Einstein’s Questions

Posted July 13, 2014 By admin

It never ceases to amaze me how often Albert Einstein appears in matters unrelated to physics or science. It’s as though an author believes that his subject will be enhanced and his argument’s strengthened if he lends the authority of Einstein to his writing. For me it reveals just how ingrained he is our modern culture and how persuasive his intelligence is held to be.

I have recently been reading an excellent book by Warren Berger called A More Beautiful Question. The book is about the importance of questioning and how to question more effectively. In the introduction he talks about How Einstein was a vocal champion of questioning. He says Einstein was deliberate in choosing which questions to tackle and that throughout his life, Einstein saw curiosity as something “holy”.

Later in the book, Berger talks about the importance of combinational thinking: the idea of connecting existing ideas in unusual and interesting ways.

The message is clear. If it is good enough for Einstein, then it is good enough for you. It seems fair enough to me and shows how quoting Einstein is seen as a way of enhancing the authority of your ideas.  

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Let There Be Matter

Posted May 25, 2014 By admin

Physicists at Imperial College London have published a report in which they claim to have solved the problem of creating matter from light.

We are not talking about some magical machine that makes a car from light (not yet anyway), but they are talking about is combining two particles of light (photons) into an electron and its antimatter equivalent – a positron.

The process involves the use of high energy lasers fired into a tiny gold capsule (called a hohlraum), which produces light as bright as a star and then sending a stream of high energy photons into the same space, which creates around 100,000 electron-positron pairs.

Let your mind dream about where this might all end up! Light into matter, could we possibly be on the verge of processes where we can create solids from light. Where could such technology take us?

And this process is all about Einstein. Oliver Pike, the lead researcher on the study says the process is one of the most elegant demonstrations of e=mc2 – the demonstration of the relationship between matter and energy

Just look at the components of the experiment and its underpinning. Photons, lasers and the relationship between matter and energy – all of them stemming directly from Einstein’s work. Such ability to manipulate light, particles and energy could never happen without Einstein’s work.

If we are ever able to create matter from light it will be because of the work of Albert Einstein.

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Einstein Waves

Posted April 26, 2014 By admin

As speculated in the last post, Gravitational Waves are very much in the news. It has now been confirmed that researchers at the BICEP2 telescope in Antarctica have detected indirect evidence of primordial gravitational waves (ripples in space-time) as forecast by Albert Einstein in his General Theory of Relativity.
This announcement marks a big couple of years for physics: first came the Higgs-Boson and now primordial gravitational waves, both discoveries push our understanding of the universe and its beginning forward in fundamental ways. And both stem directly from Einstein and his theories and bot reveal how important Einstein is to modern science our understanding of nature.
What are gravitational waves? In his General Theory of Relativity, Einstein compared the universe’s shape to a single fabric made from space-time and speculated that gravity is caused by the curvature in space-time, with gravitational waves being like ripples in that fabric. Ripples are caused by two objects that are accelerating acting on each other. Gravitational waves have been detected before, what this new announcement is about is primordial gravitational waves. These are waves in space-time that date back to the Big Bang and the birth of the universe, during the period known as inflation.
There are many articles and information around about the announcement and it meaning. Here are some links to some interesting articles:
Primordial gravitational waves – a whole new era
What are gravitational waves
Gravitational waves discovery.
Enjoy your reading and consider the profound influence Albert Einstein continues to have on modern physics and our world.

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Whispers of the Big Bang?

Posted March 16, 2014 By admin

There are rumours that an American Astrophysics team are set to announce they have detected primordial gravitational waves, which are in essence an echo of the big bang. If correct it will be one of those big physics headlines, much like the announcement of the Higgs-boson.

The signal is rumoured to have been found by a telescope called bicep (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) at the South Pole. It scans the sky at microwave frequencies, where it picks up the fossil energy from the big bang.

What are gravitational waves? Follow the link for a full explanation, but in brief they are tiny ripples in the fabric of space/time that carry energy across space.

And what have they to do with Albert Einstein you ask? Well everything really because they are the last untested prediction of the General Theory of Relativity. To date there has not been any direct detection of them. If the rumours are correct and the team have detected them, then not only will it be further proof (if any is needed) of the correctness of GTR, but also will provide invaluable insights into the first moments of the Big Bang. It has been described as one of the Holy grails of Cosmology and would be ranked as one of the most important discoveries of our time.

Once more Albert Einstein and his predictions are in the news as his work continues to explain our universe and our understanding of it.

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Einstein Entangled

Posted December 1, 2013 By admin

Albert Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers and many of them have been repeatedly cited by subsequent scientists in their work over the years. However, which is the most cited?

What do you mean by cited?

It is important to properly and appropriately cite references in scientific research papers in order to acknowledge sources and give credit where credit is due. Science moves forward only by building upon the work of others. Any Scientist’s paper will cite other scientist’s work that has been used to explain or build on for their own work.

So which of Albert Einstein’s papers do you think is cited the most?

That’s easy, surely it would be E=mc2

You’d think so wouldn’t you, although, of course, the famous equation wasn’t contained in the original paper on special relativity. It was contained in a supplementary paper published later in 1905 and never actually contained the equation in that form. However, that’s for another day. Have another go.

Well, if it isn’t special relativity, it has to be General Relativity

Good guess, I mean this is one of the greatest theories in all of science and changed forever our view of the universe. It is often considered Einstein’s greatest scientific work. However, somewhat surprisingly, this great work is not Einstein’s most cited scientific paper.

Give me a clue.

It’s well known that Einstein won the Nobel Prize, but not for relativity…

The Photoelectric effect – it must be!

You are along the right lines. Einstein made fundamental contributions to Quantum theory, one of which was the paper he won the Nobel prize for – the photoelectric effect, which introduced the idea that light was made of particles as well as being a wave, but this wasn’t his most cited paper.

I give up.

The popular version of Einstein and quantum theory is that Einstein was opposed to it. In some respect this is right, but it wasn’t so much that he was opposed to it, as he didn’t accept that quantum theory was the whole story. As I said he was probably more responsible than any other individual for introducing the concepts that made quantum theory, but he didn’t agree with the non causal element of the theory, which is what led him to his famous comment about God not playing dice.

In 1935 Einstein co-authored a paper with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen. The purpose of the paper was Einstein’s attempt to disprove Niels Bohr’s claim that quantum mechanics was a complete and fundamental theory of nature. It introduced the EPR paradox, which in its simplest terms says that by determining the position or momentum of one of two entangled particles that are on opposite side of the universe, instantaneously the position and momentum of the other is known, which violates his own theory of relativity which says nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.

The paradox was eventually held to be true and the theory of entanglement is now a fundamental aspect of quantum theory.

In trying to disprove quantum mechanics, Einstein’s paper ended up leading to the discovery of a fundamental aspect of it.

And the most cited paper?

That’s it – the EPR paper. Whereas Einstein’s paper on special relativity has been cited some 700 times, his EPR paper has been cited 2500 times.

An irony that something that proved to be incorrect, is his most cited paper.

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