, I'm the same size I always am, but to you I look very small. Mr. Einstein took his knowledge of these different points of view and constructed a theory that applied the idea of different points of view to the world of physics. He made advancements because he saw that it was impossible for time, space, and mass to remain the same from very different points of view. If a person is traveling at the speed of light, then they will see the world in a very different way than people who are standing still do. Einstein believed that at very high speeds, things will shrink. Take the case of two rocket ships, both fifty feet in length. One is flying over the other, which is stationary on the ground. The ship that is flying at a very fast speed will have shrunk if measured while it is flying over (you couldn't see it with your eyes though...it would be going too fast). The pilot of the flying ship wouldn't notice, though, because everything in the ship will have shrunk.

Einstein also theorized that you could also look at such a situation from a different point of view. Say that you were the pilot in the rocket flying over the other. Could you imagine that the rocket ship on the ground is flying backwards? It could be. Einstein thought that the way you see things is a matter of which point of view you take. Here's another example that Einstein himself was fond of using. Imagine a building that is infinitely tall. That means that it goes up and up and up forever. Now imagine that you are in an elevator that is falling in that building. Don't worry. Since this is an infinitely tall building, you won't crash at the bottom because there is no bottom. Now, while you are in the elevator, you can walk around, talk to a friend, or drop something on the ground. Everything will be just like normal. You won't fell like you're being pulled on anymore than gravity usually does. If people outside the building were able to see this elevator through the walls however, it would seem that you were falling the whole time. You don't think you're falling because there is no change in what you can do. You certainly don't feel like you're falling. In fact, from your point of view, it might seem that the people outside are flying up if you could see them, because it all depends on your point of view, also called your perspective.

Friends outside might get concerned! If you don't think this works, try a little experiment of your own one day if you're in a train or a subway or some other sort of train. When you pull into a station, look at the train next to you if there is one. If that train pulls out before yours does, think real hard and imagine that the train is standing still and that your train is leaving. It your train leaves first, try to imagine that you are still sitting there, and that the other train is the one that is leaving. If you don't ride in trains much, try this in a car in a parking lot with your parents. Sit in the car, and when a car next to you is backing out, imagine that you are going forward, and that the car pulling out is standing still. It really works! You may not be able to see it on the first try, but you should be able to see it eventually. Another part of Einstein's theory of relativity dealt with the speed of light. He had asked himself as a boy, "What would it be like to travel along side a wave of light?" When he got older, he discovered that it would be very difficult to do so. He discovered that light moves very fast, at

