Albert Einstein: Historical and Scientific Icon Science Research Proposal

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Albert Einstein: Historical and Scientific Icon

Science and celebrity rarely coexist but somehow, with Albert Einstein, they found a way to live together and make the man just as iconic today as he was in his own day. Rarely do individuals live to see their impact upon society but Einstein lived to see how his theories could literally change the world in which he lived. While most people may not be able to explain Einstein's theories, they can identify the face of Einstein. While not everyone knows how Einstein's contributions to society work, almost everyone benefits from his knowledge. Historically, the man left a lasting impression on how we understand aspects of the universe. His ideas opened the door to more discoveries that have yet to be unraveled. Einstein was indeed the greatest scientist that ever lived but he was also a celebrity - something with which he was very comfortable. The very word, Einstein, is synonymous with genius and it all because a man thinking about beams of light challenged and subsequently changed history with thoughts about that light, and how it interplays with space and time. His most famous equation, E=mc2, serves to one of the most recognizable formulas to those less knowledgeable about scientific equations. People know that it belongs to Einstein and they know it has something to do with energy and speed. Einstein is the perfect example of how learning is a never-ending process. From the deep idea of bending light to the easy task of accessing information online, we see shadows of Einstein everyday.

Einstein's image does not just grace the pages of history and science books - it graces the pages of western civilization books as well. This should alert the public to his importance and prominence. The Albert Einstein Archives refers to the scientist as a celebrity, which is not something for which physicists generally yearn. His life was interesting and his mind was even more interesting. Richard Panek, in "The E. Factor," claims that Einstein "sought truth in equations and then trusted that studies of the heavens would back him up. Almost all of modern cosmology and theoretical physics follows from that leap of faith -- or leap, perhaps, of reason" (Panek). Leap of faith or not, Einstein had the ability to see things differently, which allowed him to open doors of imagination that many are only allowed to peek through.

Einstein stood on the shoulder of a giant by improving Newton's theory of gravity. Part of Einstein's genius stems from the fact that his mind did not operate like those of his fellow physicists. It should be noted that Einstein was not just an abstract thinker. We read that he "grasped the world in concrete images and strove to translate them into words and equations that could be understood by others" (Albert Einstein Archive). This helps us to see how he could see space and not see "empty" space. This way of seeing things helped him understand them on a different level. He also believed that the exploration of physics could be developed by reducing other laws in union with geometrical proportions. A good example of this is how Einstein expanded upon Newton's theory. Newton could not explain Mercury's orbit but Einstein could.

Furthermore, Einstein predicted solar eclipses and other star anomalies that have proven to be true. (Pasachoff 326). None of his predictions could be possible without his curious way of thinking. The Albert Einstein Archive makes it a point to say, "his true tools were a penetrating and intuitive grasp of the workings of the natural world and the 'thought experiment' - an intellectual exercise used by physicists to reach a theoretical conclusion from idealized physical processes" (Albert Einstein Archive). However, Einstein was not a typical scientist, physicist, or person by any stretch of the imagination. In his article, "Person of the Century: Albert Einstein," Frederic Golden asserts:

Even now scientists marvel at the daring of general relativity... But the great physicist was also engagingly simple, trading ties and socks for mothy sweaters and sweatshirts. He tossed off pithy aphorisms... And playful doggerel as easily as equations. Viewing the hoopla over him with humorous detachment, he variously referred to himself as the Jewish saint or artist's model. He was a cartoonist's dream come true. (Golden)

Einstein was a part of history because he knew his place in it. He did what many successful people do - which is work upon what those before him have put forward.

It should also be recognized that Einstein did not just contribute to physics - he helped it evolve into what it is today. That includes all of the advancements that have been possible because of his theories. His theory of relativity was introduced in 1905 and by the end of the 1930s, he was already considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists the world has ever seen. His innovative theories include the theory of relativity, the mass-energy formula, the Brownian motion theory, and the photon theory of light. Simply put, Einstein's theories can be summed up saying, "Nothing can move faster than light" (Time). The scientist thought that mass and energy were equal, which resulted in his formula, E=mc2. According to Time magazine, the physicist "Louis de Broglie called Einstein's contributions that year 'blazing rockets which in the dark of the night suddenly cast a brief but powerful illumination over an immense unknown region'" (Time). In addition, this new insight has been called everything from inconceivable to breathtaking by his admirers and colleagues. It should be no surprise, however. The man did have a unique view of the world. This view, coupled with his brilliance, could only result in fantastic ideas can most of us could not make up if we tried. Perhaps another interesting fact about Einstein was that most of his work had to take place in his imagination. It was if the man had a mental breakthrough that has manifested itself in the very complex operations of the universe and the deceptively simple workings of things we find in our homes.

His ideas were spectacular and once they were worked out on paper, they became that other world in which the impossible became possible. The equation, E=mc2 is one of the most fascinating theories because it suggests that "small quantities of matter could be turned into enormous amounts of energy" (Chambers 965). Andrew Liddle claims that this equation is one of the most successful scientific theories ever" (Liddle). This formula allows us to envision nuclear reactions that provide stars with energy. The greatest example of this is the sun. E = mc2 also indicates how large masses can contain large amounts of energy. One of the formula's implications involve atomic weights of elements, which do not appear to be what we might expect judging by the scope of their isotopes. According to the dictionary of Scientific Biography, "The isotopes are "slightly decreased by the mass equivalent of the binding energy that holds their molecules together. This decrease can be explained by, and calculated from, the famous Einstein formula" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Einstein's formulas and equations allow physicists and scientists to understand things that were just beyond comprehension before. The theory of relativity is also historically significant in the scientific community because it reconciles the laws of mechanics with the laws of electromagnetic fields. Here Einstein demonstrates that "time and space are not absolute but relative to the observer" (Noble 961).

In addition, the theory of relativity upholds the notion that time and space coexist in a mutual continuum. (Craig 815) Furthermore, Einstein's formula "led to striking conclusions of the highest philosophical interest" (Chambers 963), including the consideration that space and time are "aspects of a single continuum" (963). Einstein predicted things as well. His theory of relativity predicted the gravitational deflection of light and gravitational redshifts, which is explained through examining white dwarfs. To put it simply, Einstein's theory of relativity becomes even more significant because it allows us to know more than we would know without it.

Einstein's impact on the world can also be measured by the fact that his theory of relativity appears to pass three critical tests. According to J. Danby, the theory "accounted for the full motion of the perihelion of the orbit of Mercury" (Danby). Mercury is the best object to test the theory on since it is the fastest moving planet in the solar system. The second test is how mass can move or bend light. Last, clocks do appear to move more slowly under strong gravitational pulls. An excellent example of how this aspect of the theory is in pay can be found in global positioning systems, in which satellites use gravity to create maps of the earth. Danby notes, "The clocks in that system must make relativistic corrections for both their motions relative to the Earth" (Danby). Einstein is heads and shoulders above all others because his theories are still in use today. The fact… [END OF PREVIEW]

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