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Albert Einstein was one of the most significant scientists in history, reshaping the scientific community's view of the universe and persuading it to abandon its slavish loyalty to Isaac Newton's ideas, which he treasured but not enough to ignore their flaws. He's one of the few scientists instantly recognizable to the world, and so deep was his impact that he made such abstract (and frankly weird) concepts as relativity and mass-energy equivalence into household terms, familiar even to laymen who don't understand the science behind them. ABOUT ALBERT EINSTEIN Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 - April 18, 1955) was born in Ulm, Germany, to a Jewish family. His birthday happens to fall on "Pi Day" (3-14) and is informally celebrated by some mathematicians (it's traditionally the day the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sends out acceptance letters to prospective students). More than fifty years after his death, the significance of his contributions to science is still unfolding. One of the most important scientists in history, he's also one of the most important individuals of the modern age -a man whose work on the obscure and abstract managed to lead in his own lifetime to the twentieth century's most famous invention, the atomic bomb. Popular legend claims Einstein was a poor math student, which isn't quite true. He was a late bloomer, and had poor language skills at a young age, something that is often true of highly introspective individuals. But he taught himself calculus and geometry with the aid of a school pamphlet and a copy of Euclid he received as part of a stack of books from a family friend who was studying medicine. As a student, he disliked the gymnasiums -- German secondary schools -- and after leaving school at 16, he failed the entrance exam for the Federal Polytechnic Institute. This may be the source of the "bad student" myth; failing the entrance exam on the first try wasn't that unusual, and he passed it the following year, at which point he also renounced his German citizenship and moved to Switzerland to pursue mathematics. Though pure mathematicians usually peak early in life, doing their most brilliant and groundbreaking work at an early age, as a physicist Einstein's early work only hinted at his aspirations. His first published paper dealt with capillarity -- the ability of an object to draw a substance upwards despite the pull of gravity, such as plants taking water from the soil and the use of drinking straws. Despite the quality of the work, he was unable to find a teaching position, and took a job at the patent office in Bern, where he investigated electromagnetic patent applications while pursuing his scientific studies in his off hours. Several years into this job, in 1905 -- his "Extraordinary Year" (or Annus Mirabilis) -- he published four papers which have since reshaped modern physics. Any one of these papers by itself would have been a scientific rainmaker, and together they read like a greatest hits of twentieth century physics. The famous E=mc2 equation appeared in "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?" His paper on Brownian motion supported the existence of atoms, which at the time was still a contested theory. His photoelectric effect paper would influence the entire field of quantum mechanics -- which Einstein himself was uncomfortable with -- and accordingly earned him a Nobel prize. Most famously, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" proposed Einstein's theory of special relativity. Special relativity contradicted the widely accepted physics of Isaac Newton, in order to reconcile certain observed facts about bodies in motion. To understand the impact special relativity had, consider the beliefs it did away with. In Einstein's time, the dominant view of the universe, developed in the previous two generations, was that of "luminiferous aether." This aether filled space, beyond the atmosphere of the earth and other planets, and was the medium through which light
But in 1919. out of concern that the Germans would do so first. one of the most basic and seemingly intuitive concepts in physics. In his scientific research.and the terminology he used -differed from today's. and was later offered the position of President of Israel. at the age of 76. . the effect in the scientific community was tremendous. The effect of Einstein's theories was delayed. Though the general public didn't seem to immediately understand what the big deal was. During the first world war. and died in 1955 of an aneurysm. he had spent the last years of his life working with civil rights groups and calling for an end to wars like the ones the world had seen in his lifetime.which he encouraged the United States to pursue during World War II (he had taken a teaching job at Princeton and deeply opposed the Nazis). the war made it difficult to disseminate scientific papers. being too skeptical of anything so radical and incomplete. He became an American citizen just before the start of the war.while Newtonian models were shown to be in error. even readers with a scientific background may be confused. Doing so required changing the very model of the universe itself. a single theory that would describe all the physical laws governing the universe. He lived a quiet life in the post-war years. Meanwhile. despite the fame he had attained from the Annus Mirabilis papers." The search for such a theory." Einstein said. Aether was constantly redefined in order to keep from contradicting other theories. Einstein spent the next two decades debating with fellow scientists more than working on new theories. and became increasingly abstract. While special relativity had undone the aether.or at least members of the scientific community. Little of his work is written for the general public. you could come up with a new theory that didn't have such contradictions.traveled. given that the scientific climate in which he was writing -. Because light was known to travel in waves. and in the case of many of his scientific papers. Einstein's later work revolved around the search for a "unified field theory. general relativity contradicted Newton's model of gravity. scientists couldn't conceive of it doing so without some medium to travel through -. his name has become synonymous with genius. In the time since. Einstein wrote primarily for other physicists -. which he declined. WORKS Like most physicists. It has been suggested that in refusing to incorporate quantum mechanics into his views. Einsteinian gravity is an effect of curving spacetime. His approach centered around the treatment of curving spacetime.it was like imagining the waves of the ocean without water. For that reason. referring to the apparent randomness of the universe demanded by quantum mechanics. and finally Einstein pointed out what should have been obvious: that if you assumed aether didn't exist. it's recommended that Einstein's work be approached with the aid of secondary sources. he may have found himself coming up with the same sort of convoluted explanations of the universe as the aetherists had. a harder concept to illustrate than an apple falling off a tree. A teacher for much of his career. had begun in the nineteenth century. and every revolution in physics rewrote those laws and thus the theory's demands. Einstein worked on his more radical theory of general relativity. He contested the claims of quantum mechanics (especially Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg) using his photoelectric paper to shore up their ideas. astronomical experiments conducted during the solar eclipse confirmed what general relativity predicted about the bending of light -. his mass-energy equivalence work led to the development of atomic weapons -. "He (God) does not throw dice.
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