186,000 miles per second. That's a lot faster than any vehicle that we have developed can go! So Albert used his imagination to place himself traveling at that speed, and that is how he discovered relativity. In addition, he thought about what happens to things when they travel at such high speeds. A man by the name of Hendrik A. Lorenz had discovered that a tiny part of an atom, called an electron, gained a lot of mass (similar to weight) when traveling at speeds near the speed of light. This was measured in a cathode ray tube, like the one that makes pictures in your T.V. Lorenz was puzzled by this, because until that point, most physicists were using the laws set forth by Sir Isaac Newton, including the one that said that mass was constant. Lorenz was confused because he had discovered something that violated the previous laws. He now had to discover why this happened. Einstein did just that. He thought that as a particle was made to move quickly, it gains energy. If a particle is traveling at an incredibly fast speed, like the electron traveling at the speed of light, then it must have a lot of energy. He came to the conclusion that energy has mass. This conclusion astounded scientists all over the world. Energy had never been thought to have mass before! Einstein then went a little further in his research, and came up with the following equation: E=mc2. The "E" stands for "energy," the "m," stands for mass, and the "c," stands for the speed of light. He realized that mass is simply "frozen" potential energy. The energy that is contained in a few pounds of coal is much more than what is released by burning coal. There would be about twenty-five billion kilowatt-hours produced by releasing the stored energy as opposed to the little bit of energy produced by burning the charcoal in a barbecue grill. The problem was then releasing the energy. This problem of how to release the stored energy from matter in a controlled, safe way still needs to be researched. This idea is actually what nuclear power consists of, but many people have doubts about nuclear power's safety. So, all of that is relativity. Relativity takes into account different points of view or perspectives and says that what you think is real could be seen in a different way from a person who is outside of your situation. It also explains that atoms are actually tight groupings of energy. Many of these ideas existed before, but only Einstein was able to make them work together. Albert Einstein used the knowledge that he gained from school and from books, and he reorganized them. He used his imagination to connect things in his head, and to imagine things that human beings couldn't see with the naked eye. Creativity and imagination were very important to Albert Einstein. He thought about mass and energy in a new, creative way, and it allowed him to become probably the most famous scientist of this century. His imagination helped him to think about things that don't actually exist, but would prove his theory, like the infinitely tall building. Creativity and imagination are excellent tools for solving problems, and Albert Einstein is an excellent example of this. Albert was always a smart person. He was very shy and quiet as a young boy. There are many stories about Albert. People say that he failed mathematics, and others say he didn't. Most agree however, that he did not like his school in Germany. German schools were very boring and strict when Albert was a little boy. He was made to sit in uncomfortable wooden desks and repeat everything the teacher said. He would often day-dream in class because he was so bored and did not care for the lectures and "sing-song drills" that German schools used as tools for learning. He liked to think creatively instead of repeating things. Albert grew to like to read books that weren't for school, simply because he wanted to learn and didn't get satisfaction from what was taught in school. He wanted to learn more about things like the magnetism that made the needle in his compass always face north. He wanted to know about the mysteries of the universe which eventually he would explain.

Young Albert When Albert asked, his Uncle Jacob would explain all sorts of things about electricity to Albert while he worked on inventions in the shop that he shared with Albert's father. Albert also learned outside of school from a college student who was living with the Einstein family, whose name was

Max Talmey. Max came to have a great liking for Albert because Albert was so curious and intelligent, and would bring Albert many books by such great authors such as Emmanuel Kant and Charles Darwin. Talmey was made sure that he gave Einstein books about math and physics, including a book on geometry by the founder of geometry, Euclid. All of this learning and reading was done because Albert wanted to. He spent a lot of his time reading because he was curious about the nature of the universe. He wanted to know something, so he went to find the answer instead of letting the idea slip away, as most people do. People should learn a lesson from young Albert Einstein. He knew at a young age that life is not for simply wasting. He knew that if a person desires something, they should seek it out. Indeed, Albert had a hard time in some of his later schooling. He went to college and learned a great deal, but not from his classes. All of Albert's physics classes were based on old ideas and were generally very boring. He wanted to think about the ideas of physics that were important to him, but his classes would not allow it. He didn't go to class much as a result. He would spend his days in his room reading instead. Although I don't recommend this, it did work for Albert Einstein. His friend who went to the lectures took very good notes however, and let Albert look at them. Albert could then pass his classes and get his degree. He couldn't become a physics professor however, because he hadn't impressed any of his professors. To become a professor, you needed to have the recommendation of professor. He was very sad, but got a job approving patents in a patent office. He was familiar enough with electric gismos that he had seen in his father's shop that he could do the job with ease. He did his job so fast in fact, that he was able to think about physics when he was done. He pursued physics despite the fact that he wasn't a professor. The thinking he did on the job blossomed into papers that he had published in physics journals. These articles were read by many scientists. One of the papers introduced Einstein's theory of relativity. It was in this way that he got a job as a physics professor. He loved being a professor, and remained one for the rest of his life. Despite his trouble getting his job as a professor, Albert stuck with what he loved and his patience paid off.

Albert as a college student Albert Einstein was a great man, and he was very important to science. We should learn from him that no matter what field you enjoy, you should stick with you desire. We should learn that it is OK to think differently than other people. We should learn that science is not a field for people who are awkward or super-smart, because science needs creativity and imagination to make it work and to discover new things. Creativity and imagination are needed to make any thing you want to do better. Albert Einstein knew all of these things, and tried to live by these goals.